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GRADS WILL WALK AS PUNISHMENT IS PULLED

Kids will be kids. And when they mess up, the punishment should fit the crime.

That is what parents of some West Hertel Academy pupils involved in a golf cart crash on a May 25 field trip to Six Flags Darien Lake said when school administrators barred their children from attending their eighth-grade graduation ceremony today.

"Certainly there could have been some other punishment besides taking away a graduation they've been earning since third grade," said Schenita McCray of Buffalo, whose 13-year-old son, Letorrance Travis, was involved in the incident. A more suitable solution, she said, would have been to suspend them from school for a few days or force them to pay for the damage.

After weeks of fielding complaints from McCray and other parents, the school revoked the no-graduation punishment Monday, citing inadequate time for "due process," which would normally include a disciplinary hearing and an appeal process.

"They will walk," said McCray. "But it wasn't without a fight. They wanted to hinder these kids' lives for one little incident that wouldn't have happened if they'd been being supervised the right way."

Blame for the accident is threefold, McCray said: A childish prank, poor supervision by school personnel and negligent park operators are all responsible.

Darien Lake officials maintain that golf carts are never used while guests are in the park. The group of about seven pupils entered an out-of-bounds section of the park and found the unattended maintenance cart, said Lisa Grisanti-Cabrera, Darien Lake's public relations manager.

Finding no keys in the ignition, several pupils reportedly pushed the cart, while four others rode in it. The cart swerved out of control and hit a parked maintenance vehicle, causing about $200 worth of damage, Grisanti-Cabrera said. Darien Lake security personnel turned the youths over to chaperons.

More than 120 children participated in the trip, and Buffalo Schools spokesman Andrew Maddigan said identifying those who were involved in the crash "wasn't the easiest of chores."

More than a week elapsed before administrators completed an investigation of the incident and doled out punishments. After interviews with other pupils and Darien Lake personnel who saw the incident, school administrators were able to "get the goods" on five or six pupils, Maddigan said.

"It was a dangerous thing to do," Maddigan said. "We're lucky someone wasn't killed. Those carts can really pick up speed going down a hill."

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