Teaneck residents ponder what to do with high school pranksters

TEANECK — Clean up the high school building. Community-wide beautification projects. Fines to pay for the damage. Volunteer at homeless shelters.

For those residents who say the punishment should fit the crime, the 63 student-pranksters who broke into Teaneck High School should face a litany of community service projects to pay for their misdeeds.

“Community service is best. They should volunteer at a homeless center or something. It would be great for the community. And it teaches them a lesson,” said Jacob Herenstein, a 20-year-old college student and township resident.

Herenstein, was among those who said “senior pranks as a way for kids to express themselves.” But in this case, he said the students went too far, and for that they should pay with their time.

Ellyn and Larry Lewis, who resided in Teaneck for 18 years and sent their children to the public schools, said the teens are old enough to know “they can’t get away with teenage pranks.”

“Vandalizing the school was a tragedy. They need to do strict community service where they are monitored at all times,” Ellyn Lewis said. “They need counseling, of course. And the parents need to get involved.”

Meanwhile, Rachelle D., whose son is a senior at the high school but was not involved in the prank, was very specific about the punishment.

“Their community service should be to clean up their own mess at the school,” she said, adding that she heard students defiled the property, though district officials said Friday reports of damage were “exaggerated.”

“The clean-up consisted of returning desks to classrooms, removing a small amount of graffiti that had been written with water-based marker from several surfaces, cleaning petroleum jelly product from doorknobs returning tables and chairs in the student center and cafeterias to upright positions and sweeping the many balloons and toilet paper streamer that had been distributed through three floors,” the school’s statement said.

Several residents suggested the students and their parents be forced to repay the district for any potential damage inflicted upon the school property, as well as for overtime paid to janitors who were called in early to tidy up the school building.

“My son did stupid things when he was in high school. He got in trouble with the law and was sentenced to community service and had to pay a fine,” said Ilana, a store clerk who did give out her last name. “And you know what, I thought I would have to help him pay the fine, but he worked, and did his community service and paid for it all his self. That was his second chance.”

Howard Rose, a trustee of the Teaneck Board of Education and owner of Brier Rose Books, said it’s unclear if all the students deserve the same punishment.

“Are they all culpable of the same thing?” he asked. “We don’t know. So no jerk reactions should be taken, rather research so that those responsible will be held accountable.”

Rose continued: “what the students did was not justifiable, but we can be justifiable in our response.”


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