On October 22, Principal Juan Raygoza sent out an email informing the student body that Berkeley High School (BHS) would not be sanctioning a Spirit Week. The email came as a shock to many students who had been looking forward to Spirit Week — Rally Day in particular — as a symbol of the return to school. To the upperclassmen, Spirit Week functions as a celebration of making it to the top of high school. To underclassmen, the hype leading up to Spirit Week represents an initiation into BHS culture.
Going into the school year looking forward to Spirit Week, many students were frustrated with the decision. However, the reality is that the administration cannot safely sanction a Spirit Week this year. Given the current staffing and safety issues at BHS, a Spirit Week would cause far too many issues.
For one, Rally Day poses a lot of problems to school administration. One of the largest of these issues is ensuring the safety of hundreds of faculty at BHS. Berkeley International High School (BIHS) teacher Richard Conn expressed his frustrations, saying, “[BHS] is a workplace. Teachers have the right to want to be in a workplace that feels safe.” Because of this, teachers have threatened “sick outs” on Rally Day. School administrators must also look out for custodians and security. Past Rally Days have seen drunk students throwing up around the school, trashed restrooms, and many fights.
Finally, the administration must take care of all students at BHS. While Rally Day may be fun for many students, aggressive crowds can be anxiety inducing. This anxiety is not unfounded; fights and sexual violence are at a high on Rally Day.
However, many students have felt that the cancelation of Spirit Week is a performative attempt at handling social issues at BHS. In his email, Principal Raygoza discussed the prevalence of fights, vandalism, “students roaming hallways,” sexual harm, and fire drills. Many students have viewed the cancellation of Spirit Week as a punishment where a solution was required. Most acknowledge that there are many problems within the student body, but canceling Spirit Week is akin to rubbing salt on the wound instead of treating it.
While it’s true that BHS administration has failed to address many of the problems at BHS, sanctioning Rally Day would exacerbate them. In his email to the community, Raygoza wrote, “As the Principal of Berkeley High School, one of my main responsibilities is ensuring the safety of our students and staff.” Because Rally Day increases the risk of sexual harm and fights and perpetuates an unsafe environment for teachers, it is unjustifiable for the administration to sanction a Rally Day.
Despite the opposition from the student body, school administration made the right choice in canceling Spirit Week. There isn’t really a choice; they can either sanction an event that will cause harm, or they can cancel Rally Day, keeping their students, faculty, and reputation safe.