Senior Pranks: Taking it to the Limit
There was one subject on the lips of
graduating seniors at Palo Alto High School during their 2007 graduation--- and it had nothing to do with summer internships or starting college in the fall.
Rather, it was the fate of Blaine Marchant, the graduating senior
whose spray-painted and tireless Volvo station wagon was found parked upside down on a school deck in the wee hours of June 5th, 2007.
Although, most Paly seniors saw the prank as harmless, school
administrators were not amused. Marchant was arrested, spent seven hours in county jail and faced the possibility of felony charges.
was an immediate backlash from students and parents who felt that the response
was heavy-handed. More than 100 seniors took to buying $5 T-shirts
asking the administration to “Free Tom,” a reference to Marchant’s
nickname. And some 300 people joined a web group in support of Marchant on
Facebook. Paly then seemed to do at least a little
backpedaling. Original estimates of the $3,000 worth of damage were
lowered to $530 and Marchant was allowed to walk in Paly’s graduation ceremonies
--- where he received a standing ovation.
Of course, senior pranks are nothing
new at Palo Alto’s high schools. For some, graduation is not complete before they streak the campus or scale high walls to paint their class
year on the school roof. Libraries and pools are often in danger
during a high school’s final weeks. One year, students emptied all of the books
out of the Gunn High School Library and dumped them in the quad,
while another year the library was host to 75 mice and some assorted
pigeons and chickens. In 1968, the pool at Paly played host to a live shark from Monterey Bay, while another year it was completely filled with old
And 1977 saw a particularly artistic stunt, as a group of Paly
seniors calling themselves the Michelob Gang spent most of the night
arranging beer bottles along the roofs of the buildings surrounding the quad, producing a rather beautiful spectacle.
But nobody was
laughing after the unfortunate prank that rattled Palo Alto in 1994. At 10:15 in the morning on June 8th, an old water
fountain on the Gunn High main quad suddenly exploded. A cloud of
smoke and flames up to thirty feet long flew in all directions, showering
students with smoke and white-hot burning embers. Students
relaxing, strolling and signing yearbooks on the quad fled as the scene devolved into chaos. Eleanor Lin and her friend Catherine Meyer were
seriously injured, receiving second and third degree burns. 18
others received minor injuries. News of the smoke bomb made CNN and was covered extensively throughout the Bay Area.
arrested three 18 year-old seniors who confessed to the stunt. David Chin,
Robby Roberts, and Brendan Wheatley said that they were trying to
create a smoke bomb, but that the prank had gone wrong. The boys
pleaded guilty to one felony count each and were placed on probation. After
meeting a list of conditions (including speaking to an all-school
assembly at Gunn the following year), the charges were reduced to
misdemeanors. Lin and Meyer received $100,000 and $50,000 respectively from
PAUSD and two of the boys were deemed able to pay.
Of course, no
one has ever defended the Gunn pranksters of 1994. It was a poorly executed and
very dangerous stunt. But Marchant’s overturned Volvo (and the
“zero tolerance” reaction from school administrators) prompted
great discussion. Each year as graduation day approaches, the question remains, “How much is too
"By the way, two of the four members
of the Mr. Michelob gang were Mormons, at
least one of who went on
to BYU. The impressive thing about the beer bottle
display was that
these guys actually drank all that beer, and it was a lot."
"At Paly in 1972, one special day it
was raining and it got rowdy and all these boys got cardboard and
somehow they managed to fill up the inside of the building with water. They sprayed it and opened the door. And they were sliding down
the halls, it was the strangest thing. And nobody stopped them. I
was just watching and we were all just watching and clapping and
cheering. It was really fun. I'll never forget that day, in Winter
Cubberley Senior Prank:
put a toilet on the top of the totem pole in (I think) 1969."
"Best Cubberley Prank:
A wandering Dinosaur from "Lost World" Felton (Across Hwy 17 from
Village) somehow found its way to the top of the Theatre...
or was it the Pavilion?...
Need to find photo, it was cool... Fun
"I can remember someone putting a
plastic but real looking weed plant on top of
the statue in the
amphitheatre. Or the time we bricked up the math door over the
weekend so as not to take exams the following Monday. My classic prank
along with buddies, collected locker combinations during the
year then over the
summer switched everyone's personal contents with
all the lockers.
I've got one more prank I was involved in.
between Gunn and Cubberly High Football teams. We put fish
on the visitors bleachers. Sure did stink...."