Berkeley High School celebrated Red and Gold Day, previously known as Rally Day, on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. On Red and Gold Day, the BHS campus is transformed into a sea of red and gold, as students and teachers alike celebrate school spirit. However, throughout the years, concerns about safety have interrupted the festivities. This year, students and administration continued to attempt to address those concerns.
Green Dot, an anti-harassment and anti-bullying club, published a video in Unity Week’s bulletin to address some of the potential problems.
“Green Dot decided to make the video about harassment because, as a group, we decided that harassment is a very big concern during Unity Week,” said Hanifah Kehinde Isah, a Green Dot ambassador. “We wanted to remind other students about the importance of respecting people’s boundaries and promoting positive school culture.”
This issue, among others, led to Red and Gold Day’s brief removal in 2013. Red and Gold Day and Unity Week are planned out by the student leadership, but administrators supervise their decisions. Amid rising issues, some years, all of Unity Week has been postponed.
“(It) was taken out for a variety of reasons. Say that Red and Gold Day was very chaotic that year before, just maybe too much,” said John Villavicencio, BHS Director of Student Activities. “It’s always bad that Friday. It’s the worst of the week. It’s been worse on campus, and more people are … getting taken off in ambulances, (and) getting arrested off campus. You know, kids puking in the hallways multiple times, like, just … really, really bad stuff.”
The decision to bring Red and Gold Day back in recent years was made with these problems in mind. “We just kind of brand changed, so way back, 2015, 2016, maybe around there, we just shifted names from Spirit Week to Unity Week,” said Villavicencio. This was done to emphasize the purpose of the week that, according to Villavicencio, “We’re excited to be here at BHS, no matter what grade you’re in.”
Red and Gold Day’s return was backed by new initiatives to keep students even safer, including getting the help of volunteers. “That’s something that’s really key, to have 30, 40 extra pairs of eyes on campus,” Villavicencio said.
In addition, officials from the district are on hand to help respond if anything were to happen. However, their approach to discipline is more understanding than in the past.
“You just want to, like, remind (the students), ‘Hey, you got to be somewhere right now?’” said Villavicencio. “So much of the time in the past, it has been really combative, where administration is like, ‘Hey, shut up … go to class,” but (now) there’s more of a … recognition that they’re really excited.”
Generally, Villavicencio said, there’s been “a better mindset.”
Moreover, Yana Secrease, a safety officer, said that another measure taken was keeping seniors off campus with a surprise pizza party. She added, “We were telling everybody to exit through the softball fields, and you could not come back on campus.”
The results of these efforts to maintain security were shown in the most recent Red and Gold Day. “I definitely do feel like BHS did succeed at making it safer this year,” said Isah, “The staff were very good at keeping students in order while also letting students celebrate … They made sure everyone was mindful, looking out for others, and promoting that positive school culture.”
Adding on, Villavicencio said that this Red and Gold Day was “a lot less stressful than typical Red and Gold days.”
However, as with most Red and Gold Day’s, there were various incidents, “So I guess the seniors got a little too crazy with the egg throwing, and they were acting (up),” said Secrease. “It was a huge group that was running down Milvia. A civilian got their car windows smashed.”
Villavicencio mentioned disturbances of students yelling and that “a few people got hurt.” But generally, Villavicencio said, “Very little occurred.”