School Spirit Becoming Offensive

Eva Astrachan and Caroline Burkhard

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As students are getting more excited about school spirit, others are becoming increasingly offended by the themes. From goth day to lax bro day to black-out, people from all over the country are finding the spirit days insulting and insensitive to others. At a school in West Virginia, students participated in “hobo” day which was viewed as mockery toward a certain class of people. At Hall High School, some kids found “lax bro day” to be targeted towards a certain type of boy. Although at Hall the dress-up days are only out of good intentions, they often can be interpreted otherwise.

David Lyons, a senior from Hall High School, quickly shared with us his feelings about many teams “lax bro day:” “I don’t get why you dress-up as boys it doesn’t make sense, it just looks like your making fun of us.” David, along with a few other males, see no benefit to the dress-up days and believe they are only used to mock others.

At Hall High School, sports teams are known for dressing up before big events such as games and meets. While boys rotate between wearing jerseys and a shirt and tie, girls tend to have a little more fun. One of the most spirited teams is Hall Girls Swimming and Diving, who is known to go all out and walk around school flaunting their outfits. Senior Captain, Maggie Mantz, tells us how great the dress-up days are for the team, “We all dress-up and see each other in the hallways and bond over our silly outfits. We love getting our outfits ready together and the whole process is so much fun, and it clearly brings a lot of the team together”. These dress-up days aim to hurt no one, but do bond the team and show off the team spirit. 

Field hockey, volleyball, soccer, and cross country dress-up as well, but while their outfits are a little more subtle, they tend to be a little less offensive. Many see it as a little unreasonable to see some of these dress-up days as offensive, as they have been occurring for years and are organized with only good intentions. 

Haley Ullinger, assistant Hall Girls Swim and Dive coach and Social Studies teacher at South Windsor High School, recognizes the benefits of the dress-up days that many people do not: “It is a great way to bring all of the teammates together, it’s great for team bonding, and especially when you only interact with the people in your lane, it unifies the team.” Not only does she see the benefits from a coaching standpoint, but also as a teacher.

Haley tells us that her school also participates in school spirit days and it helps the whole school community become more aware of what is going on. She said, “At my school, teams dress-up too and it’s a great way for the school staff to know what’s going on and when they have events or games.” It is a way to unify the school and an easy way to keep up with what is going on.

Not just Connecticut schools have encountered issues with school spirit days. West Virginia’s students and teachers, for example, participated in “homeless day,” which is not appropriate. According to Maureen Costello, from Teaching Tolerance, “two women [were] wearing knit caps and holding a cardboard sign that reads ‘will teach for food,’ suggesting that teachers participated, too.” This theme not only mocked students/teachers in the school who have struggled with homelessness in their lives, but also showed the world that insensitivity can be gotten away with. 

Another example of an inappropriate theme choice is “white-out.” Although this theme seems harmless, some students may view this theme as racist, and others may view it as a forum to be racist. Often, students can take this too far, “…a student [was] wearing a pillowcase with eye holes that bore a striking resemblance to a KKK hood and taunting a biracial classmate.” School officials must avoid incidents like this one from happening by critically thinking about each and every theme that is asked for approval by students. 

Schools throughout the country are organizing fun themed days to show off team spirit.  Students within the school are feeling increasingly insulted which has become a significant issue.