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Senior Prank Might Not Prevent Fort Madison Students From Participating in Graduation

It appears students involved in the "senior prank" at Fort Madison High School one week ago will be able to participate in graduation after all. That's according to a post on the district’s Facebook page.

The post from Friday, May 25 at 4:00 p.m. is signed by Superintendent Erin Slater.

I wish to address the recent incidents that occurred at Fort Madison High School Sunday night into Monday morning of this week and the resulting consequences. At a mandatory student/parent meeting on Thursday 5/24, I addressed all parties involved. The individuals present at that meeting will have an opportunity to earn back the privilege of walking across the stage during commencement. All other consequences will remain in place. Interested students and parents have entered into an agreement with the Fort Madison Community School District to work in the district next week as assigned by my office. Only by fulfilling this legal contract will those qualifying students earn back the commencement ceremony. This has been one of the single most divisive issues in this district. Decisions have been made and I am asking that we all move forward. Erin M. Slater, Ed.S. Superintendent of Schools

Tri States Public Radio called Slater’s office within five minutes of the post being added to Facebook. Slater was not available, but she said in an email that night that she could not comment further because the issue involved student discipline.

The Fort Madison Police Department has said 19 seniors participated in a prank at the high school on May 20, 2018. They gained access to the building either by rigging a lock or propping a door open all weekend. Police said the students were identified through video surveillance.  It has not been revealed whether all of them entered the school.

Those who did enter the school smeared Vaseline on doors, windows, walls and toilets; poured Red Bull on the basketball court; wrote obscenities on posters; and caused other damage. Those who remained outside lit toilet paper rolls on fire near the building and set off a smoke bomb.

The “prank” was discovered on May 21 at about 6:00 a.m. by school staff, who proceeded to clean up the mess.

The district never publicly announced the punishments handed out to the students. But several students told the Fort Madison School Board on May 21 that they were kicked out of school for the rest of the year and banned from graduation. They asked the school board to reverse the ban.

They also face criminal charges, but Lee County Attorney Ross Braden has said he plans to offer a deal to the students that holds them accountable while also allowing them to avoid a criminal record.

It remains unclear from Slater’s statement on Friday whether every student involved was at the meeting and whether all of the students accepted the deal to be able to participate in graduation on June 2. There is also no description of the work the students will have to do and whether the school board will be considering a ban on senior pranks.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.