South Whidbey senior parade may go on after all

After the South Whidbey High School canceled three events in response to a prank pulled by a group of seniors, members of the community stepped up to ensure the class of 2024 doesn’t miss the highly anticipated senior barbecue and parade.

“We’ll just do it ourselves,” said Ole Thorsen, the father of a graduating senior and the mind behind this community effort.

Thorsen said he was able to raise over $1,000 to put together a senior barbecue planned for Thursday, June 6, right after the farewell assembly. The event will take place at the school’s sports complex in Langley.

Upon learning about his plans to support the students, many parents reached out offering to help. Some local restaurants are even donating food for the event, Thorsen said.

In addition to the feast, the parents are also hoping to schedule a parade on the same day, though as of Monday Thorsen is waiting for approval from the Town of Langley and is unsure when, or if, the parade will happen.

In a previous email sent to the South Whidbey Record, Patton and Superintendent Josephine Moccia said a group of 41 seniors entered the school with two staff member’s key badges, littering various buildings with silly string, toilet paper, sticky notes, balloons and stink bombs.

Security and safety represented main concerns for the superintendent and the principal, who said students disabled a phone, touched discipline files, threw around test sheets and climbed to the roof to throw more toilet paper, on top of entering the school without permission from administration.

The students involved, as emerged from previous interviews and school board meetings, believed they had Patton’s permission to pull the prank, but Patton denied ever giving his approval. The students also said they meant to clean up the school themselves — a task that instead was assigned to various staff members to allow classes to start on time.

The school called the Island County Sheriff’s Office, and students allegedly feared for several hours that they were going to face legal ripercussions. Patton then chose not to press charges and instead canceled the Senior Barbecue, the Senior Parade and Field Day for all of the 104 seniors in the district.

Like many community members, Thorsen said he was saddened by the district’s reaction to the prank, which he believes wasn’t handled properly.

In a recent letter sent to the administration, the South Whidbey Middle and High School PTSA asked the district to “reconsider” its actions and to find a resolution with the students.

“For a generation of students that have had so much taken away from them and so much out of their control, your recent actions seem unusually harsh,” the PTSA wrote. “The impact of ceremonial rites extends beyond the student body.”

Thorsen currently works as an assistant wrestling coach for the district and has also coached many of the seniors back when they were little baseball and basketball players. He has known many of them for years, he said.

“They’re just such a good group of kids,” he said. “I just want the best for the kids.”