November 9th, 2010 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

Grant High Principal "Saddened" by School's Toga Day Tradition

Grant High School Portland, Oregon
Grant High School's new principal is continuing to shake things up at Portland Public Schools' biggest high school.

In a lengthy online letter to students, teachers and parents, Principal Vivian Orlen said she was "saddened" to see what transpired at Grant on the last day of "Spirit Week" in October, when seniors dressed in togas as part of a school tradition stretching back decades.

"What is disheartening to me is that 'fun' for too many seemed to be behaving inappropriately and coming to school under the influence of drugs or alcohol," Orlen wrote in her online missive. "A number of students were suspended for violating school policies – far more in fact than the total number of students suspended in the entire first month of school. Freshmen were bullied and made to feel unwelcome and unsafe. Chants were hurtful. What sort of spirit is that? And who is it fun for? Is that the best we can expect of our community? I don't think so. I know we are much better than that."

Orlen, who has also stopped allowing freshman to leave campus during lunch and started enforcing the student dress code more strictly, went on to suggest "Toga Day," as the last day of "Spirit Week" is known, may soon be a tradition of the past.

"I am stepping forward to stop the unhealthy aspects of this tradition and rework it so that hopefully we can continue to have Spirit Days and a Pep Rally for Homecoming," she wrote.

Ally Bray, a Grant senior who is also the editor of the Grantonian student newspaper, says this Friday's edition of the paper will cover the recent controversy. She says students are upset and unclear about what Orlen plans to do next year.

"She was pretty cryptic about her intentions," Bray says.

And the drinking and the drug use that Orlen talks about? "I don't think that's an issue that solely pertains to Toga Day," Bray says.

Last year, former Grant principal Joe Malone floated the idea of having breathalyzer tests at the school's prom until the ACLU of Oregon got involved.
 
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