2012 Senior Slacker Homecoming T-Shirts Attract Attention

More by Holly Gordon - 11/12

 

Homecoming Friday: A day that all fall athletic teams prepare for and anticipate each year.  It is the ultimate chance for teams to show their blue wave pride to our school’s faculty and students. Team members dress in themed costumes and plaster the cafeteria walls with decorated neon signs and spray-painted sheets. Although it seems that Darien High School’s athletic teams have always dominated Homecoming Friday, different non-athletic student groups are still represented. For several years of Homecoming, DHS’s athletic team dominance of the day has been combated by a non-athletic team, the “Senior Slackers.” Although the group was originally created to unite non-athletes, now it is often associated with partying. Every year on Homecoming Friday, Senior Slackers identify themselves with matching t-shirts. Senior Slacker t-shirts are well-known for creatively referencing partying while not being too explicit. Although Senior Slacker t-shirts have always caught the attention of students, and most definitely school staff, greater controversy over this year’s t-shirt designs loomed the halls.

This year featured two different Senior Slacker t-shirt designs. Playing around with the “Blue Moon” logo, one Senior Slacker shirt replaces the words “Blue Moon” with “Blue Wave”. This design was not as explicit as the other, which does say, “Keystone Light,” on the front. However, faculty and administration cracked down on both Senior Slacker shirts.

“My first couple of teachers of the day didn’t do anything, thought they were funny, but then once word came out they all started cracking down,” senior Dan Wood said.

Throughout the day, an increasing number of teachers and administrators asked students to change into a different shirt, turn the shirt inside out or cover its inappropriate information with tape. Although the majority of Senior Slackers had changed, reversed, or taped the shirts, by the end of the day, some Slacker shirts survived. As the day progressed, increased criticism of the shirts’ message reached the attention of more faculty and administration, resulting in a widespread crackdown to remove the shirts or conceal their inappropriate information.

Every year, the Senior Slacker shirts are known for pushing the school’s boundaries of its “no explicit references to drugs or alcohol” policy. Many may argue that this year’s t-shirts surpassed the school’s boundary because the content of the shirt was too explicit. A “Shopping List”, including ping pong balls, cups, and Jello-O is printed on the back of one t-shirt, for example. Although alcoholic beverages are not directly referenced and their logos are not displayed, many faculty and administrators argue that the words “Keystone Light” on the front and a written list of all ingredients to a party, shown on the back, reference alcohol too explicitly. History teacher Mr. Chris Buckley thinks poorly of the shirt design.
“They (Senior Slackers) get in trouble because they (the partying references on the shirts) are so overt that they force administration to take a stance,” Buckley said.

However, Senior Slackers and others thought the shirts did not harm the school’s academic environment, but only contributed to the spirit of Homecoming Friday in a creative and entertaining way.
“They were creative, funny shirts with nothing suggestive on them. It brought together a huge part of the school that is otherwise forgotten,” senior Althea Perley said.

The situation also led students and faculty to wonder what freedoms students have to wear whatever they like to school. Under the federal standard set by the Tinker v. DesMoines Independent Community School District case decision, students have the right to freedom of expression as long as they do not "materially and substantially" disrupt the operation of the school or violate the rights of others. Other states, such as Massachusetts, have adopted individual state policies. In Massachusetts, the 1996 Pyle vs. South Hadley School Committee case decision protects the rights of students as long as their expression of views is not disruptive. Therefore, the Act protects t-shirts which could be considered “vulgar” but do not otherwise disturb the educational process.

Controversy over this year’s Senior Slacker t-shirts not only highlights students’ lack of freedom of expression, but also their lack of first amendment rights. Under the DHS Handbook, students are not allowed to conduct a “sit-in” within a classroom or school building or school grounds. Looking back in history, “sit-in”s were a common form of protest throughout the 1960’s.
Overall, this year’s Senior Slacker Homecoming t-shirts have triggered questions regarding and discussion of student’s rights and true freedoms within school.

To get a look at the traditions of Homecoming, check out Neirad’s 2007 coverage of Homecoming. Click here: http://darienps.org/neirad/print/homecoming07insert.pdf