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Student streaking: Alarm over mixed messages

Original post made on Apr 11, 2014

Concern over the rising incidence of streaking on the Palo Alto High School campus reached an apparent boiling point among staff members last spring, when according to one source there were streakers of both sexes every school day in May involving over 100 students. Streakers even entered the library, which had been a place where students had taken refuge to avoid the naked seniors.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 11, 2014, 12:09 AM

Comments (35)

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Posted by Lynn Brown
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 12, 2014 at 8:07 am

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Whichever teacher is quoted "Another teacher said that when Diorio spoke with such a clear voice, even the students who might normally be expected to defend streaking as a "tradition" did not react negatively." is one thousand percent wrong. Students were extremely angry with Diorio, and they still are.

The Seniors were organizing to strike and occupy the Tower Building! (For the record I don't have a Senior.)

It took every bit of persuasion and coercion parents had to stop it. (Nothing wrong with a good protest, but save it for something important - unjust war, death penalty, too much homework. It's silly to go to the matt for the right to run around naked.)

Students have more important things to focus on as they study, and grow, and figure out how to make the world better.


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Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:43 am

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Let me get this straight. If I, or any other man should shed his clothes
in downtown Palo Alto, I get arrested and prosecuted for Indecent Exposure
(and rightly so). But students have apparently been doing it by the dozens for the past several years without consequence? And apparently think it is OK? And we are worried because some students might "get mad" at the re imposition of proper discipline?

Just want to get this straight, because it is so far off the charts I have trouble grasping it.


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Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm

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Streaking at a school is totally inappropriate and saying that tradition makes it okay is nonsense. I would make it clear that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, as Jerry says, if you did it off the campus and in town you would be arrested. I believe the same logic applies. Suspend them, give them a time consuming project - perhaps related to social ethics - put an end to this.


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Posted by Malia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm

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Not all traditions are good traditions. In this case this is a bad one. I was shocked to see that none of the previous year's students had been suspended. HELLOOOOO!!! You can get suspended for a lot less serious infraction...and as the above response stated, indecent exposure. Quite a few of these seniors are 18 and they forget that they are legally adults. Times have changed. It's time to move on to a new positive tradition, let this one die a quiet death.


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Posted by Becky Stillwell
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm

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Make the kids take responsibility for what they do, and dole out consequences for streaking; otherwise, may as well let the kids run the place! Maybe if someone told them that this is something their parents', maybe grandparents', generation used to do, they'd say, "Ewwwwww!", think it was icky, nstead of groovy, and it would fade away. Seriously, though, make it clear that there are repercussions for bad behavior.


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm

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I think the real problem is that under Phil Winston, this was treated as a joke and there were no consequences. This evidently created a situation in which there were hordes of naked teenage girls bouncing off the campus walls. [Portion removed.]

News travels fast I guess -- my daughter texted me from her college: "did you hear about Mr. Winston? I always thought there was something off about him. Now we know why." Indeed.


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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:28 pm

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OK, I know I'm going to come under fire here, but why is streaking such a big deal? Our bodies are a matter of biology - there are two types, and we all fall into one of those two types (except in extremely rare circumstances). Why are people so up in arms over students running across campus in their natural state - naked? Once upon a time that was standard fare.

Teenagers are going to rebel, and frankly I see this form of expression among the least harmful. Streaking is not sexual in nature, so please don't compare it to the perverts that drop their pants and masturbate in front of lone women - there is absolutely no comparison to the intent or impact.

I suggest the PAUSD employ a few independent psychologists to get recommendations on how to deal with this "problem." I'll bet at least one of the suggestions will be to stop making it such a big deal (always a magnet for rebelling teens) just as Phil Winston may have been doing by joking about it and trying to minimize it.

Lighten up folks, there is no need to be so ashamed of our bodies, and there is no sexual component to streaking.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 15, 2014 at 6:46 am

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I've lived here a long time and do not recall a time that our school district has been in the news for the wrong reasons with such frequency. Harassment, streaking, vandalism, bullying. I am admittedly not as tuned in to school issues as I was when my children were in school but it seems there's a significant breakdown at the leadership level. Other than paying closer attention to School Board elections I don't know that there's anything meaningful that residents can do. Suggestions?


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Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 15, 2014 at 8:37 pm

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There are two reasons I can think of why people make such a big deal over streaking:

Religious beliefs that our bodies are sinful, indecent etc.
Like Annette said, people thinking that nudity is the same as sexuality, when it isn't necessarily so.

Nudity is as big a deal as people make it; no more, no less. Europeans are more comfortable with it, and there are clothing optional events and places around our area if you know where to go. The main issue is whether or not it's appropriate in a given circumstance or not. At clothing optional events and places I know of, it is OK at the beach, pool or hot tub, but not around the eating area. And it's not appropriate at school where people aren't comfortable with it. However, I think suspension was a consequence that was too severe, at least for a first offense.


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Posted by Big
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 15, 2014 at 11:23 pm

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I am not going to defend the strange mix of prudery that is the US. And we all know nudity in Europe is way more acceptable.

What is NOT acceptable is streaking in high school. OF course its not. Streaking intends to shock. It intends to shock sexually. Now is that appropriate for high school. Absolutely not. It is disruptive, distracting. It is offensive to many students. It bullies those who may feel modest about their bodies. It encourages recklessness and exhibitionist that these minors may regret when they are older. We discourage all activities that these children may regret when they are adults.

It is not prudery for a Principal to discourage this. It stops things getting out of control. It removes public displays of sexuality from hihg school. It stops the sexual bullying of forcing exhibitionism among those who may not want to do this but be dared or bullied into doing so.
If the students threatened to strike after the new principal did this then they are displaying the very immature petulant behavior indicative of their immaturity and lack of judgement. Striking to streak. Ridiculous. We should be role models and creating a non-threatening non sexualised environment for work and friendship.

Winston had to go. He may not have been an active sexual predator but his total lack of judgement makes him unsuitable for any position of authority.


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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 16, 2014 at 1:25 am

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Big: I have to disagree with you. Streaking is not sexual and is not intended to shock, it is a freedom of expression "thrill." Streakers get a kick out of "taking the dare" to shed their clothes and run naked in public. They have no specific target audience, nor do they attain any sexual satisfaction from their streaking.

Those who intend to shock or traumatize a person engage in "flashing," an act with a very specific target audience and a very specific sexual nature - sometimes involving masturbation.

Again, streaking is not sexual. Nudity is not sexual. Nudity is simply a human being in their natural state. Those who are propelled toward a sexual nature by simple nudity are equally likely (probably more likely) to experience sexual urges at a swimming pool or beach, where the "almost naked" bodies provoke a much stronger reaction.

I'm certainly not an advocate of streaking, I just wonder if the "not tolerated" attitude toward it is maybe making it a more attractive form of rebellion and self-expression for teens - the "I can do what I want" need most teens have.

I doubt many adults look back on a teen streaking event and feel much remorse - in fact, they probably feel it was one of the more liberating moments of their high school years.

Finally, I'm not aware of what religions view the human body as sinful (muslim?) but we should not have religion dictate which activities are grounds for suspension.


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 16, 2014 at 5:51 am

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Please note that one of the comments for which Winston was disciplined was for commenting on the naked breasts of a student who streaked to another student. First, he set the circumstances for streaking to not just occur but to become epidemic. The report is that there were 100 cases in a single month. There are 20 school days per month at most. That means 5 naked students per day.

[Portion removed.]

Winston was the principal. He created an environment that was alleged by the teachers and found by a district investigation to be a hostile environment, infected with sexual harassment. [Portion removed.]
That is what a hostile environment is.

The only remaining question is why the district put that person back in a classroom -- not just a classroom but a special ed classroom.


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 16, 2014 at 5:55 am

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Let me add this -- suspension under state law can only be issued for specific enumerated offenses, not including streaking, without progressive discipline. I don't know the specific cases or whether there was or was not progressive discipline or an exception to it based on the facts of individual cases.

But it seems particularly bad to suspend students for something that was part of a hostile climate that Phil Winston created and fostered. They were merely responding to the environment he created.


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Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2014 at 11:23 am

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"Streaking is not sexual and is not intended to shock, it is a freedom of expression "thrill." Different from "flashing". How exactly? Cute.
Both are showing beautiful body in the most natural way.
May I ask if you feel comfortable walking around the house naked, serving a breakfast to your own kids, especially teenagers? And if you do and support "natural", introduce an intercourse (the most beautiful and natural human pleasure).
I am a conservative. We are not living in Europe. I expect the school to protect my kids from this form of self 'expression'. Have nothing against a streaking party in the comfort of your own house, where students can participate by "choice".
Regarding Mr. Winston. Blaming him for students behavior, in my opinion, is the same as blaming the host, serving alcohol at his party, for my DUI.


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Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2014 at 11:40 am

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[Post removed.]


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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm

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RussianMom said:

"How exactly? Cute." In response to my comment that streaking is not the same as flashing. The answer is in the 2nd paragraph in my post. Please note that streaking is not illegal as "indecent exposure," while flashing is. So, the difference is not my opinion, it is a fact of law and the two are quite clearly defined as such.

The rest about serving breakfast in my home and intercourse etc is irrelevant and off-topic, in my opinion.

I'm sorry you are so uncomfortable with streaking, but is not illegal, which certainly limits what the school can do about it without stepping on student's first amendment rights.

As I said earlier, "I'm certainly not an advocate of streaking, I just wonder if the "not tolerated" attitude toward it is maybe making it a more attractive form of rebellion and self-expression for teens - the "I can do what I want" need most teens have."

Perhaps the schools should include this as sensitivity training and help students understand better the impact to students (and parents) who are offended and made uncomfortable by it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 16, 2014 at 12:14 pm

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Please explain to me with code references why streaking in any public place is not illegal?


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Posted by Becky Stillwell
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2014 at 12:24 pm

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If streaking and nudity are no big thing, why not allow it in grade school, too? How about on the streets of downtown, and by everyone? This is ridiculous. There's a place and time for everyhting, and high school is not the place for nudity. You can't tell me that it isn't just a tiny bit sexual to teens with raging hormones! Once a statement has been (supposedly) made by a streaker, it becomes redundant when it's done over and over. Put a lid on it!


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Posted by Ashamedof PaloAlto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2014 at 12:28 pm

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Most school districts in California have a Anti bullying Policy in place . The PAUSD can not seem to agree on a policy to prevent bullying. Now we know why. There are too may adult bullies in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm

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I am at a loss as to why these students are not arrested and charged with public nudity - being on the school grounds does not exempt them from local and set laws.

Sure is sounds like a prank but it is also illegal. What other laws should we encourage students to break as part of their education in the responsibilities of citizenship?


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 16, 2014 at 1:32 pm

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[Post removed.]


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Posted by Ashamedof PaloAlto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2014 at 2:41 pm

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I am at a lost why Mr Winston or the teachers are be blamed for streaking. It is about time the parents were held responsible for the choices their child is making. It starts at home. Some parents obviously would rather put blame on the adminstrors than accept the punish that was given to their child.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 16, 2014 at 3:00 pm

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Since these seem to be predictable events why aren't the police called in advance?


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Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm

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@ True Blue-"Why are people so up in arms over students running across campus in their natural state - naked? Once upon a time that was standard fare." When exactly was this standard fare?? You wonder why parents are up in arms??

I'm feeling like I'm in an alternate universe here that someone in our community would think and say this. You are entitled to your own opinion but as a parent of school-aged children in PAUSD I can only be relieved that incredibly few people share your views here. Like, incredibly few.

I think once it started to be a regular occurrence, then there should have been a warning by the principal and staff that further streaking behavior would result in suspension. Arresting a juvenile who does it w/out thinking the first time it happened is probably a bit harsh, but a warning and then no tolerance? How is this even in question. What on earth.

I really question this District's acceptance of things more and more. And the transparency. It's starting to be a blight on our community and it's really a shame. So many things in the past few years have just been shady and very hard to understand. I hope we get some change with a new Super. It's going to take a VERY strong individual, who is principled, wise, above the fray, and able to stand up to "the machine."





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Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 17, 2014 at 12:37 am

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To Perspectives: Sorry you are offended by my personal opinion - no need to attack me though, it's just my opinion that streaking is not the biggest threat our kids face as they seek to find their voices, identity, and personal power.

I could understand getting so upset and self-righteous about drugs, alcohol, sex, burglary, robbery, shoplifting, violence, gangs, and a whole host of other activities that many teenagers (and their developing brains) experiment with, but streaking is, in my opinion, small potatoes compared.

We have already graduated one child from Paly (who, as far as we know, only sampled a little curfew violation before going on to a top 10 University) and we have more children currently in PAUSD who are well-behaved, intelligent, respectful, and above all, compassionate individuals.

Do I want my kids to streak? NO! Do I think they will be irreparably harmed by streaking or witnessing streaking in high school? NO! Would I like to see less, or no, streaking in high school? YES!

My entire point has been that of all the rebelling or "counter-culture" things that kids can do, or witness/be subject to in high school, streaking is among the least of my concerns. And I don't quite understand those who think every act of rebellion and self-expression should be responded to with strong-arm tactics like arrest and suspension. My guess is these people have either not raised a child to adulthood, or their kid(s) escaped being caught for their indiscretions so they think the perfect child is a mainstream experience.

Please don't attack me me for having what is, in my opinion, a much more realistic view of today's teenagers. Note that I advocated for teaching kids about the negative consequences of streaking on others in hope that some compassion might begin to enter the equation. And, I also think if we made streaking more of a "<yawn> yeah, whatever" event it would lose a lot of popularity. Phil Winston's comment to a student about bobbing boobs was possibly meant to make fun of the streaker, thus lessening the attraction to streaking (don't attack me for this statement, it is just an observation of his one comment and not an all-out defense of his leadership). The more the adults get twisted up about it, the more fun it is to get away with.

Don't forget the difficulty in catching these sprinting teens. Wouldn't it be better to make streaking less attractive/attention-getting? How about you parents who are so "up in arms" volunteer to monitor the quad and help apprehend these teen streakers?

Anyway, I'm sorry some of you feel my viewpoint is a threat or offensive, but I think it takes a collective set of thoughts to solve problems, so I encourage you to step out of your comfort zones and think about what really might be a solution here.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 17, 2014 at 4:12 am

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"about what really might be a solution here."

Simple - students should be taught by word and by example to obey the laws of their community rather than being given selective immunity for those laws which they consider do not apply to them. Students who break the law should be treated like any other citizen who breaks the same law - the campus cannot become a 'law free zone'.


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Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 17, 2014 at 7:31 am

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To True Blue: it's an interesting point, which made me understand your view better. Thank you for bringing more interesting facts to our discussion. Keeping the kids' interests in mind, we all come from different backgrounds. The ability to listen, freely express, and acceptance will be a great role model for our teens.


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Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2014 at 8:18 am

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@ TrueBlue- In expressing my shock at your apparent support for high school streaking, I'm sorry if you felt personally attacked by my comments. You are entitled to your views as I said. I certainly don't think your viewpoint is a threat and expect to read views that are contrary to mine on this board.

Perhaps your wording in your original post about it being standard fare may have come across stronger than you intended, b/c in your recent post you've expressed at least that you feel that streaking should not be welcomed, and that is very encouraging. I appreciate your more in depth explanation of your opinions.

Do I think there are worse things than streakers on a high school campus? Of course. Of course I do. That's really not the point. I'm looking at streaking as it's own entity, just like the police department does. They don't compare it to other things when deciding to enforce the law.

I also am not ashamed of the human body or think it's doing irreparable harm to students who witness it. But I do think it's clear the streaking makes, and made, other students very uncomfortable and provided a hostile learning environment for many. That, combined with the fact it is--- illegal-- is what makes me say there should be no tolerance.

No- I should absolutely not, nor should other parents, have to volunteer to police the campus to enforce the law.

As for Mr. Winston's comment about the boobs. He clearly meant it as poking fun... and that doesn't matter. Completely inappropriate to a high school student coming from the principal.


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Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 17, 2014 at 8:32 am

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We have no idea what Winston meant, whether it was poking fun or merely spoken in reverie. What we do know is that it reflects the fact that he was watching the child's breasts because his statement reflected those observations . We also know that he verbalized those observations to another child about the naked child's nude breasts. What his comment means to me is "I am looking at that student's naked breasts right now."


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Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2014 at 9:00 am

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@ TrueBlue - Everyone has their opinion. However, your logic seems a bit off. You say " I just wonder if the "not tolerated" attitude toward it is maybe making it a more attractive form of rebellion" believing that if it is allowed/ignored, it will lose its attractiveness and go away. However, the streaking has become more prevelant when Winston took over and essentially supported it. It escalated from several kids running through campus during the last week in school, to scores of students (some bringing props, such as live chickens) running amok through the school campus and buildings.

Not sure ignoring it is going to work. Pretty hard to convince 2000 teenagers to just ignore naked people running through campus.

We get up in arms when a guy flashes people on the bike trail next to campus. But, once you get on campus, it's ok to run around and break the school rules? Maybe the flashers should all just move 50 yards to the west and run through campus.

The overall issue is that, regardless of your stance on nudity, streaking is specifically banned in the school handbook. It is also mentioned that is is punishable by possible suspension. So, why would students get a pass on breaking this rule, but not the others?


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2014 at 5:21 pm

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Back in the '70s to early 80s, there was streaking at Paly, but it was only once per year, same week each year, and only 1-4 male students who would run past The Wall (the popular kids' hangout which is a 3 foot concrete wall outside the snack bar, 10 feet from the portables) so it was easy for the school to turn their heads because no one was physically hurt and it occured in a split second. We all thought it was funny back then, harmless fun. Now, however, it has gotten out of control because of the quantity of streakers and quantity of times per year has increased too much so it can no longer be ignored. It's also so unpredictable where the streakers will appear. And my children said streakers in their panic run, have run into other students accidentally. So, while it was harmless in the past, it has evolved too much to be ignored. What a shame that it's gotten out-of-control - Diorio has no choice but to crack down on it.


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Posted by Spectator at Large
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm

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Winston's Comments About Student's Breasts Are Totally Unacceptable!!!!

Having reviewed the article about streaking and comments by various posters I would like to state unequivocally that Winston's viewing of breasts, as evidenced by his comments to other students, is an outrage. It is said that a principal sets the tone at a school and it would appear that he was very successful at setting a tone where students felt it was not only OK to streak and that there would be no severe consequence for such behavior.

I don't understand how it is legal for students to strip and run through campus while if they did the same thing at T and C across the Embarcadero they would be arrested.

The safety and well being of our students includes an environment where they shouldn't have to even think about whether they are going to have to see a butt naked body paraded in front of them. I am not a prude and have in fact gone to many clothing optional places in my life including nude beaches and retreat centers; however, to my knowledge Palo Alto High School has never been written up as a "clothing optional institution" and it should be made known to students that they will be suspended instead of may be suspended for violating the safe environment that students and parents feel they are providing their students during school hours.

The fact that Winston apparently enjoyed the show is disturbing. Perhaps he was truly concerned with the pain the girls boobs would be experiencing and had to verify that with a student. This is totally inappropriate. How about if Katya was witnessing a streaking incident at Gunn and leaned over to a male student stating, "that must be painful for the students private parts". Hey, they are called "private parts" for a reason. You can show them to anyone you wish to in private.

[Portion removed.] Hey parents, why not teach your children some accountability by letting them accept the consequences of their highly offensive actions. Quit giving students who commit punishable actions the lighter sentence and perhaps some of these activities will stop.

Streaking is not just "youthful highjinks" and should not be tolerated. Perhaps with Winston not at the helm we will have a top administrator at Paly who holds our students to a higher standard of behavior.

There used to be a "Naked Guy" attending Cal. Perhaps the young men who need to take off their clothes to feel liberated or make a statement can do so when they get into a prestigious university. Just bring a towel with you to sit on in the classroom.


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Posted by Spectator at Large
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm

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Just curious as to why my comment wondering about whether the person who was trying to minimize the importance of streaking as a punishable offense was removed. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Apr 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm

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@Spectator,

We try to remove posts that malign the motivations of others who are expressing their views on Town Square so as to encourage discussion of the issues, not criticisms of commenters. There is really nothing productive that comes from labeling comments from others as "ridiculous" (or worse.) This is all a matter of degree, of course. Your comment seemed unnecessary to expressing your views.


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Posted by Spectator at Large
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 18, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Spectator at Large is a registered user.

@moderator: People are expressing views all the time that speculate on people's motivations for many things. It just seems like the removal of my comments wondering about whether there was a potential consequence for a behavior that we were discussing that was trying to be minimized to a point of it not even being considered worthy or punishment is an innocent enough query.

Glad that I don't have a young female student at Paly that is all I can say.

Enough said.......let's get back to the serious issues of protecting bicycles from theft and such.


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