It was not. No one was injured in the escapade, but the slicks of oil that appeared June 6 in several hallways and stairway landings left six senior boys suspended during their final days of school, according to students involved. Three, including Shoemaker, are banned from Thursday graduation ceremonies, the students said.
For some schools, senior pranks can be a yearly headache, with each class trying to leave its mark and high jinks ranging from the harmless to hazardous. Principals often make the call on consequences — weighing the extent of problems caused, with an eye on the difficulty of excluding students from the grand finale of high school.
In Fairfax County, this decision-making comes as the school system is under a discipline microscope, with the School Board continuing to study how students are punished for infractions.
Shoemaker and his family are appealing the graduation ban Wednesday, arguing in part that all six teenagers involved should have been punished equally — without losing graduation privileges. An honor student, Shoemaker, 18, has taken 11 Advanced Placement courses at Herndon, and he played varsity basketball. He said he has never had a discipline infraction.
“I feel I should definitely have been punished, and I definitely did something wrong, and somebody could have gotten hurt,” said the teen, who apologized in person Monday to the principal. He said he would gladly make amends through community service or school cleanup — “anything other than not letting us walk” across the graduation stage, he said.
Some classmates embraced the cause on Twitter, employing the phrase “#LetTheBoysWalk2012.” Herndon students wore T-shirts with those words. The principal ordered the shirts to be removed or turned inside out. Then the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in.
“Punishing students for their political speech teaches a profoundly negative lesson about the school attitude toward the nation’s most cherished freedoms,” the ACLU wrote to Principal William Bates.
Fairfax County officials had no comment on the disciplinary actions, which are considered a private matter, schools spokesman John Torre said. He noted that in the weeks before graduation seniors are reminded of possible consequences of misconduct. Torre said “a number” of students do not attend graduation because of suspensions.
A vexing day
June 6 was clearly a vexing day for Herndon High administrators. It started with the discovery of spray paint on the building. Then there was the baby oil incident. Later, someone pulled a fire alarm.
Shoemaker and another student involved in the baby oil incident said the slicked floors posed a danger for a matter of minutes — perhaps five to 10 — before the students were caught and the affected areas were cordoned off.