The climax of any spirit week is typically a rally on Friday, with anticipation building throughout the week as students flaunt their wacky attire every day leading up to it. However, what also seems to be building, according to administration, is the number of students who choose to flout the rules and skip school.
To combat what the administration claims is a rise in referrals, tardies, absences, and overall misconduct on campus, the rally days were changed to Thursday this year.
“We saw a large increase in absenteeism for the rally period on Fridays as opposed to the rally that we did have on a Thursday,” Assistant Vice-Principal Sera Baysinger said.
“On Fridays, the absenteeism to attend both rallies shot up significantly,” Principal Bill Atterberry said. “On Thursday, it wasn’t necessarily so, it was significantly less.”
After the Back to School Rally on Thursday, Aug. 20, administrators noted that there was still an uptick in behavioral issues, especially at lunch. Subsequently, they met with the student government class to discuss changing the rally to 6th period so that students could leave campus immediately after the rally.
“Our commissioner of activities, Reagan Sytsma, told student government that she believed administration was considering the idea,” ASB Treasurer Juliana Reth said.
Although the period of the rally may change, they will still remain on Thursdays. Administration also concluded that much of the misconduct takes place at lunch, when music is playing and students become hyped up in close proximity. In response, the administration has decided to ban music during lunches.
“The Bruin Voice” obtained attendance records to examine the number of unexcused absences on rally days to verify the administration’s claim about the increase due to rallies on Fridays.
Attendance records revealed that as the school year progressed, unexcused absences increased regardless of the day of the rally. But when comparing this year’s Thursday Back to School Rally to last year’s Friday Back to School Rally, there wasn’t a meaningful statistical difference in the number of absences.
On Aug. 22, 2014, when the rally was held on a Friday, there were 104 unexcused absences from first to third period.
On Aug. 20, 2015, the rally was held on a Thursday. From first to third period, there were 124 unexcused absences. With a student body of nearly 2000, a one percent increase is not statistically significant.
In protest to the rally change, one student decided to take matters into her own hands. Senior Veronica Leon began a petition to oppose the administration’s decision.
“Ever since freshman year, it’s always been a thing to have rallies on Friday,” Leon said.
“I thought someone needed to say something or do something about it.”
The petition accumulated 462 signatures from students and was presented to Principal Atterberry.
“What the suggestion was to student government was that if the Thursday rally was not ideal, after sharing with them the rationale behind changing the rally from Friday to Thursday, to come up with some options.” Baysinger said. “Brainstorm, come up with things we think would work for the student population and campus as a whole, and then present that to administration.”
Students have expressed their contempt for the new policy, believing that the change hinders the “spirit” of spirit days.
“Changing the rally days to Thursday really doesn’t make any sense because it’s not the day, it’s the hype of the students,” senior Mason Moreno said.
“It’s not as fun and pumped up because. you’re still thinking about all the homework you have to do and tests you have to study for the next day,” sophomore Alyssa Erickson said.
Regardless of unexcused absences and referral numbers, the administration maintains that there is an overall danger to having rallies on Fridays, even though, similar to absences, there is not a significant increase in suspensions or referrals on rally days.
“Most of the things that we’re dealing with on rally days are putting out fires before things happen,” Baysinger said, “so they don’t always result in a school referral.”
During the Thursday rally on August 20, the administrators noted an increase in noise as students gathered around the music being played during lunch.
“The (Thursday) rally itself was really smooth, the getting the kids off to class was easier this time around than it normally is,” campus supervisor Cherie Pruitt said. “but the lunches were odd. Does that matter if it was a Thursday or Friday? I don’t know.”