Students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School won’t be segregated by graduating class during this year’s homecoming week festivities, a practice that turned violent last year.
Administrators at B-CC followed through on last year’s promise to cancel Color Day, the final event in a week-long series of themed days leading up to the annual homecoming football game, after incidents of alcohol abuse and violence last year.
In previous years, each graduating class chose a color and wore shirts representing their individual class, spending the day “tagging” each other with paint or markers in their class colors. To replace Color Day, which was instituted within the last 10 years, administrators revived a decades-old tradition of wearing the school colors — Blue and Gold Day. Seniors will be set apart by wearing class shirts that are gold with blue. All other classes will wear blue with gold.
In explaining the administration’s decision to do away with Color Day, Principal Karen Lockard and PTSA President Michelle Hainbach said the tradition stoked class pride at the expense of high school unity, according to a letter to parents. It also made younger students easily identifiable, Lockard said, in an email.
“The seniors are not happy that Color Day has been eliminated, but they understand that this is a safety issue,” Lockard wrote in an email. “The increased enrollment at B-CC makes dangerous some activities that may worked with a smaller student population. I love my students and my main job is to keep them safe. We can still enjoy the many other homecoming activities.”
Spirit Week started Monday and will culminate Friday with Blue and Gold Day. Students who attempt to perpetuate Color Day instead will be asked to change their clothing, according to the letter. Students who engage in hazing, intimidation or other unruly behavior at school or in the community will be sent home and banned from homecoming events.
Last year on Color Day, Montgomery County police were called to the school at 8:45 a.m. and issued citations to three students for drinking on school property.
Police were called to the school again at noon when a fight began between two students broke out during a class. When asked the cause of the fight, students reportedly blamed Color Day, according to police. A second assault reportedly took place in a school hallway during Color Day, police reported. Students were walking down the hall in a crowd, chanting slogans that made reference to their class, when a student was struck in the groin.
Students expressed disappointment with this year’s change, saying they prefer to keep Color Day alive.
B-CC freshman Paula Germino said she had been looking forward to participating in Color Day, and tagging her younger brother when he became a freshman.
“It’s kind of a shame you have to ruin tradition,” she said.
Blue and Gold Day was part of Spirit Week from at least the late 1970s through the 1990s, according to interviews with former teachers and alumni. The idea was to demonstrate school spirit by wearing as much blue and gold as possible, said Ed Mullaney, a teacher at B-CC from 1979 to the mid-1990s.
Former B-CC homecoming prince, Del. C. William Frick (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda, does not remember hazing being a problem during Spirit Week in the early ‘90s, but said competition to demonstrate school spirit was fierce at the pep rally.
“I remember everybody wanted to outdo each other in their pro B-CC attire,” said Frick, class of 1993. “There would be face paint and craziness.”
Lockard told seniors about the change in tradition at an assembly earlier this year. The presentation started with a short film, “The Lottery,” which was based on a 1948 short story by Shirley Jackson.
In that film, a traditional part of life in this imagined village is the lottery, where residents each choose a slip of paper, one of which is marked by a black spot. The loser, whoever ends up with the black spot, is stoned by the rest of the village.
Robert Mathis, a former B-CC teacher who graduated from the school in 1972, heard about the presentation from his daughter, a senior at the school. Mathis said Lockard was trying to make a point he supports, both as a parent and teacher.
“I strongly embrace the message that’s being given out by the school that this type of behavior will not be accepted, condoned everyday, and that all kids can come and have a safe event,” he said. “You don’t want to see anybody singled out.”
Also forbidden this year is storming through the school, according to the letter from Lockard. In the past, seniors began the day by assembling in the school parking lot and ran through the school “in a large boisterous group.”
“This practice is disruptive and dangerous as we have grown to be a school of almost 1900 students,” according to the letter.
Instead, students are invited to enjoy doughnuts and juice provided by the PTSA, beginning at 6:45 a.m. At 7:20 a.m. students will be expected to walk, not run, to class. Students who engage in unruly or dangerous behavior will be suspended.
School spirit is great, but kids need limits, Mullaney said.
“Anytime you have students and you have activities, kids are going to go to excess,” Mullaney said. “Spirit when it’s done well is great. When it’s overboard it’s harmful.”