HS Seniors Suspended for Celebratory Bike Ride

By Suzan Clarke

May 23, 2012 6:30am
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Courtesy Rachel Nicks

Graduating seniors are famous for pulling pranks to commemorate their final days of high school, but students at Kenowa Hills High School in Michigan weren’t interested in the usual silly hijinks or immature escapades that often end in suspension or police involvement.

So rather than do something that would bring shame upon their school’s name, Kenowa High’s seniors decided to put their pride in their school on full display by organizing a bicycle ride through the city of Walker to their school.

About 60 students, about one-third of the senior class, took part in the bike ride on Tuesday. They had organized a police escort beforehand, and the city’s mayor, Rob VerHeulen, traveled in the procession in a police car and even handed out doughnuts.

A good time was had by all, except for school Principal Katharine Pennington.  Apparently dismayed at not having been informed about the event, Pennington suspended the participants for the day, forbade them from participating in today’s senior walk — an annual tradition — and said they could potentially not walk during their graduation next week, Rachel Nicks, the mother of one of the participating students, told ABC News.

Nicks said she was aware of the biking plan and had given her 17-year-old honor student son, Cody, her full approval. Shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday, he called her to say he’d been suspended.

“And I said ‘What did you do?’ And he said, ‘I didn’t do anything. They’re suspending me for riding the bikes. We’re all being suspended,’” Nicks told ABCNews.com

She was outraged, as were many other parents who showed up at a scheduled school board meeting Tuesday night.

“The disruption to the classroom, the disruption to the school day, was not these kids,” Keri Whip, a parent of one of the bike riding participants, told the board. “It was the principal.”

Pennington did not attend the meeting. Nicks said she believes the principal overreacted, adding that when she talked to the woman at the school on Tuesday she seemed upset, but was standing by her ruling.

According to a report by 24 Hour News 8, Pennington said the bike ride put the students in danger, tied up traffic and caused school staffers to be late for work.

Nicks said the students were escorted by police. She said she’d heard no complaints from people about being tied up in traffic, and said teachers should have already been at school by the time the ride was under way.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “They did not impede traffic. The police department would have dispersed that. Give me a break. These are good students. These are not bad students.”

Some of the students who were sent home were to have taken final exams that day.

The school has since backpedaled on the punishment.  The students’ senior walk will take place next week, the day’s absence won’t be counted against them, and those who missed exams will be allowed to retake them, 24 Hour News 8 also reported.

Neither Pennington nor school district superintendent Gerald Hopkins returned calls left for them by ABCNews.com on Tuesday. According to 24 Hour News 8, Hopkins said he would have supported the event if he had known about it beforehand.

Sabrena Hall, 18, said she was surprised by the principal’s reaction.

“We didn’t make it out to be a prank. It was more made out to be a celebration of our school and our pride for our school,” she said, adding that the students had banners and had been singing the school’s fight song during the ride. “We just wanted to basically have one last hurrah with our class and we thought a safe and respectable way would be to ride our bikes. So we got the police involved just to make sure we wouldn’t get in trouble.”

“We all thought she might be more proud of us that we set something like this up, that we were showing pride for our school,” she said.

 

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