“I went (Thursday) to my tribunal, and they told me that because of past events that have happened that I’m just not going to be able to graduate with my class, and I will have to finish my year at Mountain Creek (Academy) and they will mail me my diploma,” said Wilson, a senior at Murray County High School. “I don’t understand it.”
Wilson is one of about 20 Murray students who participated in a senior prank at around 7 a.m. one day the week before spring break. Students brought their toy cars, bicycles, motorcycles and horses to the gravel flea market parking lot directly across the road from the school and rode them across. Their actions, which students said school officials told them created a commotion and was unsafe, landed participants in two days of internal school suspension, or ISS, they said.
Wilson said her punishment was harsher because she already had a behavioral contract that stipulated she could be sent to the alternative school if she did anything else. She said she had the contract only because she left school early one day without checking out. Another student with a behavior plan was suspended from school for at least a week.
School officials aren’t saying which rules the students broke. Principal Gina Linder directed questions to Administrative Services Director Mike Tuck, who works at the school system’s central office, and Assistant Principal Phillip Greeson did the same.
Tuck said he couldn’t discuss what happened except to confirm “there was an incident, and we dealt with it under the student discipline code.” He would not answer general questions about what kinds of transportation were acceptable on school property.
Senior Austin West said Linder told him the prank was dangerous because of traffic. He said that isn’t true.
“We stopped traffic, we went across the sidewalk — and she tried to make it seem like it was so dangerous,” West said.
Chatsworth Police Chief Terry Martin said a parent called him to the scene that morning, but he decided quickly after arriving he didn’t need to be there.
“I talked to Gina Linder, and there was nothing criminal going on at the time,” he said. “It’s not against the law to ride bicycles... There were no traffic violation charges against any of the students for any of that.”
West said they crossed at the designated crosswalk and rode on the sidewalks with the horses in the grass.
“We rode up on the sidewalk, drove into the parking lot and found a spot where there was three open parking spots, enough for all the bikes and toy cars and whatever else people rode,” he said. “The principal came out and said, ‘Park your stuff, and come in.’”
West said they did that.
“They tried to say we were late for class, but we had enough time to take a group picture (before class),” he said. “Later that day, around my sixth period, I got called up to the office, and they told me that it was real dangerous and there was a bunch of commotion.”
Parent Robyn Waller said she knew about the prank well before it happened and gave her daughter, Marisa Elrod, permission to participate.
“To me, it was a completely harmless prank,” Waller said. “They were not breaking any laws. They were not doing anything destructive.”
Elrod said she rode her horse to school from the parking lot.
“We used the sidewalks and the crosswalks. We went by all the laws and the rules and everything,” Elrod said. “They really made a big deal out of it about how we broke the rules and everything — but we really didn’t.”
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