Hartley: Arrested despite 72,000 good-luck charms | AspenTimes.com

Hartley: Arrested despite 72,000 good-luck charms

Todd Hartley
I’m With Stupid

I have to admit that I’m a big fan of the senior prank, that time-honored tradition of doing something extra stupid just before you graduate high school. I consider it a much cooler rite of passage than the prom, which is downright barbaric. But it can’t be just any old prank. It’s got to be something clever, memorable, group-oriented and light on vandalism.

My high school class’ senior prank was to build a couple of cinder-block walls and seal off two wings of the school. It wasn’t a great prank, admittedly, but it worked out well for me. I had nothing to do with erecting the walls, but I spent the whole day pretending to be hauling cinder blocks away and was excused from all my classes.

I’ve heard of some good pranks, including one that involved the headmaster’s office, a cow, a bale of hay and a heaping helping of laxatives, but I think I might have a new front-runner for the title of most creative: Chopticon High School in Morganza, Maryland, where, on May 20, students and teachers arrived at school to find 72,000 ladybugs had been released into the hallways and classrooms.

It turns out that a group of about 75 seniors had pitched in money to buy the ladybugs, and then five kids broke into the school in the wee hours of the morning to release them. Two other kids evidently abetted the pranksters by driving the getaway cars.

That’s a great prank, isn’t it? It hits on all the important points. It’s certainly clever. It got 75 kids involved, which is pretty impressive. It caused absolutely no vandalism, destruction or harm, and now, thanks to adults overreacting to stuff, it’s become very memorable.

You may have thought it odd before when I knew exactly how many students were involved. Well, the reason for that is because the five who broke into the school and the two drivers have all been arrested.

Four of the kids are being charged as juveniles with fourth-degree burglary, destruction of property under $1,000 and disruption of school activities. The other three, who are presumably 18, will be charged as adults in criminal court. Heck, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office should just go ahead and arrest the other 68 kids while they’re at it. Teach those whippersnappers a lesson.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think saddling these kids with criminal records over something so harmless is awfully heavy-handed. Besides, the charges hardly even fit the crime. Burglary is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the act of illegally entering a building in order to steal things.” I fail to see how releasing ladybugs counts as stealing things.

As far as the destruction-of-property charge goes, it’s possible that the kids had to break a lock to get into the school. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the charge would be based on. It seems unlikely that ladybugs could do any amount of damage, no matter how many there were.

The last charge, disruption of school activities, could conceivably stick, but even then it seems flimsy. Why does having 72,000 ladybugs flitting about need to disrupt anything? You can still open a book and learn. There just might be an insect or two on the pages.

The director of safety and security for St. Mary’s County schools defended the charges and insisted that the prank crossed the line, saying, “We certainly realize senior pranks are expected and normal at this time of year, and we try to be tolerant of that, but there are boundaries we need to maintain.”

Boundaries you need to maintain? If you’re saying the most innocent, non-destructive senior prank in history crossed your boundaries, you’re basically saying nothing won’t cross them. How on Earth do you consider that trying to be tolerant?

I realize that illegal actions need to have consequences, but I really don’t think that making this into a criminal matter is the way to go. Instead, the seniors involved, all 75 of them and not just the seven foot soldiers, should have to chip in and pay for the time it took to rid the school of ladybugs or something along those lines.

Trust me — they’ll learn a lesson when they have to cough up more money, but thankfully, it won’t be as costly or potentially damaging as having to go through pointless court proceedings. Those kids aren’t criminals. There’s no need to treat them like they are.

Todd Hartley would agree with the arrests if it was 72,000 earwigs. They’re way creepy. To read more or leave a comment, visit http://zerobudget.net.