Senior pranks shut down: the past and future of a school tradition


Illustration Credit: Rylan Waterman.

Senior pranks are an iconic tradition at many high schools, including Urban, and after returning to a non-hybrid spring schedule many students have been wondering if the pranks will make a comeback.
Urban has had a long history of senior pranks filled with plenty of memorable events. “We turned the school into a club. I think it was called Club 17,” said Evie Hidysmith ‘17 regarding her senior prank. “There were like four bouncers, and they had this spy gear setup… You couldn’t get in the door unless you had your Urban ID card.”
Richard Lautze Jr., math, science and Cal Studies teacher, recalls many senior pranks from his 42 years at Urban. “[The seniors] arranged with University students, I think, to come to our school. I actually took University students on Cal studies because they showed up instead of my students,” said Lautze. “[And] there was a time when there were chickens in the school.”
Members of the Urban community have positive memories of senior pranks, so where have they gone? To answer that question, we must first understand how senior pranks were orchestrated at Urban.
“Because we have respectful relationships with our neighbors and we live in a residential area, we cannot have a prank that happens outside the school,” said Charlotte Worsley, assistant head for student life and grade dean for the class of 2025. “When you can’t do something physical and you’re left with doing something creative, it turns out it’s really, really, really hard to do.” Because of these restrictions, the senior pranks first had to be approved and scheduled by Charlotte. “I was putting 90% of the effort into the senior prank,” said Worsley “and four seniors were putting 10% of the effort in and the rest of them were doing nothing.” This unreasonable distribution of responsibilities is what ultimately led to the demise of senior pranks at Urban.
“We ended the senior pranks in the 2018 school year. 2017 was the last one. Most schools in the Bay Area had already gotten rid of them,” said Worsley. Although there they are gone and were a pain for Worsley, some teachers still reflect fondly on when senior pranks were in practice
“I think [senior pranks] can be really fun if they’re clever… but it’s hard to be original,” said science teacher Geoff Ruth. Ruth voiced concerns about the physicality of pranks, another reason that they ended. “We don’t want the burden of [cleaning up] the prank to fall on our janitorial or facilities crew.”
“I would like [the prank] to be a proud moment for the senior class,” said Lautze. “I would like the senior class to think of [what they could] do that people would remember…[something] for the community.” Lautze remembers times when senior pranks were turned into bonding events for the whole school, like when the seniors locked the doors to the school and set up a neighborhood scavenger hunt to find the keys. “[Urban] did a lot of events where we broke the school up into teams to promote community … and so they did that to us. And it was funny,” said Lautze. “I would love to organize something that’s more meaningful than a prank. Although, I understand as a senior I would probably be leading the prank.”
Despite the end of senior pranks, Worsley has proposed the idea of a replacement event. “Instead of it being a prank, we try to flip it over to a privilege,” said Worsley. “What’s something that seniors get to do that nobody else gets to do?”