Mike Cameron’s Pepsi prank won’t be on his permanent record after all.
School officials decided Friday that Cameron and another high school student should not have been suspended for wearing Pepsi shirts to school on a day when Coca-Cola executives were visiting.
“We still think the behavior was inappropriate and disruptive,” Columbia County Superintendent Tom Dohrmann said at a news conference. “However, we have decided that another method of discipline may have been more appropriate, and we have decided to remove the suspensions from their records.”
Dohrmann said a principal-student conference on appropriate behavior would have been a better way to handle the situation.
“We also overracted in that it wasn’t appropriate to suspend the kid,” he said. “The penalty didn’t fit the crime.”
Last week, Coca-Cola officials went to Greenbrier High School as part of the school’s bid to win a $500 contest run by the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Augusta and a larger national contest with a $10,000 prize.
School officials say the shirts were insulting to the Coke executives and ruined a school picture in which students spelled out “Coke.”
Cameron, 19, waited until just before the picture was taken to remove his outer shirt and reveal a blue-and-white-striped shirt with a Pepsi logo underneath. And Dan Moxley, 17, turned his back during the picture so the red-white-and-blue logo on his Pepsi shirt could be seen.
The students received a one-day suspension for their prank, which school officials called disruptive and rude. Cameron served his suspension at home on Wednesday; Moxley was to serve his punishment in school in April.
Cameron said his principal told him of the decision Friday afternoon.
“I was a little bit surprised. I didn’t think she’d give in,” he said. “I said, ‘Thanks, I hold you in high respect. You were just doing your job.”’ The prank and subsequent punishment at the school 130 miles east of Atlanta, the world headquarters of Coca-Cola, made national headlines. Dohrmann, who said the incident has been blown out of proportion, has even been asked to appear on ABC’s “Nightline.”
“We support the students’ First Amendment right to wear the shirts, as long as it’s not disruptive,” Dohrmann said.