More than 60 members of Teaneck High School’s senior class were arrested Thursday morning after a prank that police said involved urinating in the hallways of the high school, smearing Vaseline on doors, flipping desks and littering the school with balloons and other debris.
The students entered the school in the middle of the night and broke chairs and desks, scrawled graffiti and Vaseline on the walls and urinated, Acting Police Chief Robert Carney said at a press conference this morning.
Carney said that of the 62 arrested, 38 are juveniles. All have been charged with criminal mischief and burglary, and the juveniles have been turned over to their parents. “To go into a school and damage a school, that’s not a prank. That’s criminal mischief,” Carney said.
One adult student said there were at least 100 students involved in the prank; she said she entered the school about 1 a.m. through an unlocked door and was in the building for about an hour before police arrived. She said the students have been planning the prank for about a month. “It was never supposed to get out of hand the way it did,” she said.
The adult students were handcuffed and brought over by van from the police station to the municipal court on the other side of the complex. Their handcuffs were taken off when they appeared before Municipal Court Judge James E. Young Jr. Young told the students that the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office will decide whether to indict them on the burglary and criminal mischief charges or refer the cases back to municipal court where less serious charges are considered.
They were all released. “They are all good kids,” one mother said as she left the courtroom. “My kid’s going to an Ivy League school,” a father added. None of the parents would identify themselves, and they made repeated complaints about the overwhelming presence of television crews, reporters and photographers. “I am just angry right now,” said another woman, who sat in the spectator session of the courtroom. “These students have rights. They should be able to say whether they want to be recorded or not.”
Tristan Anderson, 17, a junior at the school who knows many of the arrested students, said the students made a mistake. “This does not reflect on Teaneck High School,” he said. “These are good kids, passionate about what they do.”
The school district “is considering the consequences it will impose on the students implicated,”
Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said in a written statement that she read aloud at the press conference. She said the school has been cleaned up and “teaching continues as we speak.” Consequences for the students who participated in the prank could be discussed at the Board of Education’s meeting on Wednesday, said Gervonn Rice, the board’s vice president, who added that the district officials were still gathering information.
“We have great kids, but we feel they made a bad choice and got caught up in the moment,” Rice told The Record. Police, who responded to a burglary alarm at 2:11 a.m., saw “numerous individuals” through the windows and several fleeing from the school when they arrived, Police Sgt. John Garland said. “It is possible that a few got away but the majority were caught,” Garland said.