Student prank leads to suspensions

May 6, 2003, midnight | By Kevin Fang | 21 years, 1 month ago

Several Magnet sophomores were suspended on Monday, May 5 due to an incident that occurred last week at the Magnet program's annual Wallops Island field trip in Virginia.

The students, whose names were not released, all returned to school May 6 after a one-day absence.

The suspensions resulted from a prank on the night of Friday, May 2 on a sophomore student, whose name was not released, who was tackled to the ground and then had his hands duct taped together and his legs duct taped together. Students attempted to carry the pranked student to a dorm before releasing him from the tape. "They were punished for an inappropriate prank at a school-sponsored activity," said Magnet coordinator Eileen Steinkraus. "Even though it was during their free time, they should still hold a level of maturity."

What started out as fun soon turned awry when students began taking pictures, laughing and making comments. "He became upset when the students used him as the subject of ridicule," Steinkraus said.

According to one of the suspended students, the prank, which occurred just before lights-out, was thought to be over and done with. "I thought it was completely over and only a small prank," he said.

However, the students were woken up in the middle of the night and asked to write statements, detailing their involvements in the incident. After breakfast that morning, the suspended students were driven back to Blair, while the rest of their class attended the field trip to the maritime forest.

In total, seven students were suspended including the student on whom the prank was pulled. The prank had originally been intended for another classmate (of which all seven were apart of), but the classmate would not leave his dorm.

Still, according to one of the suspended, more students were involved in the incident than were punished.

Security reported to the scene and confiscated cameras, but no charges were filed.

This situation is the first of its kind in the history of the field trip, but, according to Steinkraus, violations of curfew and inappropriate behavior have caused students to be disciplined.

The trip, which began in 1986, is a three-day, three-night opportunity for students to receive experience doing fieldwork in environmental science. Every year, students travel down to the Marine Science Consortium at Wallops Island, a barrier island off the cost of Virginia, to participate in field trips to a salt marsh, a sand dune, an intertidal zone, a tidal creek and a maritime forest.

A common tradition is for students at the salt marsh to jump into mud-filled pits created by anaerobic bacteria. The first thing that students often notice is the smell of the detritus, or decaying plant matter, which forms a muck-like surface to the marsh.

At the sand dunes, students travel to the beach to look for mole crabs, egg cases and shells of various organisms.

At both the intertidal zone and the tidal creek, students use specialized equipment to collect organisms for observation in the laboratory sessions. Using sieves, shovels and D-nets, students are required to walk into the water to dig up and collect organisms such as benthic organisms such as worms, as well as small fish.

Students stay a bit drier on the floating laboratory in the tidal creek, where they measure water quality and collect plant life and a larger variety of organisms such as blue crabs, snails and skates using a device called an otter trawl.

The morning before departure, all students travel to the maritime forest. Students take pictures at the lighthouse, which was built along the coastline, but now resides in the middle of the forest. This structure shows evidence of island rollover, a characteristic of barrier islands caused by erosion.

Due to the war in Iraq, this year's trip was almost cancelled. However, according to Steinkraus, "the county changed its policy on field trips after the war was almost over, so the trip was approved."

Because of the differing levels of involvement of the suspended students, opinions on whether or not the punishment was merited are mixed. According to Steinkraus, the students received a one-day suspension "because the prank was meant to be fun and nobody was physically harmed."

Still, as another one of the suspended said, "What happened was the result of unforeseen reasons…Fair or not, it had to be enforced."

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