Staples’ Homecoming last Saturday had everything: Perfect fall weather. A one-sided victory by the football team. Several students hauled off to the hospital, after way too much pre-game alcohol.
Principal John Dodig reacted swiftly. Yesterday he sent a strong but objective letter to parents. It read:
Homecoming weekend has come and gone. The 4 days of Spirit Week went very well, ending with a rousing pep rally out in the brilliant sunlight. As principal of a school of 1,800 students, I could not have asked for a better Homecoming experience leading up to the game on Saturday.
Each year, planning for this event is a calculated risk. Should we provide an escape valve for pent-up excitement and energy, even encouraging it with a pep rally, or avoid the possibility of mayhem by abandoning the experience altogether? The answer we’ve come to is that it is part of the American high school experience, and at Staples can be done safely. It helps build Staples spirit.
Saturday was Homecoming day. Most of our teams were successful over the weekend and our football team had to restrain itself to keep an astounding lead from becoming too wide. Coach P and our boys did a great job, and I’m proud of them.
Here is the problem, and the reason I am writing to you. Many of our students have learned very well the lessons they see on television each week when watching college and professional sports or when attending college and professional sporting events. It all begins with partying in the morning so they can have a good time.
Every one of us who has attended a game at Yankee or Giants Stadium, Yale Bowl or any other large venue knows that drinking is out of control. I’m old and wise enough to be able to say that it has become an established part of our culture not easily erased. I’m not about to attempt that task.
On the other hand, I am the principal of Staples High School and charged with providing a safe place for your children to learn, socialize, and mature. When I know, with confidence, that drinking among a LARGE number of students WILL take place at the Homecoming Day game, why should I continue to support it? Has the whole idea of Homecoming become nothing more than an excuse to drink and behave badly?
Sending several girls to the hospital for being intoxicated and endangering their lives is serious business. We will start planning for Homecoming well before the event next year. In the meantime, however, I need your support, help, and input.
It was truly unfortunate that we administrators had to make calls to parents to either pick up their children at Norwalk Hospital or come to the school to bring them home. There were MANY more who had been drinking but who were not caught because they didn’t pass out or vomit. A walk into the stands left NO doubt that lots of alcohol had been consumed before the game (drinking in the morning?). There was little or nothing we could do at that point without causing a riot.But there are questions I have to ask before we decide whether or not to repeat this event next year. Here are a few:
1) Can parents do more to monitor what their children are doing before the game?
2) Should we breathalyze each student we suspect has been drinking?
3) Should we simply accept that drinking will take place, ignore it, and simply tend to the sick?
4) Should we have seniors sign the same contract they sign before prom but use it to cover ALL school events and have underclassmen sign a similar contract with different consequences?
I look forward to hearing from you about this matter. I will bring it up as a topic of discussion at our PTA Coffees this year. I will speak to students about this matter. I will consult with teachers and administrators about their feelings.
The bottom line is, as you’ve heard me say many times, that we want students to like Staples. We want them to have occasional fun and let their hair down. We can’t ignore, however, that portions of Homecoming have evolved into something very negative and potentially dangerous to our students. That is the part I cannot ignore or accept. Let’s make something positive out of a very negative experience.
Dodig has received over 100 emails so far — nearly all of them positive and supportive. Suggestions range from canceling Homecoming altogether, to using a breathalyzer, to raising townwide awareness.
“The next few PTA coffees should be interesting,” he notes.
Dodig welcomes more feedback, in the form of a community-wide conversation. Click the “Comments” link at the top or bottom of this post to add your view.