WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) - Angry parents and students flooded a Kenowa Hills school board meeting Tuesday night with harsh words for the high school principal.
They were upset because Principal Katie Pennington sent home dozens of Kenowa Hills High School seniors after they organized a bike ride to school instead of a more traditional -- and perhaps more harmful -- senior prank.
So many students and parents packed the meeting -- originally scheduled as a routine work session -- in the administration building that it had to be moved to the middle school auditorium.
Parents' reactions were passionate as they came down hard on Pennington for how she handled the situation.
"The disruption to the classroom, the disruption to the school day, was not these kids," said Keri Whip, the parent of a Kenowa Hills senior. "It was the principal."
Pennington sent home the group of about 60 seniors who organized a bike ride to school Tuesday morning -- their last day in the high school. The students didn't inform administration, but had a police escort.
Dianne Schwaiger, a parent of a senior, said that she was in contact with Walker police last week to help organize the ride. She said she supports her child having participated in the ride.
The mayor even showed up with doughnuts.
But Pennington said the ride put students in danger, tied up traffic and prevented staff from getting to school.
One senior recorded the principal on a cell phone as she laid into students for their actions.
"If you and your parents don't have sense enough to know your brains could end up splattered on Three Mile and Kinney, Fruit Ridge, then maybe that's my responsibility," Pennington said. "...Get your butts home. You're not participating in senior walk today."
About 60 seniors got the day off and missed the traditional last walk through the hallways at Kenowa Hills, though students say many more seniors received the one-day suspensions.
"They came up with a very cool thing to do that you guys as administrators could have gone and run with this and made this a positive thing with the media," said another parent, Cheryl Carter.
Other parents said Tuesday night that they were "disgusted" and thought Pennington's reaction was "ridiculous."
The seniors were at first were told they wouldn't walk with their class at graduation -- a decision that was later reversed.
Class president Zac Totten, one of the main organizers of the senior bike ride, told the board he appreciated that administrators backed off their original threat.
"And I really want to apologize to Mrs. Pennington," said Totten. "She's taken a lot of heat for this and this is a great school, and this school is getting some bad press."
Still, most at the meeting weren't so quick to forgive.
Radio personality "Gravy" from Hot FM 105 spoke during the meeting. He said the radio station contacted Grand Rapids Bicycle Company and bought Pennington a bicycle. She could either keep the bike they bought or, when she returned it, Grand Rapids Bicycle Company would give her $150 toward a bike of her choice.
Pennington was not at the meeting.
Superintendent Gerald Hopkins addressed the crowd, saying he would have supported the students' bike ride if only they would have informed administration ahead of time.
He said the absence will not count against students who were sent home today and those who missed final exams will be able to make them up without penalty.
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