Hundreds face suspension after egg wars at Gunn

An estimated 100 to 200 Palo Alto High School juniors and seniors could face punishment for participating in an annual egg fight Tuesday night that left some students injured and damaged the Gunn High School campus, according to Assistant Principal Todd Feinberg.

Feinberg related this information in an announcement canceling Wednesday’s lunch Spirit Week rally and casting uncertainty on future rallies.

“It [the egg fight] is not a harmless tradition,” Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson said. “Someone was grilled in the eye. If it was a direct hit they could be blinded. The eye is right next to the temple; they could be hit in the temple and killed. Rumor has it there were frozen eggs. Using frozen eggs is a whole different level.”

“Someone had a busted lip,” Berkson continued. “Someone had a swollen eye. It was not just throwing eggs.”

Additionally, the event, which students refer to as “egg wars,” caused significant damages to the Gunn campus, according to Berkson.

“There was egg on the track, on the pool deck, on the scoreboard,” Berkson said. “It cost a lot of money to Gunn.”

According to Berkson, the cost of clean up is mainly in wasted time for custodians. However, the administration is considering using funds planned for Paly junior and senior class activities to cover costs, Berkson said.

Gunn is hiring an independent evaluator to survey the damage, according to Feinberg.

“We are in constant communication with the Gunn administration,” Feinberg said.

The punishments are likely to be anything “from formal reprimands to suspended to possibly expelled if the police get involved,” Berkson said.

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Administrators justified the scale of the punishments with the severity of student injuries and the illegality of the activity, saying that school rules clearly prohibit such activities.

“They participated in an activity that is specifically prohibited on page 29 of the student handbook,” Feinberg said. “Like any disciplinary incident, we have already accumulated a set of names that we will go through in the next 24-48 hours.”

Students moved the informal event to Gunn because of police officers stationed at the forested park area on Stanford campus between El Camino Real and Campus Drive, where the event has taken place in previous years, according to a participating senior.

“The cops were at the normal forest, so we changed to the Town and Country forest, and the cops were there too, so we went to Gunn,” the senior said.

Some students believe that it was a bad idea to relocate the event to Gunn.

“It’s trespassing, defacing private property, and it’s an especially bad idea because of the recent suicides,” ASB Sports Commissioner Wyatt Shaw said.

Because the egg wars occurred on a district campus, the administration has full jurisdiction to penalize the students, Berkson said. Additionally, any activities planned on school campuses are also under the administration’s jurisdiction, according to Berkson.

“Egg wars is also school-related. If two kids go to a dance Saturday night at Mitchell Park and get in a fight it’s out of our jurisdiction,” Berkson said. “If the two kids push each other around at school Friday and get reprimanded and then get into a fight on Saturday, it’s our jurisdiction. There are in-between gray things.”

The administration did not punish students in past years because it did not have the names of participating students, according to Berkson.

Students speculate that their receipts from egg purchases left on the ground, surveillance cameras at Gunn, and license plate numbers gave the administration evidence. According to Berkson, the rumors about surveillance tapes and license plates are unfounded, although Gunn staff members found some receipts from egg purchases.

Many students felt that the suspensions and Spirit Week rally cancellations were excessive punishments.

“It’s not right that students’ college careers are getting messed up for one night of fun,” a participating senior said.

“I don’t think it’s the way to go to punish the whole school,” said senior Gaby Cahill, who said she did not participate in the incident. “The administration is trying way too hard to shut down traditions that are known and loved.”

Other students added that it was unfair the whole school could not participate in the rally because of some students’ actions.

“It’s not fair to end rallies,” sophomore Shannon Scheel said. “They [rallies] have nothing to do with egg wars. They can’t punish the whole school.”

“I was really disappointed because I had went all out in dressing up today and I didn’t dress up that much the other days,” junior Nadav Gavrielov said.

Students who participated in egg wars said it was not a negative experience.

“The atmosphere was fresh, everyone was stoked to be there,” a participating junior said. “It got a little tense in the end but I don’t regret going. It was sick.”

Other students expressed a sense of upperclassmen unity despite the competition.

“Juniors and seniors hung out together after egg wars,” a senior participant said. “It’s not at all a war, it’s a game just like any other Spirit Week game. It’s like an undercover upperclassman game.”

According to multiple participants, police officers at a Palo Alto 7-11 and other locations in Palo Alto said that the students could legally participate in the event as long as they did not damage property.

According to Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns, the police department was unaware of both the tradition and the scale of the event, so they may not have been able to correctly evaluate the situation.

“I hadn’t heard we’d spoken to people before…egg wars,” Burns said. “Hopefully they [the officers] didn’t anticipate any criminal acts and it was just kids getting together and having some fun. Though police officers have a lot of technology in their cars, they don’t have a crystal ball.”

The administration will make an announcement about future rallies before tomorrow’s scheduled rally, according to Feinberg.

“We need to be through a significant portion of our investigation before we can let rallies proceed,” Feinberg said. “This process can be augmented by assistance from students by coming forward.”

Feinberg announced that other Spirit Week activities may be cancelled as well.

Editor’s note: The original version of the story stated that the Palo Alto police department had not commented on the legality of egg wars. At the time of initial publication, this was the case. Since then, they have commented. The current version of the story reflects this change.

Editors-in-Chief Abby LaPier and Leslie Shen, Multimedia Editor Maya Shemtov and reporters Alex Sholtz, Jason Willick, Lucas Chan and Samara Trilling contributed to this story.