Five by 8 – 6/10/10: You are the principal!

Should kids be suspended when no damage is done in a prank, how would BP handle a coffee spill, who needs pilots, Jon Stewart preps for Tim Pawlenty, and dispatches from the Department of Life in a Small Town.

1) What’s the difference between high school and college? In college, some pranks get applauded. WCCO reports that three high school seniors in Buffalo, Minn., have been denied the opportunity to participate in graduation ceremonies. As the station tells it:

The young men climbed on the school roof Monday night and hung a sign, some orange mesh fencing and a few pink flamingos. The sign read, “Seniors 2010.”

Orange, mesh, a sign that says seniors, pink flamingos and, what else? Sugar in the school bus gas tanks? Paint on the chemistry classroom? Fire in the dumpsters? No, just signs, orange mesh and pink flaminos, apparently.

“He did say we’re all good kids, but he can’t let us walk cause he doesn’t want this to happen in the future,” one student said. The principal had apparently told all the seniors that no pranks would be tolerated.

Compare to the viral Carleton College “prank” last week when the kids dressed up the school observatory to look like R2D2. Note, however, there were no pink flamingos. The prank was celebrated, not punished.

So let’s play “You Are The Principal!” What’s your ruling on the kids in Buffalo?

2) We have a big labor strike starting today in the Twin Cities, but is that the faint whiff of a big labor showdown 20 years from now? A subsidiary of Boeing is about to test remote controlled — and unmanned — planes. The goal, eventually, is to fly you from here to there (or somewhere you didn’t want to go, if you’re flying Delta) without any pilots aboard. That should go over big with the pilots’ union.

So should this: A comment from the FAA this week that suggested pilots are just along for the ride now, anyway. “We have pilots up there to hit the disconnect button and fly by hand when the computer messes up,” said Wilson Felder, director of the FAA center. “The computer hardly ever messes up.”

3) The BP press office put out a letter yesterday telling its contractors and employees that while they’re not obligated to talk to the media, they’re not prohibited from doing so either.

BP must’ve known today’s New York Times article was coming documenting BP’s efforts to limit the flow of information, if not oil.

But BP’s letter appears to go further than the U.S. government, which is joining BP in making life difficult for people to find out what’s going on, the Times reports:

Last week, Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, tried to bring a small group of journalists with him on a trip he was taking through the gulf on a Coast Guard vessel. Mr. Nelson’s office said the Coast Guard had agreed to accommodate the reporters and camera operators. But at about 10 on the evening before the trip, someone from the Department of Homeland Security’s legislative affairs office called the senator’s office to tell them that no journalists would be allowed.

“They said it was the Department of Homeland Security’s response-wide policy not to allow elected officials and media on the same ‘federal asset,’ ” said Bryan Gulley, a spokesman for the senator. “No further elaboration” was given, Mr. Gulley added.

The spill is good for the comedy business, however (may not be suitable for the workplace):

4) The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart warms up for tonight’s guest — a Gov. Tim Pawlenty — by going a round with the White House press corps.5) The Department of Life in a Small Town: You go to bed at night, and you wake up in some city management job you weren’t running for. The Fargo Forum reports Gene Schobinger and Ruth Schepp are your new city council members, Gardner, North Dakota. They got two votes — two write-in votes — in Tuesday’s election.

And we now have the turnout total in Ayr, North Dakota in Tuesday’s election: 0%, the paper reports.


I’ll be in Lakeville this morning, talking to a Minneapolis bomb squad member who has a traumatic brain injury from a training accident and is trying to change the city’s policies. Posting may be a little light today. Do you have a story for News Cut? Tell me about it.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Republican-endorsed candidate for governor of Minnesota Tom Emmer.

Second hour: A mysterious computer virus known as Conficker was spotted two years ago and since then cyber security experts around the world have united to figure out what the attack was all about and what it might mean for the future.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: MPR political commentators Todd Rapp and Maureen Shaver discuss the latest national and state political news.

Second hour: Sebastian Junger, speaking with MPR’s Stephen Smith in a UBS Forum event, about his new book about the Afghanistan war.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The biggest sporting event in the world starts this week. At least a billion people are expected to watch soccer’s World Cup.

Second hour: The U.N. Security Council votes new round of sanctions against Iran — the toughest yet, according to Secretary of State Clinton. But some critics say nowhere near tough enough, while Brazil and Turkey say any sanctions undermine diplomacy. Brazil’s foreign minister is among the guests to talk about sanctions and Iran with host Neal Conan.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – We’ll have plenty of coverage of the one-day nurses strike in Minnesota.

In 2001, the Minneapolis Foundation promised a few hundred third graders from some of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ worst schools that they’d get $10,000 for college if they graduate high school. Graduation is this spring. How many made it? MPR’s Tom Weber will have the answer.

  • Duke Powell

    When reading about the Buffalo High School Senior prank, my first thought was what my father’s would have been.

    He has sold commercial roofing systems to business and schools for over 50 years. His reaction would be, “Was the roof damaged and did this activity void the warranty on a $1,000,000 roof?”

    As principal of that school, I would allow the students to participate in graduation – but attempt to have them charged with tresspass. If any damage occurred then the liability could pass to those responsible.

  • Tyler

    Ok, I’ll bite:

    “We have pilots up there to hit the disconnect button and fly by hand when the computer messes up,” said Wilson Felder, director of the FAA center. “The computer hardly ever messes up.”

    HARDLY ever messes up? I don’t care – I don’t want to be on a plane when HARDLY happens and no one is in the cockpit. Humans may be redundant in today’s airplanes, but I would prefer to HAVE some redundancy, thanks.

  • bsimon

    1) the principle created the problem by promising a zero-tolerance policy on pranks, then having to enforce zero tolerance after a harmless prank. He looks like the jerk here, which is his own fault. It kindof reminds me of the story of the kid who was suspended or expelled for having a box cutter in his car’s cupholder in the school parking lot.

    2) On the one hand, the computer probably wouldn’t have overflown MSP by 200 miles. On the other, I’m guessing Capt Sully did a better job with that minor mishap on the Hudson than the computer would have. Computers are great for handling predicted/expected situations. For the unexpected, I’d rather have a well-trained human brain handling the situation.

  • Kassie

    If the principal told all students ahead of time that no pranks would be tolerated, then he has to punish them. But couldn’t he have required them to do 10 hours of detention or do the dishes at lunch or something like that?

    Of course, I don’t even remember my high school graduation, so it really isn’t that big of deal in hindsite, but I bet those kids are crushed now.

  • Al

    If I were the principal I would come up with a fitting but sensible punishment. If I were on the school board I would pursue an appropriate punishment for the principal for failing to make a sensible decision.