DALLAS – No cows on the gym roof. No classroom doors glued shut – not even a fire alarm pull-down.

These days, the joke’s on the senior prank. A classic goodbye that once capped the high school experience has faded to a last-minute attempt in some North Texas schools – or has been abandoned completely.

The senior prank has all but disappeared in places like Collin County, where strict discipline standards and high-tech security make pranksters wary. Expanding districts with newer schools also mean students have no precedent to follow or tradition to uphold. School officials are making it clearer that they won’t tolerate such stunts, even implying that students who participate will miss graduation.

There’s no such thing as harmless mischief anymore.

“They’re scared of what might happen if we start,” said Allison Darzi at Frisco’s Liberty High School, which is graduating its first senior class this year. “And we are scared, too. Maybe we’d do something if there weren’t cameras everywhere and punishments weren’t so crazy.”

Darius Davis, who graduated from Frisco’s new Wakeland High School last year, was told he’d lose his diploma if he even considered spreading Silly Putty in the hallways or flattening tires in the school parking lot.

He hardly considered the idea. The few pranks he’d ever heard of took place at least two years ago in Frisco High School, the only high school in the district open more than six years. They were the usual lot – locked doors, birdseed covering the bleachers, beach balls thrown up during graduation.

“That may be our main problem – tradition,” he said. “If you hear one class did it, next year you try to do it.”

Even good-natured capers have different meanings in a post-Columbine world of heightened consequences, said Mel Riddile, the Associate Director of High School Services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

“Some of the things called pranks years ago could be perceived as a little different given the world we live in,” he said. “We’ve recognized a need to deter behavior and investigate it before that happens.”

Riddile, who has worked in schools outside Washington, D.C., since the 1970s, said he’s hearing fewer grumbles from administrators about senior pranks.

He attributes the decline as much to student involvement as to hefty punishment.

“That detachment has decreased,” he said. “Students have become part of the decision-making process and they realize they don’t want to jeopardize their future for something that is going on in the moment.”

That wasn’t the sentiment at Woodrow Wilson High School in East Dallas last month. In one of few North Texas senior pranks, students placed hundreds of cardboard boxes in the parking lot and padlocked the gates. When teachers arrived the next morning, they found themselves locked out. (The thrill didn’t last long: Seniors spent their morning cleaning up the mess.)

But this is child’s play compared with days past. Two seniors passed out marijuana muffins to unknowing teachers at Lake Highlands High School in 2006. They were sentenced to several years’ probation. And in one of the most notorious regional pranks, several students made a mock bomb and left it in a rental truck outside a Fort Worth school building in 1995, right after the Oklahoma City bombing. The boy who called in the fake bomb threat went to prison for two years.

“Things that used to be a joke aren’t a joke anymore,” said Scott Cook, a Frisco High School baseball coach and history teacher. He has been with the district for 31 years and is one of its most veteran staff members.

“Kids respect the administration and the school itself. That’s the key word right there – respect for authority.”

Plano West senior Lubna Owais said she rarely parrots her teachers but agrees that pride factors into motivation.

“You usually pull a prank if you hate the faculty or are super tired of school,” she said. “We don’t feel that way. We’re just ready to get out.”

For senior Chris Lopez of The Colony High School, the high jinks weren’t even worth considering.

“It’s just dumb,” he said, counting down the days to graduation on one hand. “I’m not really into it.”

That’s why Zephlin Davis, a senior at Frisco’s Wakeland, considers himself a vanguard.

He views senior pranks as a tribute to his class rather than an insult to the school. As long as no one gets hurt and no property ends up damaged, he sees nothing wrong with an annual gag.

Davis, who graduated Saturday, said he hopes someone “starts something new, to bring back the fun.”

It might involve, say, animals.

“Nobody ever did a prank here,” he said. “They think we are too good for that, but not I.”


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