Streaking crackdown at Paly yields results

Principal credits students for respecting others, but some say they miss the 'tradition'

A crackdown on streaking at Palo Alto High School has reduced the count of violators from more than 100 in the 2012-13 academic year to just two this year, the school's principal said.

On the first day of school, Principal Kim Diorio sent a warning to Paly families that students would face serious consequences for streaking. The community-wide notice came after a pair of male students had streaked that day at lunch, prompting two-day suspensions.

Diorio renewed the warning this spring as the traditional "streak week" season approached, accompanying police officers to senior classes to remind students that the penalty for students caught streaking would be a two-day suspension.

The warnings apparently were heeded as Diorio said the school has counted no streakers since the two students were suspended last August. "I'm really proud of this graduating class," she said this week. "They did the right thing, which isn't always the easy thing. There were a lot of adults who doubted that this tradition would end, but I just really believed in the kids."

In interviews on the last day of school May 29, students said the absence of streakers this year had been noticeable and not an entirely welcome development.

"I think it's a little sad that a lot of traditions had to change, but it is what it is," said a junior named Sarah, who declined to give her last name for fear of offending Diorio.

"Personally, (the streaking) wasn't bothering me. People are making it sound like it's the students who decided to make this change — and it was a choice — but there were huge consequences for not complying."

Sarah said the campus atmosphere this year had been "very tense — kind of like a staredown (over streaking).

"The senior class complied and it kind of worked out for everybody. I think a lot of students understood she was kind of forced into that position."

Diorio was named principal last July, a month after the scsool district learned that Paly was under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for its compliance with federal Title IX laws designed to ensure an "educational environment free of sexual harassment, and whether (the school) responds promptly and effectively to complaints or other notice of sexual harassment."

That investigation — which apparently was initiated by the OCR as a broad compliance review not focused on a particular case or student — remains open. It's unclear whether the probe had been sparked by reports of streaking, an April 2013 student magazine report describing a "rape culture" among students or other factors. OCR investigators visited Paly last month to interview staff members.

Diorio said she mentioned the federal investigation in her warnings to students this spring about streaking. "I wanted them to understand why the streaking was considered offensive by many people and needs to end," she said.

But students interviewed last week said Diorio's crackdown seemed like an overreaction.

"Going into class with police officers is excessive," said a junior, who declined to give her name. "I understand a lot of stuff is going on with Paly and the Palo Alto Unified School District, but I just think it's sad that a tradition had to end."

The student and her four friends, also juniors, agreed that streaking had gotten out of hand in 2013 — extending beyond the traditional "streak week" into "streak month" — but said a complete ban was no solution.

"We're a spirit-heavy school and streak week was part of that, and it feels like something's missing now," said one.

Said another: "The idea of streaking was started by the generation that's trying to stop it now. It's like our parents are the ones who started streaking and now they're not OK for us to do it," he said, adding that his father told him he had streaked in libraries.

Diorio, who spent six years as assistant principal at Paly before getting the top job, said she'd heard from alumni from the 1960s and 1970s that streaking had been done, but typically by just one or two students. A longtime staff member said Paly hadn't had a spring without streaking since 1991.

"What changed is that in the last four years it grew to 40, 70, 100, 120 — it kept getting bigger and bigger," she said. "It started as a tradition of one or two kids on the last day of senior classes, which was then called streak week.

"But last year it started on April 29 and went to the last day of school — it was an entire month-long event at brunch and lunch and was pretty out of control."

The numbers grew so large it became impossible to catch all violators to issue suspensions, she said, although some did receive suspensions. Paly's student handbook lists suspension and police summons as possible consequences for streaking as well as for other violations, including throwing water balloons or eggs, climbing onto roofs or placing students in trashcans.

The streaking crackdown was one of several initiatives launched by Diorio to improve "school climate" this year. Others included a "shadowing" program in which teachers spend a day as a student on campus, going through a typical day. About 30 teachers, as well as she herself, participated, Diorio said, "developing that student empathy, understanding what it was like to be a student on our campus."

Borrowing an idea from Gunn High School, she named longtime teacher Eric Bloom as a "teacher on special assignment" with the specific goal of improving school climate. She also expanded Paly's participation — and participated herself — in two independent programs aimed at addressing student social-emotional concerns, Camp Everytown and Not In Our Schools Week.

At Camp Everytown, where Diorio joined about 45 students for an overnight stay in November, kids discussed "diverse perspectives in campus, understanding stereotypes, bullying, harassment, understanding what it's like to have a physical disability, understanding poverty and affluence and the extremes in our community," she said.

In her graduation speech May 28, Diorio thanked seniors for teaching her "the importance of empathy, courage and leading from the heart." In a veiled reference to streaking, she praised students for having the "courage to choose a new path."

This week she said, "Our work will continue next year, but at least for this year the freshmen got to have a spring where they weren't subjected to 100-plus streakers. Teachers came out of their classrooms in May, out onto the quad, participating in more events than before. It was a good end of the school year for many people."

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Like this comment
Posted by Zack Fong
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 7, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Thank goodness for Mrs. Diorio. We appreciate her leadership.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Diorio launched. . . a "shadowing" program in which teachers spend a day as a student on campus, going through a typical day. About 30 teachers, as well as she herself, participated, Diorio said, "developing that student empathy, understanding what it was like to be a student on our campus."

What they missed was the homework loads and extracurriculars our students need for college acceptances. Teachers need to understand the academic pressure our students face. I know my child's challenging teachers this year do not understand it because their expectations were way too high for regular lane classes.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Progress at Paly is very strange when it's measured in 100 fewer streakers. Meanwhile 112 Algebra exams are thrown out because of cheating and around $50 Million in new buildings slated for next year.

Like this comment
Posted by Jack Strong
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:54 am

I agree that Ms. Diorio is really making a difference. Way to go Paly.

Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2014 at 2:39 am

Sparty is a registered user.

Poor babies. Stressed out over not being able to streak and the clothing Gestapo. If they can't handle that, they won't be able to handle anything other than junior college anyway.

Almost sounds like they thing there is a right to streak. Look at it this way. A female student feels sexually harassed because of streaking. She does not date boys.

Hashtags go crazy and twitter goes into meltdown as "#justiceforPaly goes off the charts.

School admins say nothing for a few days until MTV, Gawker, Jezebel and HuffPo pick up the story. Rush Limbaugh says some dumb old man thing which makes people even angrier and makes another 500,000 use the hash tag.

Anyway it sounds like a bunch of entitled babies are complaining over at PAHS.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 8:02 am

I have to agree with Anonymous above.

Streaking may or may not have got out of hand, but what about the cheating?

On another note, seniors have to find some traditions that are not likely to get them suspended. There was news about a school where the seniors paid for a mariachi band to follow the principal around all day. Now, I wonder how Diorio would cope with that one.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 9:04 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thank you Mrs. Diorio for providing the kind of leadership and discipline which the students deserve and need.

An important part of a young person's education is learning that there are rules and limits in life and how to accept and prosper under those rules and within those limits.

Like this comment
Posted by Crackdowns
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 10:16 am


There appears to be no shortage of attention to how to cope with students. You have the Federal government at Paly possibly for the very matter of streaking.
Students who did not cheat are being forced to re-take a Final during the summer.

A Mariachi band following Mrs. Diorio? I wonder what would happen.

The other "coping" that is going on is that students at large pay for the actions of a few, not a bad lesson to learn, but Sparty insulting the very students who have chosen to correct the legacy of older people like President Bill Clinton and his generation is unnecessary.

This generation of kids are adult beyond their years, and I predict that they will do great things. It is most heartening that Mrs. Diorio recognizes that.

I am more concerned about the next crackdown. Students get cracked down plenty with the work they have to do, and you have Sparty calling them entitled.

Like this comment
Posted by Jacques Song
a resident of Ohlone School
on Jun 8, 2014 at 10:47 am

I am happy as a parent that the streaking is over. Thanks to the OCR and good riddance to Phil Winston.

Like this comment
Posted by Residet
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2014 at 6:28 am

For those who do not know, what is streaking?

Like this comment
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 9:21 am

How about cracking down on cheating, over zealous teachers, and overbearing parents who use threatening tactics on their kids ( such as, we will disown you if you don't get a 4.5 GPA ).

Like this comment
Posted by Pak Tuong
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 9, 2014 at 9:54 am

I think that the termination of Mr. Winston was a good thing after what he did. Why is he still teaching in this district. No way should he be in the classroom at Jordan.

Like this comment
Posted by The Flying Nekizmo
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2014 at 10:26 am

I think the kids have just gotten more lazy. Who wants to actually RUN when you can sit and play video games or send group texts.

Like this comment
Posted by parent of paly student
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2014 at 10:27 am

I wish the principle and parents focused on more important topics. I'm sorry if this is not a politically correct position but I find it sad that so much press and internal messages from the principle focuses on streaking versus the more meaningful and important topics of too much homework, how to be successful in paly and overall well being. Please, let's move on.....

Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:39 pm

<<....more meaningful and important topics of too much homework, how to be successful in paly and overall well being. >>

Paly parents are highly competitive & want "their" kids to be better students than their classmates in order to help get into first or second tier colleges. That superiority generally shows up in grades. Merely being on-time & present in a classroom & acing T-F or multiple choice tests which can be quickly scored doesn't give enough opportunity for top students to demonstrate their excellence, so reports, essays, projects, etc., aka "homework" is assigned to find the best students & reward them with the highest grades. What's "too much" for some isn't for others.

I agree that "overall well being" is very important and a component of that is a kid's sense of satisfying parental expectations. Parents could ease up the pressure for their kids to excel beyond the kids' peers.

I have more sympathy for the teachers who have to read, evaluate & grade homework from 120 students than I do the kids who must complete assignments for 5 or 6 classes. Until high schools & college admissions offices switch to pass/fail & ignore grades, there will be homework. If it's too much, parents could help their kids aim lower.

Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:55 pm

@ "Residet" from midtown -

"Streaking" = running naked through and around school (or public place) where everyone else wears clothing. The old idea was to do it so quickly & unexpectedly that the nude runner wouldn't be identified. Many years ago, a single streaker had shock value. At Paly, that had deteriorated to dozens or hundreds of naked wanderers for days. No longer amusing & lost shock value long ago by overexposure.

Like this comment
Posted by must have somtething better to do
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Seriously, all the attention on streaking is ridiculous. What a bunch of whiners.
The district and Paly have much bigger fish to fry. Stop trying to make everything so PC that it has no soul anymore.
Did you read that ingesting dirt and bugs as infants makes our children stronger? The same is true throughout life. stop sheltering our kids and sucking the fun and challenge of authority out of their lives. Suspension is simply a-one size-fits-all measure to not have to deal with the problem, whatever it may be. If you want to give consequences for streaking try a response that is more creatively tailored rather than so lazy and CYA in nature.
There is a bunch that needs attention in this district. Embrace our kids and get on with it already.

Like this comment
Posted by kudos
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Yes, there are many important issues that Paly has to deal with, like cheating. But that shouldn’t mean we ignore everything else. Streaking is illegal, so I see no reason why the schools should allow children to break the law. I understand that some kids thought it was fun. Most kids would also like to eat ice-cream for breakfast every day, but most reasonable parents don’t allow that either. Kudos to Ms. Diorio for showing leadership and common sense.

Like this comment
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Jaywalking is illegal too. The point isn't for Paly to encourage streaking, or even condone it, but not to involve the police. I think suspensions are appropriate. You don't involve the police when you see someone jaywalking, or a car accident in which both drivers agree they are 100% fine and note no damage to their cars. I just wanted to see some of the same discretion used here -- being labeled a sex-offender ruins a life, and this cost outweighs the benefits of involving the police.

I am pro-streaking, although I agree that last year the situation was out of hand. They did not, however, have 100 streakers.

And if anyone is interested, here's a link to a Campanile editorial on streaking from a few years ago. It's on page 7, I believe -- Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Thank you, Kim, for having the courage to stand for something of value. Too bad that the Gunn principal didn't display such guts. Now she is doing duty in Siberia (aka Adult Ed School).


Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Thank you, Kim, for having the courage to stand for something of value. Too bad that the Gunn principal didn't display such guts. Now she is doing duty in Siberia (aka Adult Ed School).


Like this comment
Posted by ClassOf74
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:42 pm

WIKIPEDIA has this to say about streaking:

Streaking seems to have been well-established on some college campuses by the mid-1960s. The magazine of Carleton College described the phenomenon in negative terms associating it with rock culture, drinking and destruction. At that time, streaking was a tradition on the Minnesota campus during January and February when temperatures hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit.

In 1973, what the press called a "streaking epidemic" hit Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, with streakers being seen in residence halls, at football games and at various other on-campus locations and events, including Spring graduation. The trend continued until spring 1974, when Ralph W. Steen, University president, hoping to end the streaking fad, designated a day to streak the length of East College Street, a tradition that - with a few breaks - has continued to this day. The "epidemic" was covered by all of the major media outlets and became the first time streaking received concentrated national press coverage, including an article in Paris Match covering the phenomenon.

Time magazine, in December 1973, called streaking "a growing Los Angeles-area fad" that was "catching on among college students and other groups." A letter writer responded, "Let it be known that streakers have plagued the campus police at Notre Dame for the past decade", pointing out that a group of University of Notre Dame students sponsored a "Streakers' Olympics" in 1972. There was also a streaker at the real Olympics in Montreal, Canada, in 1976.


I am not sure about this, but I think "streaking" first became a big thing in 1973-1974 - which was also the year that Ray Stevens released the song called "The Streak". At that graduation ceremony, the year they tore down the old Paly buildings some of the seniors, I think, became the first streakers. I guess some teachers say earlier - which indicates it was probably not very frequent. I thought it was stupid as did most other people, but I doubt anyone had any idea there would be over 100 streakers at any point. Stupid.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2014 at 7:06 am

Thank you for reminding me of the Ray Stevens song. I have happy memories of teenage discos as soon as I read it. Web Link Reliving my youth now. Don't look Ethel, too late. She'd already looked.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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