June 2011…It was a lovely Friday in spring. The promise of summer hung in the warm evening air as the sun was lingered low in the sky. I was longing to go for a run and knew I could get 5k in before the sun set. I set out from my house at about 7:30 to run my usual route.
As I ran, I was trying to absorb as much of this lovely evening as I could fueled by the tunes playing on my iPhone. I was in heaven…
I was finished my 5k on the last leg of my route, which was my cool-down, when I noticed them. An SUV had stopped, pulled up across the street, and 3 young men had emerged from it. A young woman remained seated in the back. At first I was confused as to why they had stopped, thinking initially that perhaps they need to use the loo and had intended to head down the trail to the right to relieve themselves, but to my surprise they crossed the street and headed towards me. One of them was holding a piece of paper in his hand. Thinking that they were lost and needed directions, I pulled out my earphones so I could hear them as they tried to get my attention. I was not prepared for what transpired next…
They came close to me very quickly and circled around me and started talking to me. It took me a few seconds to hear what they were saying as my mind struggled to figure out why they had circled me and why one of them was holding a cell phone in the air aimed down on me. Rapidly I became aware that I was not in a good spot. Then I began to hear their words.
As the salacious comments and sexual threats flowed freely in my direction I started to spin looking for a way out of this circle. They started to reach for me, trying to grab me, but luckily I am fast as was able to dodge them. This increasingly threatening environment only heightened my flight or fight response and with my fists clenched I swung and managed to clock the 6’4” leader of the pack in the throat. As he chocked and stumbled back I broke out of the circle and started to run…then something happened to me…something I did not expect …my fear turned into anger.
As I ran away they shouted at me and I suddenly found myself enraged at their actions. I turned around and after hurling an explicative or two at them, I reached into my running belt and grabbed my iPhone. Running towards their car I began taking pictures of the vehicle trying to get the licence plate. They ran towards me, chasing me around the SUV trying to stop me from taking a picture of either of the plates. I managed to not only get the plates but 2 of the 3 young men in the picture as well. Call it bravery or call it stupidity. Call it what you like. I just didn’t want them to get away with this.
As I took off they yelled at me, threatening to call the police as I had “assaulted” one of them and they claimed he was a minor. I was stunned. Where they that stupid? Did they actually think that a charge like that would stick in these circumstances? I reasoned that they were likely now afraid and were yelling idol threats in hope of dissuading me from contacting the authorities. I also reasoned that although I was a few blocks from my house, I had better change my course and added another 5 blocks in a different direction to make sure they did not follow me home…
Sometime later, still shaking from the surge of adrenaline, I sat on my front patio with a police officer discussing the events. I chose to sit outside as a visit from the police at our home might scare my young daughter who was trying to sleep in her room. In addition, I felt that the details of the conversation would not be appropriate for young ears.
I learned from the police that the events of the evening were part of a prank – an evening dedicated to pranks organized by a student at the local high school for the senior students; an annual event. The task was to try to complete as many of the 150 things on the list in one evening and gather evidence to prove it. Points would be awarded for every completed challenge. Some of the things on the list: to insight someone into a rage; to pour liquid over an unknowing stranger; to motorboat a woman…the list went on… Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good prank have pulled off a few great ones in my time, but not once were any illegal much less threatening to anyone.
What a sad state of affairs that these teenagers, some of them legally adults, think that this sort of thing is ok; an acceptable event in which to participate; an accomplishment; something to win. How is it that so many kids have such a skewed idea of right and wrong? Is it society? Both the police and the high school administration had prior knowledge of the event; although apparently they did not have the details despite the fact that it was posted as an event on Facebook with many, if not all, senior students invited to it.
As parents we try to teach our children right from wrong. We try to guide them on the path to being the best people they can be. Our children learn from us and look to us to set the standard. It came to my attention that some parents were aware of this event and the list of challenges. Some heard from their children who were not participating. Some forbid their children to participate. Some had no clue. Did any one of them contact the school /authorities and notify them of this event. No. Some parents only showed concern when they realized that the police were waiting at the high school to round up the kids when they returned to congregate in the parking lot where they would show the evidence and get their points ( mine was not the only call the police received that night).I learned that a few parents said that their kids were not involved in the Prank Night – which actually meant that they knowingly handed over the keys to the family car so their son/daughter could drive the get-away vehicle.
How is this not being involved? Are these parents so naïve to think that their child won’t be arrested if he/she is chauffeuring a group who commits a crime? Some of these kids were 18 – fair game for the law if there were any wrong doing. It is troubling to me that some parents seemed to think this was all ok…that is until they think that their babies might land in jail. Kind of a “have fun but don’t get caught” attitude. If parents think that driving the get-away vehicle is acceptable but not really participating how can we expect the kids to make the right choice about even participating in such events. Add to this, the school , although having issued a warning to students that no Prank Hight hanky-panky would be tolerated, has done nothing (to my knowledge) to prevent this annual event or act on the warning issued.
The students seem to have an untouchable attitude. I learned from the police that when they rounded up my assailants they were defiant. They said that they had done nothing wrong and even went so far as to accuse me of assault. They even offered up the video to police as evidence thinking it would exonerate them which clearly it did not. These kids were so sure that nothing could happen to them. They did nothing wrong in their minds. There is something very wrong with this picture.
Prank Night is an annual event at several high schools. It typically occurs after the last day of full classes. It is ok to have some fun and celebrate the end of school. It is not ok to organize and /or participate in an event which basically terrorizes a community. It is not ok to for parents to knowingly allow their children to participate in such an activity. People with knowledge of such activities need to stand up and do the right thing. By doing nothing you become a bystander and if you want a safe and harmonious community where you can live free of fear then you cannot take this role. If we as parents and guardians do not do the right thing, do not have a proper sense of right and wrong then what hope is there for our children?
Photos by Lyndsay Jenkinson