LOWELL -- Thirteen high school senior girls were suspended this week for "pranks" against underclassmen girls that Headmaster Brian Martin said "got out of control."
The annual powder-puff football game, scheduled to be played Wednesday on school grounds at Cawley Stadium, maybe canceled.
Powder-puff games, usually played on the day before Thanksgiving, typically pit senior girls against junior girls. In previous years, students in Lowell would put toilet paper on the cars of other students participating in the game and participate in other such pre-game fun.
But one student told The Sun that students are calling the recent events at Lowell High School surrounding the game "the Powder-puff War of the Century."
In an email to The Sun, Martin said earlier this week several Lowell High School seniors were involved in an incident "related to the traditional pre-Thanksgiving powder-puff football game."
Martin said an underclassman was victimized by the "prank." The seniors and their parents met with the staff and were assisted by School Resource Officer David Pender.
"At the conclusion of these meetings and after careful review of the Lowell High School handbook, it was determined that this was a prank that got out of control," Martin said. "It was determined by the entire Lowell High School team, and I agree as headmaster, that this was not a case of bullying or hazing, but certainly a violation of school policy. Incidents like this are serious and not to be taken lightly. As a school leadership team we support all of our students and families, and for the students involved with this incident we will continue to support them going forward."
When pressed for details, Martin acknowledged that 13 senior girls were suspended. He declined to divulge the length of the suspensions. Asked which school policy was violated, Martin said: "I really don't know. I just know what they did was inappropriate and it will not be tolerated."
Martin said he will decide Monday or Tuesday whether to cancel the game. Asked which way he's leaning, he said. "I'm leaning toward thinking about it over the weekend."
In recent years, some powder-puff games in communities have strayed from their pep-rally roots to competitive contests that have led to injuries and bullying.
Earlier this year, for example, Newton South High School canceled its game, with the principal telling parents the event led to "destruction of decorations" and "vandalism of personal property" -- including "incidents that we would otherwise describe as 'bullying.'"
The Sun learned of the suspensions at Lowell High School early in the week. When asked for details, Martin issued a vague statement. The statement mentioned "appropriate action was taken." However, it made no mention of pranks or students violating high school policy.
Superintendent Jean Franco said Friday morning she would need to speak with Martin before commenting publicly. Franco later said Martin would issue a second statement.
Franco said she is concerned about the game.
"I am concerned with anything to do with kids communicating in a way that isn't proper," Franco said.
Asked whether she thinks the game should be canceled, Franco said: "I've heard mixed things about this game over the years. I believe that it is something we have to take a look at."
According to several students interviewed outside the high school Thursday, the seniors allegedly painted vulgar words on the cars of underclassmen, including derogatory terms about women; at least one car was "keyed." Some students said they were told at least one car had what they considered a racist comment written on it.
Martin said he was not aware of vandalism or anything racial in nature.
"We named this the Powder-puff War of the Century," said a junior who asked not to be identified. "I know the juniors are coming back for something."
In previous years, students would put toilet paper on the cars of other students participating in the game or write messages on cars with shaving cream. Students would also sometimes cover other students' homes with toilet paper.
Sometimes, the varsity football players will pose as cheerleaders.
Another LHS junior, who also asked not to be identified, said the typical back-and-forth between juniors and seniors prior to the game quickly descended into much more.
"Both sides were getting into it," he said. The girls "took the insults to the next level with vandalism," he said.
A number of students were critical of the senior girls' actions.
"It is really stupid," said John Kamara, an LHS senior. "I was hoping to go to the game this year."
"They took pictures of it and put it on Twitter," said Ashley Sanchez, a sophomore. "It is stupid."
Christopher Wright, a LHS senior, said Thursday if the seniors did what he heard they did to juniors, they deserved to be suspended.
"They should face consequences," Wright said. "You should only joke about doing what they did."
Follow Scott on Twitter @cscottlowellsun, and Moran @lylemoran.