By Leeann Akers - Editor
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.
The Barkers said they understand the payment but believe the students should have been allowed to walk at graduation.
State Sen. Robin Webb, on her Facebook page, offered the following opinion in a post:
“East Carter High School was pranked by some younguns in the release of some pretty good fishing bait in the form of crickets. It is rumored that seniors implicated in the release may not be allowed to walk across stage at graduation. As a former class president, parent and taxpayer, let these young folks walk. Maybe they could pay for cleanup, do some school service, or something positive, after due process takes its course. I have read with interest posts relating to Bugs, not Drugs, which is a good one. Look it could be drugs, gangs, vandalism or many other things. Rational thought must rule the day. Free the Cricket(eers).”
State Rep. Jill York also chimed in via Facebook, posting a photo of Jiminy Cricket:
“East Carter's ‘Cricketeers’ ingenious prank revealed creativity and humor. I'm sure an equally creative and realistic punishment can be found that allows these seniors to participate in their graduation. Let them walk!”