D211 authorities put a damper on great senior prank
By Jeff Ward For The Courier-News June 10, 2012 7:00PM
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:05AM
It was the best senior prank ever. I’m so impressed that I’m even willing to expose my bald head by taking my hat off to all those Conant High School seniors for an endeavor that will likely go down in the annals of District 211 high school history.
Well done, my friends.
To put this praise in perspective, this “prank” surpassed even my Class of ’76 Evanston Township High School effort to flip all the school library books around so the pages faced outward.
It certainly was a far sight better than what Bartlett High School seniors did last year. After lacing the school’s floors, stairs and handrails with baby oil, I’m sure there are still some students and custodians who tread very carefully this time of year.
Aiming for something akin to a flash mob, on May 31, the majority of Conant seniors poured into the hallways in celebration of that meaningful milestone known as school graduation.
This spirited Class of 2012 proceeded to jump up and down, fire off some rounds of Silly String, throw some glitter in the air, crowd surf, and shout something along the lines of, “YOLO we won’t go.”
For those who aren’t up on the current texting vernacular, apparently “YOLO” is shorthand for “you only live once,” a sentiment I wish would infect into a whole lot of other folks I generally encounter.
You can see the entire eight-minute video on YouTube.
Now, I utterly understand D211 Superintendent Nancy Robb’s assertion that school administrators “have the responsibility of keeping the schools a safe place for all students.” And you can certainly see some of those administrators with nervous scrambling to keep order in that video.
But my comeback is, confrontation isn’t always the best method of crowd control.
Robb also reminded me that “student expectations are very clear,” and when administrators got wind of this whimsy, they made several announcements warning seniors that complicity would bring consequences.
My percipient rejoinder to that argument is that perhaps the best way to convince a group of high schoolers to embark upon a specific course of action is to tell them not to. Somehow I get the feeling that Dr. Robb and some of her subordinates have absolutely no recollection of their senior year.
Although the ebullient celebrants never got out of control, unable to control the crowd to their satisfaction, school officials called in 10 of Hoffman Estate’s finest to the quell the semi-spontaneous uprising.
In what some parents accurately described as a vast overreaction, three students who failed to disperse were arrested. One was charged with disorderly conduct — the ordinance police love to use when they have no real reason to arrest you — and the other two were released to their parents.
It’s important to note that no one was hurt.
Has my generation become so stilted and embittered that we have to be the buzz kill to anything these impudent young whippersnappers come up with? Does anyone remember a time when they actually had a sense of adventure?
Then some of you unsuitably shocked online commenters had the nerve to castigate these seniors for playing with “flammable Silly String.” I hate to tell you this, but school books burn, too.
This giddy gathering was a positive and inspirational event. It wasn’t destructive like so many other senior pranks.
An elated bunch of kids acknowledged they were moving on to bigger and better things. It was a salute to accomplishment. It was standing in solidarity and joy one last time with their peers before the four winds scatter them only to be reunited at a 20-year reunion.
There comes a time when school administrators and even parents have to back off and bow to the inevitable.
There comes a time when, if only temporarily, you pass the torch by ceding control to those who will eventually replace you on this planet.
Yes, this crowd posed a risk, but so does walking across the street. If you ask me, I’d say part of the reason for this country’s current malaise is our wholesale inability to take a risk.
So to my wise-beyond-their-years Conant graduates, I say this: Remember that day. It’s the time when you held the collective power to change the world squarely in your own two hands.
When life comes at you hard — and it will — use that moment to make it through it and become even stronger.
Now get out there and do some amazing things. You’re already on a roll.
You can reach Jeff at