Leonardtown, MD — The ladybug pranksters will be doing community service instead of being charged with a crime. St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard “Rick” Fritz (pictured left) said that decision was made after a meeting May 29 with the seven young people and six of their parents (one parent was out of town).

The senior prank at Chopticon High School in Morganza involved the entry into the school at 3 a.m. one morning and depositing 72,000 ladybugs (purchased online) around the school. But Fritz said he impressed upon the three juveniles and four adults involved that it wasn’t about the ladybugs. “I impressed upon them the ignorance of their act,” Fritz told the Bay Net in an interview in his office at the courthouse in Leonardtown.

Fritz said their actions were dangerous because they could have sparked a police action at high speeds which could have potentially led to an accident. In addition, since the young people were masked, he said if police had arrived on the scene “something else very serious could have happened.”

As it was, police were not dispatched and the ladybugs were found the next day crawling all over the school. That led to a massive cleanup effort by school system employees. As part of the agreement the seven young people will have to pay the $300 cleanup cost. He said they would have to pay for it themselves and not their parents.

Fritz said the seven will not be responsible for paying for the door that was entered since that door already was damaged and needed to be replaced. Fritz said the perpetrators stated all they had to do was pull hard on the door to open it.

Each student will also have to serve 100 hours of community service. “Community service is a 100 percent certainty,” Fritz said, although several may have to spread that over an extended period of time because of their own personal situations.

Fritz said a big consideration was the impact on the young people of even having charges filed against them. “All of these kids are bright kids,” he said, pointing out that one was already in the military, another scheduled to enter officer candidate school and another accepted into a military academy. Several had college scholarships. All of that and their futures might have been in jeopardy if they had been charged, Fritz said.

All of the current students involved were allowed to graduate, although one was not allowed to attend last week’s Chopticon commencement. Fritz noted that student had previous trouble during the school year. “That [the ladybug incident] was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Fritz said.

The May 29 meeting at the courthouse was also attended by Sheriff Tim Cameron and representatives of the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS). Fritz said the three juveniles involved will still have to be processed by JSS, but that agency had agreed to go along with his recommendation.

Fritz said he was impressed with the group that was assembled to work on the problem. He said that was the first time they had all gotten together that he can remember. He said the agencies usually do their own thing but perhaps it might be a good idea for them to get together more regularly.

Fritz said he had also talked to Interim Superintendent of Schools Scott Smith before the meeting. The school’s role was to take administrative disciplinary actions against the students, such as the preventing of the one student from attending the graduation.

The ladybug prank received national and international news and social media attention and went viral for a while. But it was left up to the adults in charge to clean up the mess of the prank, including those 72,000 ladybugs and the discipline to be meted out to the pranksters. With community service and restitution the matter will indeed be cleaned up.

To read the original story about the prank follow this link: Ladybug senior prank leads to criminal charges

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com