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Locker cleanout surprises some who howl foul in Fayetteville

Some Terry Sanford High School students say they were surprised by a locker cleanout sweep, but the school says they should have paid attention to deadlines.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — “No more homework, no more books” goes the old children’s rhyme, and some students at Terry Sanford High School found out it was true sooner than they expected when the school did a locker cleanout.

The kids say school staffers threw away gym clothes, homework – even i-Pods. The school says it did not trash anything and that there had been enough warning that the cleanout was coming.

"I got gym clothes, like a pair of new shoes, a bunch of t-shirts and my planner" that disappeared, rising sophomore Lars Gordon said Tuesday.

"Someone came to my locker – it was one of the janitors – and they cut the lock off my locker, and the janitor dumped it on the floor," Gordon charged.

Everything went into the trash, Gordon guessed.

Principal Diane Antolak said that’s wrong – and she said students had been told a week ago Monday that the cleanout was coming.

She said she wasn’t aware of anything being tossed in the garbage and stressed that nobody has been Dumpster-diving for lost property.

"Our intention was to allow students to keep books in their lockers for the last couple of days, but to take home things that they no longer needed," Antolak said.

Some students grumbled that if you were absent for the locker sweep, tough luck.

"Like, if your friends didn't get your stuff out of your locker, then it was like thrown away," student Jordan Webster said.

In fact, Antolak said, material from lockers was put by the door of the media center so students could claim items.

Antolak says she wanted staffers to empty the lockers of students no longer enrolled at Terry Sanford and put their stuff in one central spot. However, current students who missed the deadline to empty their lockers and to have their locks off also got swept up.

Antolak sent out a message, including by e-mail, announcing that a locker sweep would take place last Wednesday. Students were to be accompanied by their homeroom teachers to remove everything but the most essential school materials, she said.

"Part of learning is to learn the responsibility that there are deadlines, and the principal said on that date, you'll have your locker cleaned out. And some students didn't," said Tim Kinlaw, associate superintendent of the Cumberland schools.

Nonetheless, the principal has issued an apology for the confusion, and she says that she plans to better communicate with students and staff next year when it’s time to take out the trash from all those lockers.

She said that about a half-dozen parents have called to complain about the sweep.

“Every parent that I’ve talked to, I have apologized and said we’ll do whatever it is we can do to rectify the situation,” Antolak said.