Students Excluded from Graduation Ceremony Following Vandalism

School board voted Tuesday to uphold administrators' recommendation

By Dillon Tabish
Flathead High School. Beacon File Photo

A group of seniors who were involved in a vandalism incident at Flathead High School is prevented from attending next week’s graduation ceremony.

The Kalispell Public Schools Board of Trustees on Tuesday upheld the recommendation of high school administrators and barred 20 students from attending the June 3 graduation. The students will still receive graduation certificates and credits earned for the semester.

The school board held a closed session reviewing the matter, including pleas from students and parents, before making its decision. Flathead administrators recommended the board rescind the students’ “honor of participating” in the graduation ceremony, as the school statute describes it.

A total of 21 students were caught on surveillance cameras in Flathead High School during an incident that occurred in the early morning hours of May 10. According to a police investigation, the students intended to conduct a senior prank, which the school district has explicitly warned against in recent weeks.

Police say the group tried to push open a window at the school before it broke, allowing entry. Initially, the incident involved students filling cups with water and throwing sawdust, toilet paper, silly string and cellophane throughout the halls, according to police. The situation escalated after a few students began damaging the school, ripping water fountains from the walls, breaking vending machines and two windows. A statue on loan to the school was also broken.

The extent of the damage is still being assessed but it is estimated to be “in the thousands” of dollars, according to school officials.

Outside of the school district, the students still face potential charges of trespassing and criminal mischief.

One of the 21 students was not a senior at Flathead.

Kalispell Superintendent Mark Flatau declined to say what other punishments the students face.

“In dealing with situations like this, no matter where you sit at the table, it is not pleasant. It is an unfortunate situation,” Flatau said. “These aren’t bad kids. They’re good kids who made a bad decision. We hope that lessons are learned. We’ve warned students and families and made it clear that pranks are not acceptable. There are consequences that match the level of the incident.”

Last week seniors at Flathead hosted a community give-back day, hosting a barbecue and organizing neighborhood cleanups and gathering donations for local service agencies.

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