Current Affairs

Principal slams high school prank weeks: 'They're costing schools thousands in tax payer money'

''It's not funny, it's wanton vandalism,' says Auckland Secondary School Principals Association (ASSPA) president Richard Dykes.

By Karyn Henger
The tradition of 'prank week' at secondary schools is costing schools thousands in repairs each year and is tantamount to "wanton vandalism", a principal says.
President of the Auckland Secondary Schools Principals Association (ASSPA), Richard Dykes, has slammed the prank week tradition (which sees Year 13 students dedicating their final week at school before exams to playing pranks) after news broke this week that a Westlake Boys High School student took a prank too far, vandalising a security vehicle that was parked on school grounds. He now faces criminal charges.
The student caused thousands of dollars of damage to a security vehicle by reportedly breaking into it and filling it with paint. The matter is now being investigated by Waitemata East Police and the student may face criminal charges.
Westlake Boys principal David Ferguson has confirmed that the school had a security guard presence at the school during prank week to deter students from playing pranks.
The police are also following up on a report of wilful damage to school property. Ferguson confirmed that the school's newly built cricket facility had its nets cut.
A number of students were reportedly involved in causing damage to the school and have been seen by the principal and deans. Damage is said to have included gluing doors shut to some of the dean's offices and in one of the school blocks.
Richard Dykes, who is principal of Glendowie College in Auckland, says the Westlake Boys incident is the worst he's heard about, but it's not isolated and that's the problem.
"Prank weeks have gone too far," he states. "It's been confused between pranks and wanton vandalism but what it quantifies to is schools having to spend thousands of dollars on security guards and fixing stuff."
At Glendowie College prank week no longer exists but it took five years for Dykes and his staff to eradicate it and he said they had to take a "very hard line".
"It took a generation of kids, the full five years - and you only need one year to start it up again and then it's back.
"You still get people going 'but it's our last week ever' and you get parents buying into it.
"It's seen as a last hoorah and principals get accused of being the fun police, but it's not funny. It's vandalism. It's also harassment of other students.
"At a previous school I worked at we had to do exactly the same thing [as we did at Glendowie]. That, too, was a five-year project. What you find is it escalates as each year [group] tries to outdo the previous year.
"One year the kids chopped down bollards at a council park to be able to drive onto the school grounds and hoon around. Seriously guys, where is that funny?
"Chucking a fish down a wall and then we had to rip the wall off to get the rotting fish out. That's not funny, that's costing us money, that's tax payers' funds being spent."
ASSPA president Richard Dykes says school prank weeks have gone too far.
Dykes says to get rid of prank weeks for good schools need to "get tough", but they also need get students and parents on board.
"We worked with student leaders and said 'what's your take on this?' and found out the student leaders were actually embarrassed by it.
"We also explained things to the students, because what happens is you get kids truanting. You'll get a student who already has their level 3 NCEA organise the prank - but the kids most likely to take time off to carry out the pranks are the kids who most desperately need to be in class because they haven't got their level three.
"We said to those student organisers, 'You're taking students out of class who are essentially going to fail NCEA'.
"When they started to realise that they said, 'Maybe this isn't so cool, maybe let's have a water fight instead.'"
Dykes says he also moved prank week to the end of term three when teachers were busy marking assignments and tests.
"The timing at the end of the year is terrible."
Prank week became prank day and now pranks aren't even pulled. The students dress up instead.
"You don't need prank week," Dykes says. "They've got all year to have fun at school."