Crispus Attucks students barred from graduation ceremony after vandalism

Banned from graduation ceremony
Punishment for senior prank
Senior prank draws punishment

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - The church right across the street from Crispus Attacks High School hosted a last minute graduation ceremony for close to two dozen students after IPS barred them from their actual high school graduation because of a senior prank that the district said crossed the line.

They showed up in their caps and gowns, but these graduating seniors couldn't step foot on school property.

"It hurts, it hurts and we've all cried,” said Kayla Hawthorne, the class valedictorian.

The tears aren’t the happy kind you often see on graduation nights. Instead, these tears came from both students and parents as they watched the rest of the class go inside the high school to graduate.

"We got mothers out here crying, it's heartbreaking," said senior Teyon Scanlan.

"This was not the graduation I was looking forward to being at, but I have to accept it,” said parent Harvey Ballard.

IPS says students went too far with a class prank Tuesday night, writing on walls, setting off a fire alarm and fire extinguisher. There was syrup, food and trash left throughout the school.

"Vandalism is a crime. Those students and parents are being punished accordingly,” said Carrie Cline-Black, speaking on behalf of IPS.

Many of the students say they simply hung up balloons and wrote on doors with cake icing, but were gone by the time others caused real damage.

"It kind of got out of hand and the consequence was all of us suffering and not being able to walk," said Shandon Boyd, a senior.

Among those banned from the ceremony was Zack Owns, a member of the Crispus Attucks state championship basketball team and class vice president.

Yolanda Wilkins, Zack's mother, said her son will still be celebrating the accomplishment he earned.

"He may not physically be there. He is going to be at the school he’s supposed to graduate. He earned his diploma with a 3.9 (GPA)," she said.

The students did walk, though. It was in an impromptu ceremony inside the neighboring church Thursday evening.

Hawthorne, who took part in the prank, still gave her graduation speech, albeit to a smaller audience than she first planned.

"I know that this experience has made this particular group closer than ever," Hawthorne said. "My message was learning from your past and making sure that your losses turn into lessons."

She also told the small group of seniors, "much love, peace and many blessings."

For these students, the loss of their graduation ceremony was a final lesson in their high school careers, many of them felt was too harsh, but one they had no choice but to learn from.

"As long as I get my diploma, that's all that matters to me at this point," said Boyd.

The students will get their diplomas after helping with a school beautification service project. At this point, the district says no one is facing any criminal charges and students won't have to pay for the cleanup that took place because of the prank. The cost of that clean-up is still being calculated.

Indianapolis Public Schools addressed the incident in a statement, saying:

"Indianapolis Public Schools is aware that on Tuesday, June 6, a group of Crispus Attucks students and multiple adults vandalized various areas of the school building, a local and national historical landmark, in an effort to carry out a "senior prank." The matter is under investigation by IPS Police. Students involved in this incident will not be allowed to participate in today's graduation ceremony and are required to participate in a campus beautification effort as restitution for the damage caused. IPS will not tolerate criminal activity of any kind, in the name of senior pranks or otherwise. Anyone found guilty of committing such acts will face harsh penalties."