Palo Alto High School is facing various sanctions from its athletic league after a crowd of its students rushed the Gunn High School spectator section during a football game between the two schools earlier this month.
Administrators also have issued stern warnings against future misconduct, including urging students not to participate in the annual "egg wars" event that generally coincides with Paly's Spirit Week, which is scheduled for next week.
The admonitions come in the wake of a Sept. 9 rivalry game between Gunn and Paly, where more than 100 Paly students left their bleachers in the final minutes of the match — which Paly won 41-0 — and ran into the Gunn student section, creating a chaotic scene, Superintendent Don Austin wrote in his weekly message to families on Sept. 16.
"The risk for a serious altercation was real," Austin said. "It was one of the most egregious displays of fan misconduct I have seen throughout my career, including hundreds of football games."
In a video message to students, Paly Principal Brent Kline laid out various sanctions that the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League has proposed, including banning student spectators from the Sept. 24 football game at Menlo School. Only players' parents and siblings, who aren't themselves Paly students, will be allowed to attend, Kline said.
The league intended to ban students from the following match as well, Kline said, but made an exception because it will be the Set. 30 homecoming game against Homestead High School. If there is further bad behavior at any Paly sporting event, however, Kline said there will be more sanctions, including the potential for students to be banned from participating in Central Coast Section playoffs.
The league sanctions are expected to be finalized at the SCVAL board of managers meeting on Thursday, Kline said, adding in an email to the Weekly that he plans to present a counter proposal to SCVAL's proposed sanctions.
According to a draft of the counter proposal that Kline shared with the Weekly, he is suggesting various additional measures, including canceling the 2023 football game against Gunn. Paly also would institute bag checks and breathalyzers at games, as well as have students participate in a lesson on sportsmanship. There also could be limits placed on the upcoming homecoming activities, although what those would be weren't specified.
In the video to students, Kline said that the decision of the crowd to enter the Gunn spectator section goes against simple expectations of sportsmanship and that he is surprised some students have claimed the behavior was acceptable.
"The actions we saw last Friday night were absolutely wrong and completely unfortunate," Kline said in the Sept. 16 video. "This is not the Paly I know."
Kline added that Paly students have a history of inappropriate spectator behavior and that it needs to end. Austin similarly said at a Sept. 13 school board meeting that part of the rationale behind the league's punishments is a history of poor behavior at Paly games.
Calling for "egg wars" to end
Both Kline and Austin also are calling for Paly students to stop participating in "egg wars," an annual tradition where juniors and seniors gather off campus at night to throw eggs at each other.
At last week's school board meeting, Austin described the event as "mass vandalism" and said he is dismayed that some adults condone it. He added that he supports any steps taken by Paly administrators to prevent or respond to egg wars.
"Egg wars will be treated this year for what they are — they are not cute; they are not a right," Austin said
Kline told students that although some think it's a harmless tradition, egg wars can compromise the community's safety, causing injuries and property damage. He added that illegal substance use usually accompanies the event.
Although Kline acknowledged that his control is limited over what happens off campus, he urged students to put an end to the tradition.
"Egg wars (is) the most undisputed terrible tradition I have ever heard of at a public high school," Kline said.