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Parents, Students: Hoffman Estates School Overreacted To Senior Prank

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Conant Senior Prank

The Class of 2012 senior prank at James Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. (Credit: YouTube)

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UPDATED 06/01/12 1:56 p.m.

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (CBS) — Accusations are flying that teachers and administrators at James Conant High School in Hoffman Estates swore at students and even used excessive force after a senior prank.

Four students were arrested as a consequence of the prank. Others will miss prom and graduation.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller and Mike Krauser report, everyone agrees on the fact that the seniors were warned against committing any pranks.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

But some seniors at Conant went on with it anyway. The students who organized is say the idea was to spray the hallways with silly string and throw glitter everywhere, but the scene ended up turning into a mosh pit.

Video of the prank shows a hallway packed with students cheering and throwing glitter. Some of the students are wearing Mardi Gras masks, and many are seen taking video with their iPhones.

The students chant “YOLO! We won’t go!” YOLO is an acronym for “you only live once,” and has taken off in recent months as a Twitter hashtag to accompany tweets about outrageous activities.

Senior Angelo Tolley was arrested. He said it was because “I had a can of root beer in my hand, and because I was jumping up and down with everybody, and it got shaken up, and when it I opened it, and it exploded all over everybody, I guess that was considered disorderly conduct.”

Omar Moreno was also arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

“In reality, it’s hurting not only us, but also our families,” he said.

Moreno’s father, Fernando, is not pleased with what an administrator called his son.

“Calling a son of a bitch to my kid,” Fernando Moreno said.

That remark is clearly audible on cell phone video.

About five or six parents came to the school, and were told by school officials that the incident was still under investigation, and more students would face consequences. The parents were then asked to leave the school, where three police officers were waiting outside afterward.

The school board president, Robert LeFevre, says safety was threatened by the prank.

Moreno’s mother said her son was roughed up the administrator who called him a “son of a bitch.”

“I have marks on my shoulders showing that they were using excessive force on me,” Moreno said.

On Friday morning, some parents showed up to school angry. Linda Zydak told Krauser it was all just glitter and silly string.

“I mean, it’s not like the kids had spray paint and smoke bombs,” Zydak said. “Did the administrators forget what it was like to be a senior, and forget what it was like to have the last day? It was exciting. If you look at all the videos, it wasn’t a dangerous situation. They created the situation. They called the police before it even went down.”

Parent Patricia Laudando agreed that it was all harmless.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

She says her son, a senior, has been banned from prom and senior breakfast, and the graduation ceremony.

“He’s upset,” Laudando said. “I picked him up. He was crying. And my son is not a cryer.”

Laudando says she’s upset with the teachers.

“They were swearing at the kids,” she said. “They were pulling the kids out of the mosh pit.”

Laudando says the students involved are all good kids, and they got the rug pulled out from under them.

And as for the teachers, Laudando said, “They were very unprofessional. They handled it very poorly.”

LeFevre says he would not condone teachers swearing – if it happened.

But of the prank, he says, “It was described as a mob scene. Safety and security were threatened.”

Some reports indicated that 150 students would be disciplined as a consequence of the prank. But on Friday morning, Conant school director of community relations Tom Peterson told CBS 2 that number is actually closer to 10.

Peterson said the students were given guidelines for the end of the school year, which included repercussions for actions like a senior prank. While he cannot comment on the students’ specific discipline, the banning of students from prom and graduation were listed as possible consequences for students misbehaving in the information students received.

This is not the first time a prank at Conant High School has made the news. A 1989 Chicago Tribune column by Eric Zorn pointed out that in the early 1970s, seniors at the school staged “an elaborate, Shakespearean mock sword-fight on the roof of the science wing,” which other students in the library watched ardently.

Student service director Ron Persche told Zorn he complimented the students on their creativity, and suspended them.

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