The Fort Madison Police Department is providing details of what's being described as a "senior prank" at Fort Madison High School. The incident could result in criminal charges and the possiblity that about 20 FMHS students will not be allowed to participate in graduation.
School employees arrived at the high school at around 6:00 A.M. Monday to find :
- The front of the school covered in toilet paper
- Trees covered in toilet paper.
- Posters “glued” using Vaseline to the inside of the front doors.
- Water balloons “strewn about the front foyer”
- The front doors tied shut from the inside using tow rope.
The FMPD issued a news release Tuesday afternoon that said the 19 seniors involved have been identified through video surveillance. It appears they gained access through a door that was rigged to remain open after hours or that had its lock disabled on Friday.
FMPD said the decision was made by staff to start cleaning the building immediately as “the condition of the building would not have been a safe or appropriate environment for underclassmen." There were also safety concerns as well due to the nature of the damage.
The news release further described the damage inside the school.
- Obscenities were drawn on posters in the school.
- Vaseline was heavily applied to nearly every door handle or push bar in the building as well as windows, doors, walls and toilet seats.
- Toilet paper strewn throughout the building.
- Students poured Red Bull on the basketball court, covered the court in toilet paper and allowed it to dry. FMPD said it appears there was no permanent damage to the court.
- Students outside the building burned toilet paper rolls.
- A smoke bomb was set off outside the school.
The FMPD said there appeared to be some permanent paint damage to portions of the building. It said there were also concerns about the students involved making the school accessible to anyone who wanted to enter.
The information surrounding the incident has been turned over to the Lee County Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether criminal charges will be filed. The news release states the possible charges could include Criminal Mischief and Trespassing.
County Attorney Ross Braden released a statement to Tri States Public Radio Tuesday night.
"I'm working toward a satisfactory resolution to hold these students accountable for their conduct without potentially having a criminal charge on their record as a result of their participation. It was a prank that was taken to far. It will be up to them as to whether they would like to comply with the proposed terms of a deferred prosecution agreement, which I intend to offer, without formal charges or potentially face a formal charge."
The Fort Madison School District has not returned calls seeking comment on the incident.
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING (the video of the meeting is available here)
The incident came up during Monday night’s Fort Madison School Board meeting. Three students involved in the prank and two parents addressed the board during the public comment portion of the meeting.
FMHS Senior McKenna Fehseke spoke first about her involvement in the prank.
“About 20% of the class was told that we cannot attend graduation, that we have been suspended, and that criminal charges could be filed,” said Fehseke to the board. She asked that the graduation ban be lifted.
“We all would do whatever we can necessary to fix what we have done, whether that is set up or tear down graduation. Anything that we can do, I know we are willing to do.”
Fehseke said the previous 24 hours taught her and her classmates a powerful lesson… that “we are adults now and our actions have consequences.”
Fehseke’s father Richard also addressed the school board.
“It’s a common practice that the senior class does something as a senior class prank and echoing what McKenna said, fun and games often times turn into greater consequences that kids have to learn impact others.”
Richard Fehseke said the parents of the students will take action.
“The decision of the school board and superintendent to suspend more than 20 seniors for the rest of their senior year and deny them participating in commencement proceedings is going to be appealed by a lot of parents.”
FMHS Senior Sierra Howardson told the board she was not proud of her decision to participate in a “childish tradition.” She asked the board to “please not take away the beautiful memories my class and I will make on graduation day.”
And FMHS Senior Logan Allen told the school board to not punish his mother for his mistake. Allen said his mother should be allowed to watch her son graduate.
Fort Madison School Board President Tim Wondra thanked the audience for the comments, but did not address the decision or the incident.