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Community split on punishments for Chilton Co. senior prank; some say district needs to focus on school safety

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 10:35 PM CDT
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CHILTON Co., Ala. (WBRC) - We’re getting new reaction to the backlash surrounding a senior prank at two Chilton County High Schools and whether the punishment from the school system is too harsh or not enough.

On Monday, April 11, 2022, close to two dozen students from Chilton County High School and Jemison High School swapped classes. Some seniors from each school attended the other school for a few hours.

“They did not go through the front door,” parent of a student involved, Crystal Robinson, said. “They didn’t actually just walk in. They walked into a side entrance. They went into a classroom, sat down, and acted like they were actually supposed to be in class that day. Some only made it through one block. They did walk in the hallways and they did pass teachers. [Her son] passed a principal, looked at the principal, and nothing was said.”

The students were eventually caught and now are getting suspensions and more.

“These kids are young,” Robinson said. “They make mistakes. They really meant no harm with any of this prank.”

Robinson’s son, Hayden, is a senior at Jemison High School and he thought switching schools for a day was harmless and hurt no one, but now he’s suspended for three days.

“The punishment, I do think is more severe at one school than the other,” Robinson said. “We are not mad at the administration. We understand that he has to suffer consequences. They broke the rules and they skipped class, so they deserve a punishment. He has missed some tests, so this suspension is going to affect his grades.”

Robinson said she feels some punishments are too harsh. She said the students were threatened with jail time and some worry their college scholarships will be affected. While this doesn’t impact her son’s college plans, she said his senior year playing baseball might be.

“He has not been kicked off the baseball team,” Robinson said. “He is allowed to dress out. He is allowed to sit in the dugout, but it has been made perfectly clear that he will not be allowed to touch the baseball field. Some of these punishments, they were kind of taken overboard.”

Chilton County Coroner Aaron Ellison said he thinks the punishments are too severe and the district should focus more on improving school safety.

“Definitely some security issues are going to have to be addressed,” Ellison said. “But, I don’t believe these students, the ones who have exposed them with this prank, I don’t think they should be punished to the extent of what has been levied on some of them. I believe that it did expose some major security flaws in our schools. I think it is our administration that has to man up and take responsibility. I think when we start throwing out suspensions, kicking kids off athletic teams, and some are in jeopardy of losing scholarships, I think that goes too far.”

Students with three days’ suspension can go back Monday, April 18th.

WBRC did reach out to the district for a comment. Superintendent Jason Griffin stated, “Due to safety protocols, employee and student privacy rights, I will be unable to provide a statement or response.”

WBRC also asked Chilton County Sheriff, John Shearon, if any of these students could face criminal repercussions and he said the district would have to reach out to the DA’s office if they found any criminal behavior took place.

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