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Published: Thursday, 1/22/2009

3 students charged for prank that shut schools


MASON - Some might call it a prank that forced Mason schools to close last week, but county prosecutors weren't laughing after charging three high school students with felonies yesterday.

The three Mason High School boys, all sophomores ages 15 or 16, scaled a barbed wire security fence in the near-zero cold last Thursday evening and yanked the plugs on the heating blocks to 59 school buses "effectively preventing the diesel-powered buses from starting early Friday," Mason police say.

Mason school officials canceled classes for the district's 10,500 students.

Hundreds of private-school students who ride Mason buses also were affected.

"If they thought this was a joke, it wasn't funny," Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel said.

"These illegal acts disrupted the lives of every parent and child in Mason. They committed a felony, and they will soon learn that there are consequences for their actions."

The teens were each charged with one count of disrupting public services, a fourth-degree felony, and one count of criminal trespassing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, Ms. Hutzel said. The juveniles' names are not being published.

Tracey Carson, spokesman for Warren County's largest school system, said the lost school day cost families and taxpayers money.

District officials said they are still calculating the financial loss.

Ms. Carson said cafeteria services lost income, and the district incurred energy costs for heating and lighting buildings for the first half of the canceled school day.

And the Mason Early Education Center, which has 1,800 students, lost its last state-allowed calamity day for the school year.

Should weather or another incident cause it to close, the district will have to extend the school year in the spring by more days at additional operating costs.

School officials refused to release information on the three students' status, saying only that they are being disciplined.

In Ohio public schools, students involved in similar incidents are immediately suspended for up to 10 school days and then might face expulsion from school for up to 80 days.

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