Legal expert weighs in on consequences of school vandalism after recent incidents

In the past week, incident have happened in Union, Mecklenburg and Gaston counties.
What started out as "senior pranks" by students in the Charlotte area is being seen as vandalism by police and school systems.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 8:26 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - After several incidents of senior pranks gone too far in the Charlotte area, WBTV reached out to experts on the consequences students could face.

Local school systems and law enforcement have called the incident vandalism. Just this week, incidents have happened at Sun Valley, Burns and Mallard Creek high schools, all in different counties in our area.

“It’s certainly something that can have a wide range of consequences at a young age,” Mark Jetton, a Criminal Defense Attorney at Jetton & Meredith, said. “Senior pranks have been going on for hundreds, and hundreds of years I would assume, the difference now is the social media presence.”

The incidents at Sun Valley, Burns, and Mallard Creek were posted on social media and showed the mess left behind.

CMPD said the vandalism at Mallard Creek happened Monday around 9 p.m. when custodial stuff noticed students in the hallways throwing balloons, confetti and marking the walls. Police said surveillance cameras captured more than 50 students on campus.

Police believe the incident was planned with student getting into the school after hours, unlocking windows, then camping out inside before the vandalism happened.

“I think it was very senseless and that it was just not necessary,” Chester Brown III, a Mallard Creek parent, said. “It is vandalism and I’ve talked to my own son about staying away from end-of-the-year pranks.”

CMPD Sgt. J.D. Williams said charges Mallard Creek students are facing range from misdemeanor breaking and entering and damage to property, in addition to vandalism.

“Misdemeanor is something that goes on your criminal record that you can be put in jail for, just because it’s a misdemeanor doesn’t mean it’s only a fine,” Jetton said.

Experts want high school seniors to think twice before doing the so-called senior pranks because it could have life lasting impacts.

“This foolish prank could not only result in some of these kids not being allowed to participate in a milestone moment in graduating with their peers, but colleges and employers could pull these records and it could end up preventing them from future opportunities,” Sgt. Williams said.

Jetton said school leaders are likely in a difficult position because of the charges students could face, and the long-lasting effects. He said the charges could be hard to wipe off students’ record.

“The expungement laws, meaning something that can be erased from your record are pretty limited in our state,” he said. “So when something gets on your criminal record, it’s there, and that’s something that can follow you throughout your life.”

As for parents, Jetton said now is the time to have important conversations with your children.

“You’ve got to really have these conversations to make sure they understand that one little decision can affect the trajectory of your life.”

Related: Multiple floors of Charlotte high school vandalized, district says