Squirrel released as senior prank causes panic, disruption in the Commons during lunch

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Squirrel released as senior prank causes panic, disruption in the Commons during lunch

A picture of the squirrel in Commons, from an unknown student's Snapchat Story.

A picture of the squirrel in Commons, from an unknown student's Snapchat Story.

A picture of the squirrel in Commons, from an unknown student's Snapchat Story.

A picture of the squirrel in Commons, from an unknown student's Snapchat Story.

Alyssa Johnson, Photography Editor

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It seemed like an ordinary lunch day for senior Kelsey Blum as she sat in the upper Commons among her friends. Suddenly, students jumped up on their chairs, and screams were heard in the lower Commons. The news spread quickly that a squirrel had been released in the Commons.

On Wednesday, April 24, during second lunch, a squirrel scurried below students through lower and upper Commons, and even into the hallways. When the squirrel ran up to where Blum and her friends were, they quickly moved on top of their own chairs to avoid the frenzy.

“What the heck!” Blum said, recalling the thoughts racing through her mind.

After jumping on her chair, she quickly pulled her phone out, like many other students, to record this event.

The videos and pictures taken throughout the Commons quickly spread on Snapchat as students throughout Southeast watched the squirrel run throughout the cafeteria. Senior Adam Wehrman was in AP Calculus when he caught word of what was happening. The class erupted into chaos as students gathered around their phones to watch the stories unfold.

“I was like, ‘wait seriously? A squirrel in Commons! That’s hilarious!’” Wehrman said about his initial reaction.

After a while of excitement in the Commons and on social media, it was then revealed that the squirrel didn’t accidentally get into the building, but instead was smuggled into the the building in a backpack as part of a senior prank.

“If done right, [senior pranks] are really funny as long as there is no damage to any person or the physical trait of the school building,” Wehrman said. “I can see why people might say it [went too far] due to distractions during the school day.”

While some students may have been laughing at the sight and the Snapchats, it raised fear among many students, both in the Commons and in classrooms close by, where all they heard were the shouts and panic from students in the Commons. In fact, in several classrooms, teachers responded to the noise and panic by beginning the Standard Response Protocol (SRP) for an active shooter situation. The screams filled the nearby teachers and students with terror as they were unable to see what was occurring on the other side of the wall.

Not only were they affected by the sounds, but the videos were horrific to some students in classes. A junior, who prefers to remain anonymous, was in Creative Clothing Design class when word spread about the squirrel.

“I saw all the chaos on Snapchat,” she said.

This junior, like many other students, worried about the squirrel and the terrible actions taken throughout this prank.

“I thought it was really cruel to the squirrel,” she said. “I saw a bunch of stories on Snapchat of people screaming and others chasing the squirrel.”

Videos of the lunch ladies with trays and aprons trying to protect and safely escort the squirrel and students holding onto each other and moving from chair-to-chair quickly spread throughout the school.

Although the adults were trying to help the squirrel escape, it would not appear that way to the squirrel itself.

“I can only imagine how terrified that squirrel was,” she said. “If you approach a squirrel outside, obviously it will run away. Now put yourself in this squirrel’s place, you’re trapped in a room full of shrieking giants with nowhere to escape. That’s nightmare-worthy material.”

“These kinds of incidents may be considered student pranks,” Principal Brent Toalson said in an email sent home to parents Wednesday afternoon. “But they have the potential to be quite serious.”

A freshman, who also preferred to remain anonymous, was approached by the squirrel as it came onto her foot.

“I was scared,” she said. “I kicked it away.”

Although she wasn’t scratched by the squirrel itself, she was scratched by the table’s wheel as she flung the squirrel away in shock.

“After a considerable disruption for staff and students, the squirrel eventually returned outdoors,” Toalson said. “We are lucky that staff and students were not harmed.”

The senior prank trope, which has been portrayed over and over again in teen movies, is seen as a fun way for seniors to be remembered, but all-in-all, they can cause serious problems and terrify students inside the school. Toalson asks parents to talk to their students about the “potential dangers of students pranks, especially in these final weeks of school.”

“The student or students responsible for this incident will face serious, appropriate consequences,” Toalson said.

In his Thursday address to the student body, Principal Toalson reminded students that there is less than a month of school remaining, and urged that students should remember to continue to work hard and focus on school work instead of instigating pranks.

“We want to finish the year with accomplishments and success,” Toalson said.