TEANECK, N.J. (AP) — Many of the dozens of high school students arrested after a senior class prank will have the charges against them downgraded, a prosecutor said.
The 63 students had faced burglary and criminal mischief charges stemming from the May 1 prank at Teaneck High School. Police who responded to a burglar alarm said they found the school vandalized.
But Bergen County's top prosecutor, John Molinelli, announced Wednesday that 24 students who are 18 or older will instead face disorderly person offenses of criminal trespass and criminal mischief. Nearly all the other students, including some who may have seen their cases moved to adult court, will be eligible for a program that offers a chance to avoid a permanent record.
"In coming to this conclusion, we considered the impact that criminal convictions may have on individuals at such an early stage in their life," Molinelli said. "This is also taking into consideration the nature of the offenses, the damage done to property as well as the original intent that the students had when initiating this ill-advised conduct."
Molinelli said it's believed that nearly 100 students were present during the prank but many of them escaped detention by the police.
The school's superintendent, Barbara Pinsak, has said the prank was exaggerated in the media and janitors found no evidence students urinated in the hallways.
Pinsak said this month the cleanup consisted of removing petroleum jelly from doorknobs, sweeping floors of debris and removing graffiti. She said the district didn't condone the students' behavior but news reports of mayhem misrepresented their school and community.