May 22, 2013 — As many as 10,000 crickets were released by a group of students at East Carter High School last Thursday morning and, by Friday, seven seniors had received disciplinary action.
Hundreds of posts on the Journal-Times Facebook link to the story supported the students, while a handful supported the administration. However, the district stuck to its decision and did not allow the seven students to participate in Saturday’s commencement.
Although school administrators at first refused to comment about those disciplinary measures, Supt. Ronnie Dotson did respond to inquiries via email.
“This has created numerous problems at the school, including but not limited to, the manhours required to find those responsible and the removal of the crickets from the building,” Dotson said. “Expenses will continue to rise as cleanup efforts are still underway. It is the stance of the Carter County School District that these actions, while meant to be a prank of sorts, are unacceptable. Those responsible have acknowledged the wrong doing and disciplinary action has been taken with those involved."
The incident led to discussion at Monday night's school board meeting. The board, with the assistance of all the district administrative staff, will revamp the discipline policy during the July meeting.
Missy and Mark Barker are the parents of one of ECHS's seniors. Although he was involved in planning the cricket release — he slept through the event and was not punished.
“We feel like this prank was harmless and done in good humor,” the Barkers said. “Not only were these kids not allowed to participate, they weren't allowed at the ceremony. The district is also holding their diplomas until after the fines are paid.”
According to the Barkers, each student will be required to pay a fine of around $600 to cover the costs of extermination of the crickets.