PALO ALTO -- Just hours after a couple of boys doffed all but face cloths and streaked across the Palo Alto High School campus during lunch break Thursday, the incoming principal sent out a message to parents saying this tradition of naked tomfoolery has got to stop.
"Typically this type of behavior has occurred during the end of senior year prior to graduation," wrote Principal Kimberly Diorio, the former assistant principal who took the reins of the school in July. "In my six years at Paly, it never has happened on the first day of school."
Diorio said such acts of naked showmanship create a negative environment at the school, impinging on its educational mission, and added that in the past "consequences may not have been applied consistently nor made clear to students, which has only made the situation worse over time."
In an italicized summation, she wrote "the consequences from this point forward will include suspension from school and a conference with our Palo Alto Police Department School Resource Officer."
It's a popular tradition. Streaking at Palo Alto High has been a done for decades, and senior Vivian Laurence said her dad, a Paly alum, told her students used to go for naked sprints through Castilleja, a nearby private school for girls. These days it is confined to the Paly campus, but Laurence, 17, said it has been getting increasingly brazen over the years.
When she was a freshmen, a group of nude guys carrying live chickens crashed her powder-puff girls football game, throwing the clucking, flapping birds to the ground to serve as a distraction before racing off. Sophomore year it was another bunch of boys, these garbed in nothing but cowboy tops, riding stick horses through campus. And the end of last year brought multiple incidents, including one that had about 20 female students dressed in the barest of Native American accouterments who bolted across the grounds, letting out whoops and hollers.
"Last year was pretty excessive," Laurence said. "Progressively, people have gotten more and more brave with the routes they run and costumes they wear."
Laurence said that while the acts may be amusing, they cause chaos and an uproar of cheering from fellow students and can see the principal's reaction after the early offensive -- far ahead of the end-of-year period unofficially known as "Streak Week."
"I totally understand where she's coming from," Laurence said. "Especially with it happening on the first day."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.