15 Lewiston High School seniors suspended for prank

LEWISTON — Fifteen Lewiston High School seniors were suspended for two days earlier this month for an incident that school officials say created an unsafe situation on a stairwell during the school day and put other students in jeopardy.

Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said Monday that students participated in a "senior block," an annual prank where a group of seniors block a space and prevent other students from passing. This year it was done on a stairwell.

"We had students crying in the hallway and the office because they could not get to class on time. There is a process if you don't get to your class on time, you are late," Webster said. Seniors may have enjoyed the prank, but there are consequences, he said.

"A student block, while perhaps in years gone by was a very fun senior prank, in recent years this has never taken place where it hasn't been met with a suspension," Webster said. "We take seriously the health and safety of students. We also now have a camera system on our stairwell where we can see. Anyone who can think about what happened at Bates College just a week before this would take this seriously."

Principal Gus LeBlanc agreed the senior block is considered an annual tradition, that it was not intended to be malicious, but the action was potentially dangerous, and seniors knew it was not acceptable.

"Use your imagination. You know what just happened at Bates," he said referring to the death of 18-year-old Bates College freshman Troy Pappas, who died after falling down a stairwell on that college's Lewiston campus. 

Students have been warned in past years not to create an unsafe situation on the stairs, and some have been suspended for it, LeBlanc said. This year the seniors were originally suspended for three days, then the suspensions were reduced to two days so seniors could take the SATs at school the Saturday in between.

"I would not have let that happen," LeBlanc said. "That's one of the reasons I reduced the suspension," he said.

Teresa Austin, a relative of one of the students suspended, said Monday, "I remember senior block. I had three sons" who experienced it, she said. Teachers used to break up the senior blocks.

Parents of the seniors are concerned that the suspensions may have an effect on their college careers. Students may have to disclose on college applications that they have been suspended. "This can be detrimental," Austin said.  "These are good kids." The punishment, Austin said, was too severe. They should have received detentions, but not suspensions, she said.

"We hate to do it," Webster said. "Yes, many of these are great students." Some college applications do ask if an applicant has ever been suspended, Webster acknowledged. Some students may have to explain what happened. "This is part of life's growing experiences. Colleges aren't expecting that students have perfect records. What they are expecting is that students demonstrate they've learned from their experiences."

LeBlanc said he has met with four parents who were unhappy that their children were suspended for the incident. The students have served their suspensions and are back in school.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Andrew Jones's picture

Yeah, compare the death of a

Yeah, compare the death of a college student who was recklessly sliding down a handrail to a bunch of high school students that were standing around intentionally holding up traffic. Sounds legit.

Nathan McCarron's picture

Puh-leeze

So the infinite wisdom from Oak Street was to dismiss 15 seniors from school for two days? After all the bluster about how in-school suspensions were making a difference (http://www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn/2012/06/03/house-suspensi...) in the Lewiston schools last year, this high school does not have this option?!?!

Mr. Webster talks a good game. Follow through continues to be lacking. This is no different than the horse hockey excuses and incorrect answers we received for EIGHT months from the district when asked why Pre-k through 4 couldn't view lunch balances via power school.

FYI - They should get their facts before citing the Bates tragedy as a parallel situation. What happened to that young man was a crime.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Just what are we teaching our students????

I'm getting so sick of the "politically correct" approach to school administration. If, and only if that stairway was the one and only stairway in the building, and the upper floors were on fire, then maybe there would have been an unsafe situation. This clearly shows the lack of common sense on the part of the administrators. If suspension was the best solution to the problem, somebody is seriously lacking problem solving skills. It seems that instead of handling a situation responsibly, in a mature manner, those in charge "bail out". If these people are going to continue to collect a pay check, they need to earn it. They are teaching kids by their actions, as well as in the class room. If kids see that the best way is the easiest way, the kids are being let down. If teachers and administrators were to use imagination and thought, and work with students to properly handle the situation, lessons will be learned.
I guess the attitude now is "When in doubt, throw them out", I just wonder what they expect to gain from this lame excuse for discipline......

Charlotte Morin's picture

I don't understand your point of view

This was a serious situation, students had been warned many times and still made the choice to block a stairwell. I feel the administration made the right call. Have you been in the high school? You may only be able to reach a class on time by using a particular stairwell. It's a big place and hard to get from point A to B in an allotted timeframe if you are forced to take an alternate route. Honestly, Mr. Earley, I think your comments about our school administration needing to "earn their pay," are off base.

And how is choosing to suspend students the "easy way?" These are high school students, not elementary students. They should be mature enough to understand the consequences of their choices. And if they blatently make a choice to do something foolish and unsafe, then they are also old enough to suck it up and endure their sentence. This is teaching RESPONSIBILITY for one's actions, something I commend the school administration for doing and I certainly wish that more parents would do instead of whine and expect the rules to be bent for their children because, after all, they are "GOOD kids." What does that teach our children? That just creates a world full of sniveling, weak adults who make excuses for their lack of backbone instead of take responsibility for themselves and their actions.

Andrew Jones's picture

Wait, huh? Have *you* been in

Wait, huh? Have *you* been in the high school? I'm assuming they blocked the 'central' stairwell by the cafeteria(which sees the most traffic in between periods), in which case it would only add about 30 seconds or so to divert to the closest stairwell in the vocational wing.

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