Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Would you trust a Paly crowd: Exploring debate on school reputation


The scoreboard read 41-0 as murmurs of confusion swept through the crowd. The football game came to a sudden halt. There were still five minutes left on the clock, so what happened?

On Sept. 9, Palo Alto High School and its local rival — Henry M. Gunn High School — faced off in a football game for the first time in 12 years. Energy and excitement swept through the Paly crowd and in the last 12 minutes of the game, Paly students ran over to the Gunn bleachers, shouting celebratory chants like “Sko Vikes!”

No violence between Gunn and Paly students was reported. However, the game ended early as a result of Paly students’ “unsportsmanlike” behavior and administrators’ safety concerns, according to Principal Brent Kline.

In the following week’s morning broadcast, Kline announced school-wide consequences for the disruptive actions that unfolded at the football game including cutbacks to the upcoming Spirit Week events and further consequences if unsportsman-like behavior continued.

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In addition, the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League sanctioned Paly as a result of student conduct at the game banning students from the next few sporting events.

The events of the Paly-Gunn football game were just one of many incidents that have created a negative image of Paly students within the Palo Alto community. Other historic events and traditions including “egg wars” and streaking have also tarnished Paly students’ reputation.

Paly’s unsanctioned “egg wars” is an outside of school event where seniors and juniors throw eggs at each other on private and public property throughout Palo Alto, often causing damage. In 2009, the school paid $3,200 for clean-up and repair for Gunn after “egg wars” took place on its campus, according to a 2019 Verde article.

The same article also discussed streaking, another controversial Paly tradition where students ran naked in public areas. This tradition has not continued since 2016 when Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson enforced suspensions for all who participated.

These actions provide a very different perspective of Paly than its well-known academic achievements. This year, Paly was ranked the 34th best high school in California and its students placed in the 98th percentile overall for the Smarter Balanced assessment, according to US News.

Kline said that Paly is now defined instead by the inappropriate and unsportsman-like behavior of its fans, which must be countered by implementing new student expectations.

In light of Paly students’ recent behavior at the Gunn-Paly football game and long standing reputation for intense school spirit and rowdy traditions, Verde asked Palo Alto community members one simple question: “Would you trust a Paly crowd?”