Paulding “pranksters” — Not off the hook, but not in jail

A school truck was among the property vandalized by students. (Channel 2 Action News)

A school truck was among the property vandalized by students. (Channel 2 Action News)

From now on, the principal of East Paulding High School should begin the school year by handing out copies of newspaper stories about how some members of the graduating class of 2012 ran afoul of the law and risked jail.

And the principal should include the update today on the meeting that the students had with the Paulding DA. While the  district attorney showed some mercy to the 22 students and two graduates arrested for a spray painting rampage, he didn’t let them off the hook.

The news accounts of this year’s senior prank will go a long way to deter future classes from following suit. If  graduating seniors get an urge to paint in the future, I bet they confine their artwork to scrawling their class year on their own cars rather than on public property.
According to the AJC:

The 22 students and two recent graduates are each facing up to five years in prison, but if they accept the offer from Paulding County District Attorney Dick Donovan they’ll have a clean record, except for the arrest.

Donovan will waive the charges for each defendant who agrees by April 30 to participate in pretrial diversion. That entails 400 hours of community service, $720 in fees and at least $300 in restitution — more if all 24 don’t pay their share of the $7,500 in cleanup costs.

“Take it or leave it,” Donovan said Friday during a meeting he called at the Paulding County Courthouse. The crowd then gathered at the front of the courtroom, where assistants were handing out the pretrial diversion forms.

“This is a relief,” said Deanna Hrenyo, 18. She wants to go to college and study criminal justice, and feared her plans might have been dashed by a criminal rap sheet. If she completes pretrial diversion, the charge — interference with government property — will be dismissed, though she’ll still have the arrest to explain in job interviews.

The youths were arrested and charged after an early morning prank got out of control last month. The students were suspended for the duration of the semester. They’ve been doing coursework together at an alternative school. Hrenyo is taking advanced placement statistics and has been wading through the numbers without the help of teachers.

Participants said they were merely repeating an annual rite of seniors — spray painting the road outside the school. But the prank escalated to felony vandalism when the perpetrators went onto school property, painting buildings and vehicles. They also strayed into a neighborhood with their spray cans.

“I’m surprised at least one of you didn’t get shot by the sheriff or at least a homeowner,” Donovan told the gathering of youths, parents and lawyers Friday.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

25 comments Add your comment


April 13th, 2012
8:50 pm

Well this looks reasonable.

What isn’t reasonable is the school district hampering the student’s education by not allowing them to continue classes.

Atlanta Mom

April 13th, 2012
9:04 pm

They get to continue classes. Simply not at their school of choice. This will probably make more of an impression upon them, than the other stuff.


April 13th, 2012
9:23 pm

Seems fair. They are getting a good deal. Hopefully they will move on with their adult lives now.

Ron F.

April 13th, 2012
9:37 pm

bu2- they will work hard in the alternative school, and they’ll be around kids who aren’t trying as hard as they are. They’ll see that their actions have put them in a place they wouldn’t have chosen to be otherwise. Life lessons which build character often involve a little discomfort, and they’ll likely be better people for the experience, if they choose to learn from it, and most of them will I hope.


April 13th, 2012
10:09 pm

Actually they got lucky… They get to stay in a school, actually get to graduate, and won’t have a criminal record. They’ll live through the consequences of their decisions and hopefully have learned some valuable lessons. Like stupid decisions have consequences that sometimes are painful. That property, public and private, should be respected. That they need to THINK for themselves and DECIDE to step out of situations that will end badly BEFORE they actually take part in it. Now, if they don’t mess up on their “sentence”, they will get to move on with their lives with minimal problems due to this criminal activity…. oops, I mean “prank”.

Call Me Crazy But

April 13th, 2012
11:04 pm

Why is this called a prank and not criminal delinquency?! This is not a joke. There is nothing funny about their destructive behavior. These young adults are criminals. Period.


April 13th, 2012
11:31 pm

Just think, how this would have turned out if George Zimmerman lived in that subdivision…Hmmmmm!


April 13th, 2012
11:51 pm

I guess since all the kids were offered a pretrial diversion program then none of them had a criminal record. This sounds fairly reasonable but I think I would have made the community service in the orange jumpers at the school cleaning up in front of the other students.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 14th, 2012
3:21 am


Call us crazy.

East Paulding vandals, not pranksters.


April 14th, 2012
7:52 am

Call it what it is– vandalism and if it happened to you personally, I am sure you wouldn’t take it lightly. The students are fortunate to receive light sentences and put it behind them.


April 14th, 2012
11:23 am

@Ron F
At least some of them can’t take the same classes so that hampers their education. What they did was wrong, but was it disrupting classes or causing danger in the classroom? The school’s motivation in punishment should be different than the state’s motivation. From the state’s standpoint, 400 hours of community service + over a $1000 in fines isn’t a light punishment to a teenager (I do like the idea of the orange jumpsuits).

And it isn’t clear who did what and how much they jointly participated. There’s a difference between spray painting a street, spray painting a vehicle and roaming through a neighborhood randomly spray painting people’s property in the middle of the night. The 1st is easy to fix and is basically just graffiti, the 2nd is very expensive and the 3rd is dangerous as residents might be afraid and pull out their guns.


April 14th, 2012
11:26 am

On jury duty once a prosecutor asked if we thought punishment should be for retribution, rehabilitation or deterence.

I’m a deterence guy. Sounds like we have a lot of serious retribution people on here. That prosecutor was looking for retribution people since he figured he would get a guilty verdict.

Ole Guy

April 14th, 2012
2:18 pm

Let’s knock it off with the crappin’ around on this. We know that anything short of FULL PUNISHMENT…one that is GUARANTEED to inflict PAIN (physical/financial/legal)…will not only accomplish nothing, but will only serve as yet another in a long series of second chances which will carry over into an adult life which will surely place ultimate burden upon society.

Get with the GD program, people. You’ve produced a generation which knows of absolutely no consequence.

Ron F.

April 14th, 2012
3:11 pm

bu2- their education would be hampered a whole lot more if they ended up in a juvenile detention center for a while, so I think the alternative school is a far cry better. I hate to see advanced level kids end up in a compromising school situation, but I’m not sure how much they’d really learn from this if they were back in the school on their regular schedule. I agree that it will likely never be clear who did exactly what, which is why juveniles tend to be charged as a group. Even as an adult, if you’re present at the commission of a felony, you are considered as culpable as the trigger man in many states. As a parent of two teenagers, it’s not easy for me to say they deserve to be where they are in alternative school, but as I’ve told mine, there will be a price to pay, and expulsion could have been an option in this case.

I don’t think it’s about retribution. The DA doesn’t really have a dog in this fight- the BOE, now that was retribution against the kid who appealed the decision and they’ll have to deal with the outcomes of that. I think the DA’s actions might help deter the next group from going so far. What do you think would deter them?

Ole Guy

April 14th, 2012
3:18 pm

OK, Ron…point taken…BUT WHERE DOES IT STOP

Ole Guy

April 14th, 2012
3:22 pm

I’ve had my six, as a “yout”, burned a few times; I mean some serious heat. Guess what? I FREQUIN SURVIVED. I’ve held a few rather lofty perches, despite my youthful indiscretions. Let’s stop rubing the fannys of these kids and start treating them like the responsible sdults we want them to be.


April 14th, 2012
8:21 pm

I think what the DA did will deter them. A little of litter pickup in orange jumpsuits around the school would be a nice extra touch.

Paulding resident

April 15th, 2012
10:18 am

Ron F. – Is the BOE out of line if they told the students that , should the students appeal the Board’s decision about alternative school and lost, they would lose the ability to participate in graduation? The same student who argued that he painted the street but didn’t deserve any punishment has also not accepted the DA’s offer and may face a felony conviction.

Both the BOE and the DA are aware that this doesn’t just affect these 24 but EVERY OTHER PAULDING STUDENT CONSIDERING “PRANKS”. If these 24 got a handslap, what would the next group do?

Paulding resident

April 15th, 2012
11:39 am

A lot of you say “He only painted the street so he shouldn’t get punished.” That’s obviously his viewpoint. He says there is not proof that he painted the other places. There also isn’t proof that he didn’t.

If you participate in a felony – and that is what this delinquent behavior became – even if indirectly, you are as guilty.

The DA and BOE have given them a chance. They weren’t expelled, they just cannot attend the school they vandalized.But they can finish (it will require more work on their part).

When I realized my son had started skipping school I not only told the school, I told all of his coaches. That is what a parent should do – not enable their idea that they are teflon.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 15th, 2012
1:05 pm

Pr @ 11:39 AM,



April 15th, 2012
1:13 pm

The DA used good common sense and fairness. I also agree that this sends a clear message for all seniors in Georgia…think before spray painting school property.


April 16th, 2012
8:43 am

They will have something for a year that will stay with them every week- a little less than 8 hours a week of community service… that hopefully will help build their character even more, to work with and be exposed to, less fortunate situations than their lives, possibly, in some cases. They don’t have their records completely tarnished for the rest of their lives, and hopefully will use as a stepping stone to speak with younger kids about crazy decisions gone bad…. As far as the BOE… I do not think that they should be allowed to continues uping the punishment… there should be a meeting of the minds and then punishment set in place… not let the principal say two weeks and then two days later they decide that is not enough… they should make it clear between all parties what punishment will be then not be allowed to change it.

Maureen 18 is NOT a youth

April 16th, 2012
12:59 pm

Maureen obviously has a slant. She calls them youths. 18 is NOT a youth. 18 is an adult.No ONE “strayed” over and started painting. They weren’t little stray animals who got lost. They made a deliberate decision to move and spray someone’s car and house.
They got really lucky. They didn’t deserve the mercy, especially the punk that said he only painted the road.
There is no contritoin here.
They NEED to be in the alternative school. GOOD choice.
They NEED to not participate in the cap and gown ceremony. They don’t deserve the ceremony.
Ever notice how no one with a can of spray paint puts graffiti on their OWN house? Ever notice how no punkwith a can of spray paint puts graffiti on their OWN fences and their OWN cars?
Because they don’t want it there.
It’s ugly.
It’s destructive.

Maureen Downey

April 16th, 2012
1:26 pm

@Mom. You are wrong.
The World Bank says: “One of the most common definitions of youth in quantitative terms comprises persons between the age of 15 and 24.”
The United Nation says: “The United Nations define youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24.”
For most purposes, the U.S. Government defines youth as persons between the ages 12 and 24.


April 23rd, 2012
2:12 pm

Youth … says the UN and the World Bank……as well as Maureen.