Rebuttal: Spirit Week Can Be Reformed

The Berkeley High School (BHS) community should be appalled by the administration’s decision to not sanction a fall Spirit Week. The attempt at curtailing the usual chaos that the infamous Rally Day brings is really going to prevent students from getting help for fear of retribution. If BHS admin wants to create a safe environment, as they claim, a new kind of Spirit Week must be sanctioned.

Rally Day has been a dangerous and unsustainable event for a long time. Within the last couple of years, the tradition has changed. What used to be a way to incorporate fun into an otherwise difficult pre-midterms lull has morphed into a nightmare for students and staff alike. It makes sense that BHS admin would be concerned about this kind of behavior.

While the fear is valid, the way in which it is being handled is not helpful. Time and time again, it has been proven that methods of abstinence against potentially harmful behavior are ineffective. Whether it is sex education or anti-drug lectures, being told not to do something has not helped prevent it, but led to people — especially teenagers — partaking in more dangerous methods.

A compromise needs to be found. While the school cannot condone the violence and disarray that Rally Day usually brings, total cancelation is not the answer. A solution can be found, and one way to do so would be to gather a council of both staff and students to discuss safe alternatives. By bringing together the ideas of youth and staff, we can work to create something new: a better way to show school spirit that won’t feel so catastrophic.

Because of the harsh punishments enlisted to keep students under control, if something dangerous ends up happening on an unsanctioned Rally Day, students won’t feel safe coming to staff for help.

In a school-wide email titled “BHS Spirit Week Communication,” BHS principal Juan Raygoza wrote, “We will document students’ violations and consequences in their permanent records at BHS and communicate them to prospective colleges and universities.” In theory, punishing students for violating the decision to cancel fall Rally Day makes sense. It would keep unruly students at bay while not having to directly deal with individual cases, right? However, what about those students who may choose to partake but then experience some form of harm? Will they reach out for help, or will these harsh guidelines steer them away from getting the assistance they need?

BHS’s main priority should always be safety, for both staff and students. Although the school may think canceling fall Spirit Week keeps people safe, in reality, it could end up backfiring and causing the same amount of harm, except this time, students will no longer have a safe outlet to which they can reach out.