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Paynesville Press - October 6, 2004

Homecoming safety stressed school, police

By Michael Jacobson

Homecoming 2003 was judged as one of the worst ever in Paynesville for vandalism. Since then, for the past year, school officials and local police have discussed how to prevent similar activities next week, when Homecoming 2004 comes to Paynesville.

The focus of that joint effort is to stem the tradition of toilet papering and return to school-orientated activities. As a result, Paynesville Area High School is planning more activities this year, is urging parents and students to discuss appropriate behaviors (sending a letter to all parents and students in grades 6-12, and is considering stricter punishments for students, including punishment for toilet papering.

While vandalism is punishable by criminal charges, the school can punish students for Homecoming activities, too. Students can be punished for offcampus activities since Homecoming is a school-related activity, just as the school could punish student fans for misbehavior at a road sporting event.

In the past, toilet papering was judged, by school officials and by the police department, as harmless fun. But actions in 2003 - vandalism to houses, vandalism to cars, and a dog that was injured - have led officials to try and curtail toilet papering.

While toilet papering started as harmless fun, "it took on a life of its own and became a monster," said board member Deb Glenz.

Paynesville Police Chief Kent Kortlever, whose department confiscated around 600 rolls of toilet paper in 2003, has worked with school officials to try and return Homecoming activities to safe school events. This year, the police could give a list of students caught toilet papering to school officials, Kortlever told the school board last week.

As well as curbing vandalism, discouraging toilet papering is needed to insure student safety, according to Kortlever. In addition to dangerous, high-speed driving by students while going around town, toilet papering could lead to serious confrontations, which have occurred in other towns.

Last year, Kortlever got a call from an irate homeowner whose residence was mistakenly toilet papered. The resident wanted to know what would happen if he fired a 12-gauge shotgun into the air to scare the students, Kortlever told the board last week.

While Kortlever reported that he was able to dissuade the homeowner from firing that shotgun, other communities have seen more serious incidents around Homecoming. It's time to stop toilet papering before something serious happens, said Kortlever.

To encourage a return to school-spirit building activities, the schedule for Homecoming has been altered this year. Home volleyball matches will be held on Monday, Oct. 11, and Tuesday, Oct. 12, and the home football game will be held on Friday, Oct. 15. Coronation, normally held on Monday evening, will be held this year on Thursday, Oct. 14, starting at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. Following the coronation, a school dance, with free pizza and pop, will be held until 10:30 p.m. for students in grades 9-12. A powder puff football game, with more free pizza, will be held on Friday afternoon.

To educate parents and students about the need to curb toilet papering and return to the spirit of Homecoming, the school board, school administration, Kortlever, and other school staff sent a letter to parents and students last week asking for cooperation.

The school district is trying to change the culture of Homecoming and asking people to stop toilet papering and other vandalism, said board member Lowell Haagenson. Middle and high school principal John Janotta hopes the letter will prompt parents and students to discuss appropriate behavior before Homecoming. In recent years, younger and younger students have become involved in inappropriate activities, he added.

While a consensus exists among board members, administration, and law enforcement that Homecoming needs to return to its roots, what punishments students may face for toilet papering or for vandalism has not been determined. Depending on the severity of the cases, punishment could include school measures like detention or suspension or criminal charges.

Glenz and board member Tami Stanger, who have advocated that the school must offer more positive activities for students, volunteered to supervise students caught toilet papering on Saturday morning (Oct. 16) as punishment. They said students should be made to remove gum from desks, scrub hallways, or clean the school grounds after the football game as punishment for toilet papering.

Homecoming Letter
This letter, urging safety and appropriate conduct during Homecoming Week, was sent to parents and students (grades 6-12) last week.

September 2004

Dear Parents and Students,

Homecoming Week is just around the corner...October 11-15. Recent years have seen increased vandalism in our community around that time. It is time to ask ourselves if that is what Paynesville's Homecoming is all about.

We ask parents, students, and community members to join us in putting an end to the activities that show a lack of respect for one another. We also want students to know that negative behaviors are not condoned by school staff, the school board, police, and the community. Violators will be dealt with by the use of appropriate consequences, such as detention, suspension, and/or criminal charges.

We have many things that we can be proud of in our community, but this type of activity during Homecoming week is not one of them. Students in our school excel in academics, athletics, the arts, and have shown good sportsmanship. During Homecoming week some students seem to lose the values that we have been noted for.

This year we have planned various activities in an attempt to make Homecoming week a special time and show or restore BULLDOG PRIDE in all activities. We are planning a busy week. Home volleyball will fill Monday and Tuesday evening and football on Friday evening. On Thursday evening we will have coronation at 7 p.m. followed by a dance for high school students and free pizza until 10:30 p.m. Friday afternoon we will have a powder puff game for high school students assisted by a spirit rally with the band and cheerleaders. Free pizza will also be available during the powder puff game for high school students.

Students, please take the opportunity to have fun while staying within parameters of respectful activities and good behavior.

Endorsed by,

School Administration
Todd Burlingame
Debra Gillman
John Janotta

School Board
Mark Dingmann
Debora Glenz
Lowell Haagenson
Gretchen O'Fallon
Allen Schmidt
Tami Stanger
Bonnie Strobbe

Paynesville Police Chief
Kent Kortlever

Homecoming Advisors
Jackie Campbell Diane Seegers

Athletic Coordinator
Kyle Nehowig

Football Cheerleading Coach
Robyn Spaeth

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