May 1, 2014

More than 60 students arrested in Teaneck High School prank

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TEANECK — More than 60 Teaneck High School students were arrested after a senior prank where the teens sprayed silly string on floors, taped hot dogs to lockers, flipped desks, urinated in the hallways and smeared Vaseline on doors around the school early Thursday, authorities said.

Officers discovered the vandalism after they responded to a burglary alarm at the school around 2 a.m., Teaneck police Acting Chief Robert Carney said at a news conference. When police arrived, several students ran from the building, while others hid inside.
In the end, 63 high school seniors were arrested, including 24 adults, Carney said. The 39 juveniles were released to their parents.
All of them will be charged with burglary and criminal mischief, Carney said.
Because of the number of students, police from more than 15 agencies assisted Teaneck officers at the school, Carney said.
A Bergen County Sheriff's K-9 unit found eight juveniles hidden in a classroom, according to agency spokesman David Martinez. Students were loaded into sheriff's vans and taken to the township police headquarters without incident after the arrests.
Police said it was not immediately clear how the teens got into the building overnight and investigators were working to collect security camera footage from the school.
More punishment could come from the school district, Superintendent Barbara Pinsak told reporters.
“The district continues to assess the situation and is considering the consequences that we’ll impose on any students implicated,” she added.
While the damage was widespread, it wasn't permanent, officials said. High school workers cleaned up the mess within a few hours.
The high school opened as usual Thursday despite the disruption, but the arrests were the talk of the school through the day. Many took to social media to share reactions and photos of the damage.
“The word’s spreading very rapidly,” said Romareo Anderson, a high school senior.
“I was aware of it but I didn't take part because it just didn't seem right at all,” he said.
Mohamed Beretey, another senior, also said he didn't take part in the prank.
“I didn't take part because I knew the consequences I was going to face,” he said. “I’m a football player, I’m an athlete, so I didn't want my scholarships taken away from me.”

While the senior prank is a tradition, it hasn’t been this severe, Beretey said.
But he offered up a possible explanation for the pranksters.
“They wanted to leave with a bang,” he said. “You gotta leave with a bang right?”
Later Thursday, police led the 18-year-old students to Teaneck Municipal Court in batches of three or four, some of them in chains. Officers setup barricades outside the municipal complex and a crowd packed the courtroom.
Judge James E. Young Jr. told the arrested students that their cases would be referred to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and that they had to report to Central Municipal Court in Hackensack within 48 hours.
A spokeswoman for the county prosecutor said the office had not yet decided how to proceed with the case. Prosecutors could seek indictments or refer the cases back to municipal court on lesser charges.
Bryan Cruz, an 18-year-old senior, said he was released from custody by noon after being held since 3:30 a.m.
"They gave us papers, told us when to go to court, gave us the charges and that's basically it," Cruz said.
Cruz said he was only blowing up balloons and moving desks around when police surrounded the building.
He said he wasn't sure who had committed the more serious acts of vandalism the students are accused of, including urinating on the floor.
"Someone did, but we don't know who," he said.
Joan Luis, a 17-year-old senior who was in the school with Cruz Thursday morning, said the security footage would exonerate the two of them.
"We're trying to get the tape from the school so we can track ourselves throughout the process and show that we didn't break anything," he said. "We were just doing a prank."