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Sandbag pranksters get garbage duty

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West Fargo school officials are sending a message to next year's seniors: A year-end prank will come with consequences.

Of the high school's senior pranks the past three years, this year's seniors are the first to face consequences for their prank earlier this month.

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They'll pick up trash at two track meets next week as one of the results of stacking an estimated 2,000 sandbags outside the school's entrances two weeks ago.

Senior Whitney Streifel, one of about 60 to 70 seniors involved in the prank, said they meant it to be a harmless, fun last event for seniors.

"It was the last get-together for all of the kids," she said on Monday. "It was cool to see how many students came out."

Starting just after midnight on April 6, the students used a trailer and six or seven trucks to shuttle and stack 2,000 sandbags they picked up from rural homes. In about 10 minutes, they stacked the bags 3 feet high in front of four school entrances.

"It was quick, fast and efficient," said senior Mason Herman.

Herman wore a fake mustache, and classmate Jon Morken donned a panda mask (the school has surveillance cameras) while the five dozen students swiftly stacked the sandbags.

With Principal Gary Clark getting word of the prank about 6 a.m., he said school officials didn't have time to track down students before school started, so custodians were called in to clear the entrances.

When Clark tried to get to the school, he found his own garage surrounded by sandbags.

"I actually thought it was funny," he said. "Yes, we have a sense of humor."

At the school, crews brought in a tractor and loader to remove the sandbags in time for class.

Two teachers e-mailed Clark that day, complaining about the prank and pushing for students to face consequences. He said one custodian missed several workdays after hurting his back removing the sandbags.

"There was no vandalism, so we appreciated that," Clark said, "but I have that group (custodians), too. You have to stick up for your staff."

Between custodians' overtime and bringing in the equipment, it was first suggested students pay $750 of the extra expenses, but that was later dropped.

Instead, students wrote an apology to the 10 custodians. They'll also collect donations for the American Red Cross and relieve custodians of cleaning up trash after track meets next Monday and on May 7.

Despite the extra work during their last weeks of school, seniors said they don't regret the prank.

"We'd do it again in a heartbeat," Herman said. He added that of all the pranks, "ours was the best."

Two years ago, seniors stacked Styrofoam cups on steps spelling out their senior class. Last year, seniors stacked furniture outside school doors.

While this was the first year students faced consequences, Clark said he doesn't think school officials overreacted.

"There needs to be responsibility so others don't have to clean up for them," he said. "If students want to do a prank (next year), they need to clean it up themselves.

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