Seniors gather at the beach for ditch day


Will Sherwood/Chronicle

229 seniors gathered at Will Rodgers State Beach on May 12 instead of attending classes at the Upper School. The large-scale ditch day caused controversy because the administration previously allowed seniors to skip school for Coachella in mid-April.

Olivia Phillips

Seniors organized a ditch day to skip classes and go to Will Rogers State Beach on May 12. Two hundred twenty-nine out of 291 seniors had unexcused absences May 12, about 78.7 % of the class.

Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said since seniors were offered a day to skip school in April  for Coachella, she was surprised that they chose to take an additional day off.

“This year, we decided to try to make it reasonable where kids could choose to use the Friday before Coachella as their ditch day, or use Monday, without any penalty,” Slattery said. “It was a little bit of an olive branch, so it came as a surprise to me that people decided to do a second [ditch day].”

Ofek Levy ’23 said Dean of Faculty and English teacher Jenna Gasparino spoke to the senior class May 10 about how students should consider the way their actions impact those around them. Levy said the administration and teachers’ negative responses to ditch day were unwarranted since it is a widespread tradition.

“It’s a big tradition throughout the U.S., and even our school,” Levy said. “It’s just something that feels almost like a rite of passage, and being told that we weren’t supposed to do something like this is odd, because that’s the whole point. The whole point of senior ditch day is that you’re united and you’re together as one grade in deciding you’re going to reject what’s normal and do something together that’s a fun bonding experience, and then you experience the repercussions for that as a whole grade.”

Asha Haley ’23 said she felt the ditch day helped form a sense of community within the senior class.

“It was actually super nice to see our whole grade in one place hanging out,” Haley said.  “I know I had a few teachers who were upset about seniors ditching, which I understand. But this year the school’s been trying to emphasize community, and I think that day helped bring the senior class together.”

Carter Staggs ’23, who attended his first few classes before leaving for the beach at 11 a.m., said it was enjoyable and didn’t seem to negatively affect teachers.

“It was fun,” Staggs said. “It was a great bonding opportunity. People were hanging out and being friends before they graduate and exit each other’s lives forever. Initially, I was concerned about going because we had [Gasparino]come up to us and tell us not to do it. Then I came to school, and a lot of teachers went up to me and asked me why I was there.”

Slattery said  seniors not attending school impacts many teachers and classes as a whole.

“It’s really difficult to do the things that they have planned if almost nobody is in class,” Slattery said. “I guess I’m frustrated because it just feels like a little bit of an abuse of goodwill. But at the same time, they’re seniors, and every single year, they want to do something to be together to bond.”

Levy said the ditch day was a unique experience for seniors that brought them together.

“The fact that we chose to all go to the same beach and hang out for the entire day together, even though there weren’t any classes, was something that was beautiful,” Levy said.