Eleven Palo Alto High School students were suspended and about seven more received "consequences" for participating in an Oct. 27 "egg war" on the Gunn High School campus, Paly Principal Jacquie McEvoy says in an interview looking back on the incident.
Parents of disciplined students were to receive official notification letters Monday.
Suspended students already have served their one- and two-day suspensions, she said.
The egg fight between Paly juniors and seniors left hundreds of egg cartons and cracked eggs on the Gunn campus, causing possibly permanent damage to the new track and scoreboards at the school, according to Gunn parents.
Gunn Principal Noreen Likins estimated cleanup costs would be $1,500 to $2,000. Outside professional cleanup was necessary because of the nature of the damage, she said.
McEvoy said Paly would cover the cleanup cost. She stressed that Paly students never meant to harm Gunn, but spontaneously moved their gathering to a field behind the school after encountering police elsewhere. Earlier egg wars occurred on Stanford land in a eucalyptus grove.
McEvoy said she felt disappointed by parents who view the egg wars as a harmless prank, saying eggs -- particularly frozen eggs -- can cause serious injuries, particularly when thrown into a person's face. Several minor injuries were reported this year.
"What was most disheartening to me was to talk to parents who had actively promoted their kids' participation in the egg wars. That was very disappointing to me. I don't think they were thinking of how serious it could be," she said.
After receiving complaints from Stanford following last year's egg war , McEvoy alerted Palo Alto and Stanford police in October when she heard rumors another egg war was in the works.
Based on after-the-fact interviews with two dozen students, McEvoy said she concluded there were anywhere from 50 to 150 students involved Oct. 27.
"We'll never know exactly what happened," she said.
"Whenever you have multiple people involved, the truth of the matter always lies somewhere in the middle."
Even if the higher number, 150 students, participated, it represents a small percentage of the nearly 1,000 members of Paly's junior and senior classes, she said.
"That's not a whole lot of kids. There was a really big range of participation. At various times any of these kids could have said, 'This is not a good idea,' and backed out.
"There were some kids who showed up at Gunn but didn't go once they saw what was going on.
"A number of other kids made some really bad decisions."
McEvoy said she issued five-day suspensions based on early reports that the egg war had involved fights, injuries and frozen eggs.
"Initially, we thought we were dealing with some very, very serious events," she said. "That's the reason we initially looked at five-day suspensions. We can always pull back on suspensions, but it's a little more difficult to (increase them).
"By the end of the first day when we realized we didn't have evidence injuries had occurred and that it was at a serious level, we started reducing the suspensions."
Ultimately, she said, the "consequences" of egg war participation ranged from community service to two-day suspensions. Suspended students also will perform some community service of their choice.
Possible choices include participation in Gunn "beautification" projects, after-school help for Paly librarians and custodians or volunteer work in religious or non-profit organizations, she said.
McEvoy expressed pride in Paly student government leaders for their response to the egg incident.
"There were some leadership kids that were involved (in the egg war)," she said. "By Wednesday afternoon (the next day) they had written an apology.
"We (a delegation of student leaders accompanied by McEvoy) went over there on Friday.
"What happened when we went was the kids really understood, 'Oh my God, we were at Gunn. What were we thinking?'
"They realized the enormity of how it could be interpreted.
"It was a pretty adult conversation about how we could make this right. It reflects on something that goes right in this community about owning up to your behavior," McEvoy said.
Asked about the fairness of suspending some students while failing to catch everyone involved, McEvoy likened it to being singled out among drivers for a speeding ticket.
"At some point, we have to end our investigation and move on. We've got a school to run," she said.
"We have great kids. They are so bright and creative. I challenge them to come up with a prank that's funny and creative and doesn't cause damage."
Sometimes criticized as heavy handed, McEvoy defended steps she has taken since becoming Paly principal in 2007, including instituting mandatory breathalyzer tests at school dances and requiring students to take buses to the prom.
"The first year I was here we had to suspend two dozen kids for alcohol at dances. Last year we had zero.
"Every student that walks through the door, we confirm they haven't been drinking by using a breathalyzer. It really improves the atmosphere at the dances.
"Our goal is to try to prevent kids from getting into trouble. People may not agree about the process we use, but our goal is not to suspend kids. Our goal is to make sure they make the right choices. That's sometimes hard to do.
"We have great kids. They make mistakes. They know right from wrong, but that doesn't always come together when they are in the moment," she said.
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