Food Fight, Fire Alarm Pull Puts West Springfield Senior Events on Hold

"Senior pranks will not be tolerated in our building," Principal says.

Senior events at West Springfield High School have been put on hold until an investigation into Thursday's food fight has been completed.

The food fight, a senior prank which was reportedly planned by students on Facebook beforehand, occurred during C Lunch and according to a letter sent out to parents by Principal Paul Wardinski, resulted in a few minor injuries. A fire alarm was also pulled during the incident.

The principal declared that all senior events, including the June 17 prom and the senior trip to Hershey Park, are on hold until the investigation is completed.

"This is a very serious matter and senior pranks will not be tolerated in our building," Wardinski said.

Wardinski met with parents Friday afternoon to discuss the incident. A Fairfax County spokesman said that the earliest that a decision will be made about the senior events will be Monday.


This letter was sent out to parents and guardians of West Springfield High School on Thursday, May 12 at 3:47 p.m.

Dear Parents/Guardians,

Shortly after 1:00 pm today, a major disturbance was initiated in our school’s cafeteria.  A significant food fight was started by a group of senior students which escalated into involving groups of students from all grade levels in the cafeteria during C lunch.  There were a few minor injuries resulting from this incident. Simultaneously, someone pulled a fire alarm disrupting our educational process for a period of time this afternoon.

At this time, ALL senior activities including the senior picnic, senior trip to Hershey Park and the Senior Prom are on hold until we complete our investigation of the incidents today.  All students involved are facing consequences from the school and some may also face criminal charges from Fairfax County Police.  School Resource Officer Plazio is leading our investigation in this matter.  This is a very serious matter and senior pranks will not be tolerated in our building.

The West Springfield High School Administration is committed to providing a safe environment for all students and staff.  Please have a conversation with your children tonight about their role in maintaining a safe environment at school. We are thankful that the majority of the students did not participate in this incident.  Again, our number one priority is the safety and security of the students and staff while they are at school.

If you have any questions, please contact your student’s grade level administrator or me at (703) 913-3800.


Paul A. Wardinski

Erica May 13, 2011 at 12:38 PM
I definitely agree that pulling the alarm under false pretenses is a felony, and anyone who did that should at LEAST be scared into never doing it again. Do I think they should be prosecuted? No not really...but something needs to be done. In regards to the food fight itself, he should have made all of the students clean it up themselves, and maybe require detention, and cancel 1 senior event. I don't think it should be escalated to anything more than that. Students still need to be held accountable for their actions.
John Farrell May 13, 2011 at 12:38 PM
There are reports that Wardinski had prior notice of this event and did nothing to try to prevent it. Instead extra administrative personnel were in the cafeteria using cellphones to photograph kids. If this is true, it demonstrates extraordinary bad judgment and a inappropriate punitive prosecutorial antagonism by Wardinski toward the students.
cyndi lee May 13, 2011 at 12:39 PM
The prom has not been cancelled, Senior events are on hold during the investigation.
cyndi lee May 13, 2011 at 12:41 PM
The principal did not escalates a food fight into a criminal investigation. That is the decision of the on-site policeman.
cyndi lee May 13, 2011 at 12:48 PM
It's up to the police to decide if this is a criminal matter. There were injuries and property damage. Who will pay for it? This was not a random food fight. It's was planned out and well known ahead of time of facebook. There was one kid that brought a bag full of eggs to throw.
cyndi lee May 13, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Jan, are you a student? You don't really write like an adult.
John Farrell May 13, 2011 at 12:50 PM
According to the Memorandum of Understanding between the FCPD and FCPS, the "on-site policeman," aka the SRO, is purportedly part of school administrative staff answerable to the principal. Thus, no criminalization without principal's consent. Cyndi, we know that the FCPS PR staff some times pose as anonymous posters on blogs. Given your multiple postings in defense of Wardinski, you wouldn't be one of Barbara Hunter's staff, would you?
cyndi lee May 13, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Lol, no I'm not undercover staff. Just a parents with kids at WSHS. At my son's soccer game last night, I heard quite about about this from the students' point of view. I don't think criminal charge are needed here, but I also don't think the principal shouldn't be critised for tying to maintain order in the school. The kids responsible should have to pay for damages. It's probably not a large amount. Labor cost for clean up and damaged ceiling tiles. Wednesday they had a fight in the cafeteria, Thursday a food fight. Hope today is quiet.
cyndi lee May 13, 2011 at 01:06 PM
What should he have done to stop it?
John Farrell May 13, 2011 at 01:08 PM
If enough custodians spent enough time and materials cleaning up so that it totalled over $1,000, the kids can be charged with a felony. If Wardinski knew about this in advance and didn't try to stop it, he is failing to maintain order.
John Farrell May 13, 2011 at 01:13 PM
If your child had told you in advanced that they were going to participate, what would you have done? The bleachers in WSHS's gym are large enough to seat the senior class.
cyndi lee May 13, 2011 at 01:14 PM
hmmmm, I wonder if there's youtube video of this?
jan May 13, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Cyndi: LOL, I'm a licensed psychotherapist, in practice for over 20 years with kids in this school and I see these families and students in my practice, but I guess I don't spell my name with an "i".
b-bone May 13, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Haha, kids these days really are a joke, bunch of overgrown infants who cant even make it 8 hours without direct parental supervision. I would expect at least a little more creativity out of them as food fights are the most primitive form of teenage rebelling, this incident is nothing short of laughable. I suppose its par for the course though when you have an entire high school class of direction-less drones who were mostly raised by television and electronics. Gone are the days when you had to look somebody in the eye when you talk to them, I'd say America's better days are visible only in the rearview at this rate....
jan May 13, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Your point supports this-a "food fight" is a rite of passage, we did it (and lots of other stuff that was MUCH more dangerous), these kids are controlled every second of their lives, walk a day in their shoes. Believe me-you couldn't. The administration knew ahead of time and had the responsibility to PREVENT it, if thats what they wanted to do to "ensure safety" (the safety excuse for everything...) but instead they were ready and reactive, almost wanting some excitement. (I guess it is nice to have your name in the Burke Patch) I really worry about the parents who just support authority figures without even taking the time to think it through, and I end up seeing your kids in therapy, big surprise.
cyndi lee May 13, 2011 at 01:31 PM
I can't help how my name is spelled, I didn't name me. Not a big fan of "cutsie" names either. A licensed psychotherapist working with kids at WSHS. I bet that's interesting. Let's hope my kids don't end up in your office one day ;)
John Farrell May 13, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Cyndi, we all have a common law right to use any name we wish so long as we're not trying to defraud anyone. No need to go to court, though some will be more comfortable with a court order. If you prefer "Cindy" instead of "Cyndi," start today, you go girl!
Peter Gary May 13, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Children will be children. Many of them won't fully mature until 25-30 years of age. It is a shame that we forget who we were when we were children or that we sometimes fabricate these memories of perfection during our youth and pass off those stories to our children like tales of Santa and the Easter Bunny. It was a food fight... not a gang fight... Protect your little ones if they're innocent and discipline them if they messed up but teach them where to go from here. Shame on those in our "village" for speaking ill of these children and shame on you for using this forum as a mechanism to berate each other.
Rachael Dickson May 13, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Thanks for the thoughtful comments on this matter. We're trying to talk to students and will be following up on this story. One request - please keep your comments respectful and try not to insult each other. We'd like to keep the conversation going in a civil manner.
John Farrell May 13, 2011 at 03:44 PM
I know its a reporter's job to get a story. At the same time, we don't have a reporters shield law in Virginia, so even statements by anonymous sources could be subject to subpoena. Any statement made by a student to you could be used against them in a FCPS discipline proceeding or any criminal proceeding. My advice to the parents and students is not to allow any student talk to any reporter.
Leslie Perales Loges May 13, 2011 at 04:44 PM
John, you make a good point. Barbara Comstock is working on it, but what she's working on still seems to be too weak to be truly useful to journalists: http://rvanews.com/news/virginia-mulls-shield-law-for-journalists/41257
Anna May 13, 2011 at 04:44 PM
"There were a few minor injuries resulting from this incident." LOL -- like what? Ketchup in the eye? Corn dog leave a bruise? This is brilliant. I see they should help clean it up and perhaps an apology to the folks they startled ... but an all out criminal investigation? Come on. I say good job for going through with it! I remember wondering if people were actually going to go through with the rumored pranks in 2007. And you all did! An all out food fight? Maybe not the most creative, but still a once in a life-time memory! We all need to take life a little less seriously. FOOD FIGHT!!!
vorty May 13, 2011 at 04:51 PM
b-bone, I don't know if you were born at the age of forty or if you're simply trolling, but one way or another, I find it hard to believe you've ever interacted with a child. "The path of least resistance is overcrowded and hard work needs to be reinstilled in the minds our youth ..." We should tell them to be successful, too. That will make them successful, right? It's not remotely as cut and dry as "TELL THEM TO WORK HARD", and you should be aware of it. Children are immature by definition; they're not fully mature. I fully agree that those who caused the food fight and fire alarm should be punished, but honestly, they're just children. As far as "hard-ons" for children go, you should ask yourself who sounds more ridiculous here.
vorty May 13, 2011 at 05:00 PM
Administration didn't pull the alarm. There were AP Economics exams going on, they're not going to vacate the entire other 2/3 of the school and testing when most of the cafeteria cleared itself out anyways. Extra administrators could've easily taken control of what few remaining "combatants" were still in the cafeteria. Exams are always serious business at WSHS.
k.c. May 13, 2011 at 07:53 PM
I wonder how many of you who think this is "no big deal" would like to clean up after a food fight?
mary May 13, 2011 at 09:01 PM
These are not little children we are talking about. They are young adults about to go off on their own. You can't simply pat them on their heads and tell them what they did is OK, and send them off to play in their rooms. By your logic, until a person reaches the age of 30, they should not be held responsible for their actions because they have not "reached an age of maturity" Fortunately, the majority of teens have risen far above your expectations. It is unfortunate that a few ruin it for the rest.
mary May 13, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Why should the custodians even have to clean up after these immature and thoughtless students? Maybe if the students AND their parents had to clean up the mess there might be a different type of dialoge going on here.
Smith Jones May 13, 2011 at 09:18 PM
Seriously, it's stories like this that make me think that we are screwed as a nation, and why the Chinese are going to take over. School should be for learning, not for having fun. While some of us might try to excuse this as kids being kids, they really aren't. These chuckleheads should learn respect for property rights and some respect for authority. At the very least, the repair costs should be paid from the students or the student's parents. Those students found to be culpable should be banned from Prom and other senior activities. Hell, ban all of the senior activities. The excuse that we used to do stuff like this really shouldn't fly. When I was a teenager, we smoked cigarettes and weed, drove drunk and stoned, and generally behaved like asses. Whenever we got caught, it was taken out of our hides. This kind of behavior shouldn't be incentivized, but rather discouraged. These chuckleheads need to learn that the world is a cruel and unforgiving world and that they aren't special little snowflakes.
John Farrell May 13, 2011 at 09:19 PM
No one suggests "patting them on their heads and letting them do what they want." But criminalizing foolish behavior is not the answer either. There are approximately 53,000 high school kids in FCPS. Last year FCPS had 69,000 disciplinary events. 80% of which were at the high school level, I estimate. That means each of these adolescents (not young adults but "adults becoming" and that is a significant difference) got into trouble at school. Most were pretty pedestrian, like forgetting to shut off a cellphone in class or being late to class without a pass, but an infraction of the rules nonetheless. Most kids are well behaved, most of the time, but each trips up at least once. Science tells us that the part of the brain that controls impulsive behavior isn't fully connected to the rest of the brain until 25 or so. So expecting high schoolers to act like "young adults" is the equivalent of asking a dolphin to type. Good luck with that. Juvenile probation offices across the country have found through trial and error, and hard research, that the punitive retributive model to juvenile correction doesn't work. An educational, therapeutic and restorative process gets far better results. I wonder what's going on at WSHS that prompts this level of intense rebellion? Have the administrators so lost the respect of the seniors that this action is their only recourse?
Rachael Dickson May 13, 2011 at 09:33 PM
I'm going to go ahead and close these comments down and delete the more negative ones. We really try to foster an environment where everyone can speak freely on Burke Patch, but I'm seeing people go after each other in the comment section and this is just not cool. Please try to remember that there are real people behind the screen names and show them the same respect you would like to have for yourself. Thanks y'all commenting and supporting Burke Patch.


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