MARSHALL, TX. (KTBS) - Nearly 20 East Texas students will not be allowed to participate in their graduation ceremony tonight, after a senior prank lands them in hot water.
KTBS 3 News first brought you their story Tuesday, and after several parents of Marshall High Schools hired attorneys and spoke personally with MISD Superintendent Marc Smith, the punishment still stands.
But it's what hasn't happened to the other half of those allegedly involved in the prank that has this group of mostly honor students – and their parents – outraged.
A group of 19 seniors say they stayed outside the school on the night of Wednesday, May 28, placing duct tape and toilet paper on the school parking lot and on parts of Maverick Stadium.
But the kids say another dozen or more students entered the reportedly unlocked school, setting off fire extinguishers and turning over tables and chairs.
The group says those particular students lied about their involvement, and are still being allowed to participate in graduation.
"[School administration] basically made it seem like we would get a slap on the wrist for telling the truth and gave us a slap in the face on Monday," says senior Sharnice Rusk, who'll be graduating in the top percentile of her class.
The 19 students who were given a 3-day suspension and banned from walking in graduation say they were told by MHS Administration that if they were honest about their role in the prank, as well as gave the names of others involved, their punishment would be minimal.
So the group, most of whom say they've never been in any kind of trouble, told the truth, and were given a punishment they all say doesn't fit the ‘crime.'
"I've worked my whole life, 13 years of school to get to this point and to walk across that stage," says Nicole Terravella. "I've never been in trouble, never gotten a referral."
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Sue Mellinger, mother of MHS senior Rachel Mellinger, says she hired an attorney out of Longview, Tx, who says the entire ordeal is "wasting many people's time and hurting a lot of hearts in the process."
She provided KTBS 3 News with a petition signed by 58 MHS parents, which states that the group of 19 seniors was never given an opportunity to clean up the duct tape and toilet paper as part of the consequences, and to avoid a more severe punishment.
The petition also states that the parents of these students are offering to pay $1500 to MISD for any damages incurred by their children.
But Mellinger says the parents' pleas with MISD Superintendent Dr. Marc Smith to reconsider have all fallen on deaf ears.
Some of the students, like Ashton Phan, say they're the first in their family to graduate high school and have relatives coming in town from as far away as Vietnam and Mexico.
Other parents say this decision has far-reaching effects, hurting more than just the students who are involved.
"Taking away them marching... that's a scar. That's a scar on them for the rest of their life," says Sharnice Rusk's grandmother Sherel Hurd. "We're still praying they change their minds."
MISD isn't saying much about the incident. Officials released a written statement to KTBS 3 News, saying - in part - that they were "notified by Marshall Police early Thursday morning regarding acts of vandalism at Marshall High School and at Maverick Stadium. MISD can have no further comment in regards to discipline."
A request for comment from the Marshall Police Department, who is also investigating the incident, has not yet been returned.
The suspended students and parents say they still plan to attend tonight's 7:30 p.m. graduation at Maverick Stadium, sit in the stands wearing their cap and gowns, and hear their names called in the ceremony.