Four students are charged with felonies after a senior prank led to the cancellation of all Northwestern Local School District classes Friday, thousands of dollars in repairs and parents scrambling for child care.
The teens are accused of removing valve stems from tires on 24 buses, leaving the tires deflated. They also left behind a message, written in chalk, that read: “You have been pranked by seniors 2015” and “To have school or to not have school?”
Taylor Monroe, 18, of North Hampton; Stewart Parrott, 18, of New Carlisle; Anthony Esposito, 19, of Springfield; and Justin Weekly, 18, of Urbana, are charged with vandalism and disrupting public service.
“I’m disappointed in the students,” district Superintendent Tony Orr said. “We expect our students to use better judgment but in this case, they did not.”
Surveillance video at the Northwestern transportation center, located by the high school at 5780 Troy Road, caught the suspects on the property just before 2 a.m. Friday.
Three of the four accused vandals were swimming at a friend’s house when they were picked up by deputies for questioning, Clark County Sheriff’s Maj. Russell Garman said.
“Typically I would say there shouldn’t be repercussions for senior pranks but I’d say this went farther than most,” said Pattie Fuchino, a Northwestern parent who drove by the garage to see the damage.
Orr said the criminal acts cannot be dismissed as a child’s prank.
“They did some real damage here and they’re going to have to pay for it,” he said.
The cost to repair the tires hasn’t been tallied but will be in the thousands, according to the district.
Many parents had to find places for their children Friday morning, said Samantha Hart, a district parent.
“Those seniors really didn’t understand the lengths as to how far their actions were going to affect people,” Hart said.
Fourth-graders were scheduled to go on a field trip to Johnson Farm in Piqua, she added, and her son was disappointed it was canceled because of the damage to the buses.
Another program at the elementary school had to be canceled, Orr said, and the disruption to the entire district was costly.
Some parents had to unexpectedly pay for childcare, Hart said.
“You have families that have to pay baby sitters or have to take the day off,” she said.
No fence encloses the buses parked at the transportation center. But this incident was the first time in his seven years at the district that anyone has messed with the buses, Orr said.
Sheriff Gene Kelly said felony charges are justified because of the extent of the damage and the cost of shutting down the district.
“When you conduct yourself to commit criminal vandalism and cost the taxpayers of this community, there has to be consequences,” he said.
Orr said the district will look into the “maximum punishment” to discipline the students accordingly, which could include suspension or expulsion.
“Anytime we have to close the schools we take it very seriously,” he said. Students might have to make up the school day, he noted, but it isn’t expected that graduation will be affected.