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