The “thousand island” Spirit Week theme will be modified this year after concerns about cultural appropriation were raised by Palo Alto High School’s Associated Student Body.

The theme has been developed into a spirit-week tradition for students, where they have dressed in leis, flowery t-shirts and sunglasses to depict islanders or Hawaiian tourists.

“Many of us [Paly students] see the ‘Thousand Islands’ dress-up theme as problematic, and we wanted to change that as ASB, because we feel like that’s the right thing to do,” junior class President Ashley Hung said. “But at the same time, we want to continue Paly tradition as much as we can.”

Finding the line between keeping Paly traditions strong and being mindful of cultural appropriation has spurred a debate across campus. 

“It’s been brought up probably every year for a long time, just by our peers or classmates,” Hung said. “Especially recently with the rise of more social justice movements … I think that really pushed us [ASB] compared to previous years to make a change with this, whether that be completely changing it or [re]directing it.”


“I know that dressing up in … tourist-themed beachwear, it’s been long-standing at Paly. But times have changed, society has changed [and] the norms have changed.” 

— Micaiah Acosta, senior and Board of Education Representative


Hung said these conversations have led ASB to modify the theme this year.  

“Rather than completely changing the theme of ‘Thousand Islands’ we’re planning on as of now directing the dress up in a more appropriate direction,” Hung said. “We’re about to make a lookbook for spirit week dress-up days and kind of show what you should be wearing or what you shouldn’t be wearing.”

Board of Education Representative and senior Micaiah Acosta said she believes Paly should switch the theme for Spirit Week to eliminate all disagreements regarding cultural appropriation.

“I know that dressing up in … tourist-themed beachwear, it’s been long-standing at Paly,” Acosta said. “But times have changed, society has changed [and] the norms have changed.”