By Desiree Matloob, 17, Beverly Hills HS
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“Desiree, you would not believe what is going on!” It was my sister, who starts school an hour earlier than me, calling me on my way to school last June. It was 7:45; didn’t she have class now?

“My class got canceled because all the floors are covered with maple syrup and manure. No one can get through the hallways!”

This was it. This was the senior prank. Most of the students at Beverly Hills High School had assumed there just wouldn’t be one this year. It was already the second to last week of school and nothing had happened. But all doubt disappeared as soon as our car pulled up to the front of Beverly Hills High School. There, beyond the front lawn, and around the four main entrances of the school, giant masses of students were crowded around, confused and directionless. The students looked like a swarm of bees, buzzing about what was going on. I recognized a math teacher and an administrator at the front of the building, standing between the students and the entrance, looking as frustrated and perplexed as the students.

When I got to my English class, which was tucked into a remote corner of the school near the parking lot, the doors were locked and my entire class was seated alongside the wall and in groups on the floor. They were whispering about what had happened and wondering where our teacher was. By now everyone had heard about the vandalism. Rumors that school would be canceled for the day were looming in the air. Though no one knew for sure yet, many students had already guessed the true perpetrators of the prank: a group of rowdy seniors, who called themselves “CPK” (Crazy Persian Killers). Friends of the CPK said they had heard them talking about the prank, and this kind of behavior was typical.

While the janitors slaved cleaning the hallways, we sat and wondered where our teacher was and how our classes would be affected. Half an hour later the floors were no longer sticky, and only a sprinkle of manure was found here or there. Class was finally ready to start 43 minutes after the normal 8 a.m. time.

Most students, including myself, hadn’t been close enough to a main building to see the janitors working, but tales circulating during each class period about their hard work made us feel increasingly sorry for them. I felt terrible, but I didn’t get a chance to thank them since I was so caught up with how the prank was going to affect me. Thinking back, it feels like all of us had been acting extremely selfishly without even realizing. The seniors had made a mess, and we were just waiting for someone else to clean it up.

Teachers were justifiably upset

Walking into class, I saw that my math teacher was repaid for his hard work all year with profanity on his chalkboard and syrup poured onto his newly purchased computer and monitor. My friend, who had him first thing in the morning, said that Mr. Madaris was furious—red in the face and shaking—when he saw what had been done. Most of my classmates felt bad for Mr. Madaris. However, a few, who didn’t especially like him as a teacher, expressed joy at what had happened. Although Madaris hadn’t been my favorite teacher, I couldn’t help but frown at my classmates’ reactions.

Madaris wasn’t the only teacher targeted. Friends reported that history teacher Scott Harvey was “rewarded” for his decades-long dedication with maple syrup all over his classroom carpet.

The “senior prank” has been an infamous tradition among Beverly seniors since the 80s. Animal cruelty had been a major theme during the previous years, pranks included dumping hundreds of goldfish to their chlorine-induced deaths in the high school’s swimming pool and ripping cattle and farm animals from their natural habitats and placing them on stairs, near lockers and in hallways around the school—a surefire recipe for mayhem and ear-piercing shrieks. Yet, despite the pandemonium that would usually ensue, students generally enjoyed the pranks and teachers were indifferent to them. As long as they didn’t affect the regular school schedule or harm students or the school in any way, the faculty didn’t seem to mind. I usually looked forward to the prank, like last year’s barnyard animal prank, in which students snuck cows and sheep into the hallways, just to see what the seniors had come up with. This year was different.

This year’s seniors wanted to shock students and teachers and by pulling the prank on the seniors’ last day, disrupted some of the seniors’ final exams. Students who couldn’t go to their first period classes missed tests that teachers offered to replace a students’ lowest grade, or practice finals. My friend, who had Algebra 2 first period, was furious that her class wouldn’t be able to take a replacement final. She had stayed up studying all night for math, one of her weaker subjects, and said she needed the replacement final to have a shot at getting an A. Her math teacher was helpless at this point, and could only offer students a weekend study session at Coffee Bean to make up for the practice they would have gotten with a replacement final. Most students did not see this as equal compensation for losing a last-minute chance to save their grades.

Students and teachers were not the only ones affected by this. Principal Dan Steponosky, who left the school at the end of the year after working there for 11 years, had planned to take a trip with his daughters to Disneyland on the seniors’ prank day. Steponosky had to cancel a day with his daughters to deal with a petty senior stunt, and students were bitterly reminded of this fact several times during the day by teachers and staff who had known of Steponosky’s plans. I felt sorry for our principal’s daughters, but I probably felt sorrier for the principal. He had the most school spirit of anyone I know, and he truly cared about students. He even gave out his Instant Messaging screen name to students so they could contact him immediately if they ever needed anything.

This was a harmful stunt, not a joke

My friends thought the pranks were “disgusting,” “immature” and “cruel,” and I agreed. Just what exactly did this prank accomplish? For one, the senior CPK members were not allowed to walk at the graduation ceremony, and now face a trial and fines for property damage. They were caught on store security cameras buying the materials used for the prank. The actions of a few irresponsible, tasteless seniors forever ruined the reputation of a bright, dependable senior class, who had worked so hard and were headed to Harvard, Columbia, Duke, Cornell and other prestigious universities. The seniors had led the Robotics team to victory, had guided the student government and helped draw attention and funding to the school’s “Peer Mediation” program.

And how about the janitors—the people who work the hardest and get paid the least? The ones who, instead of the seniors who committed the crime, had to clean up the maple syrup and wipe away the manure; the ones who had to clean up the mess during school hours, so they weren’t even paid overtime for their troubles. What about them? They probably were not even thanked for their work by the seniors.

The seniors were given a fairly harsh and humiliating punishment regarding their graduation, but it didn’t fit the crime. Sure, the manure and syrup were already cleaned up, but there are plenty of other areas on campus that could use some major cleaning. Giving seniors bathroom and hallway duty during summer school would have given them a taste of their own medicine, as well as benefited the school and spared the janitors some work.

The class of ‘06 may be remembered as the class that went too far, the class that disappointed its teachers and its peers. When students asked my teachers what they thought of the prank, many could barely speak. My Spanish teacher said she was disgusted and my P.E. teacher expressed his nostalgia of the senior pranks of his day, which, according to him, were more about having fun than about being deliberately cruel. For example, when Senior Beach Day had been canceled, seniors had taped mini inflatable pools with sand and mini umbrellas in them on the walls to have their own beach day.

Students worried that this may have ruined seniors’ chances at doing senior pranks for years to come, like when Grad Night, the seniors’ annual midnight trip to Disneyland was canceled for a few years after some seniors abused their privileges at the theme park.

Some students have said that we should do a prank that was nice to the school and teachers this year. One especially sympathetic girl suggested putting cupcakes or a balloon at each teacher’s door. Considering what happened last year, I think it would be a good idea, and a welcome change.

Maybe this year’s seniors can learn from this, and spend their last few weeks at Beverly differently. Maybe, instead of trashing our school and hurting our teachers, we can give thanks for the years they have spent dedicated to us. We can celebrate the time and effort they have put in, as they do for us at our graduation ceremonies. It might not be funny or clever, or even a prank, but then again, this wasn’t either.