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When School Spirit Turns Exclusive

While B-CC preaches diversity and has been labeled as one of the more inclusive high schools in MCPS, certain friend groups still reign over the social scene—and school pride.

School spirit has long been a subject of controversy at B-CC. Traditions like painting the rock, organizing school pep rallies, and wearing senior girls shirts for the first day of school have always left some students feeling left out.

Although these activities aren’t explicitly designated to any group, many students feel that there is an unspoken rule that only certain people can participate in school spirit. One senior girl who chose to remain anonymous echoed this point, saying that “even if anyone can paint the rock, it’s hard to feel like you’re wanted or allowed to when one group always does it and dominates it.”

The exclusivity of school spirit hit an all time high this fall. Most recently, a group of senior girls designed customized jerseys emblazoned with B-CC’s school colors and the Baron logo for their friend group. Unlike the senior girls shirts, an annual tradition where the girls of the senior class make custom t-shirts to celebrate their senior status, the jerseys were not immediately made available to purchase for the entire class. With each member’s nickname stamped on the back, the jerseys celebrated a group’s friendship, but also sent a chilling message to the other members of the senior class: school spirit isn’t for you.

Custom clothing made for clubs and sports teams is great. It builds unity within the group and allows the members to feel a sense of place at our school. However, you can try out for a sports team—you can’t try out for a friend group. When school spirit is so closely linked to one group, it makes other students shy away from participating.

“I don’t feel like painting the rock is for everyone,” said another anonymous senior. “It’s kind of like certain people have called that tradition for themselves.”

In addition to the jerseys sending an unintentional message, posts from the group members’ Instagram accounts can also give the idea that other students are unwelcome in expressing Baron pride. Photo captions like “queens of the kingdom” or “b19 girls on the block” honor the girls’ seniority, but also imply a social hierarchy at the school; if someone is on top, someone else is on the bottom.

The monopolization of school spirit isn’t new at B-CC. The “Preps” and “Nabis” dueled for dominance in the 2016 graduating class, and “SWC” (Somerset, Westbrook, Chevy Chase), “Tribe,” and “Section 3” established themselves as the supreme groups in the last graduating class. These groups made custom clothes for their members and threw exclusive parties for select invitees. They also swallowed school pride, exercising control over school spirit days and pep rallies. An anonymous graduate from the class of 2017 agrees, saying that “the ‘Preps’ always got very into [school spirit],” adding that “it was a way for the dominating groups to connect with each other, and feel like they’re a part of the same thing.”

After reading an early edit of this article, a Tattler editor questioned whether this social hierarchy is unique to B-CC, or just a part of the high school experience. How is what I described different from any other high school culture? Is this really an issue if it happens everywhere and has happened for many years? While it is true that such a high school culture is similar to what we have seen in pop culture and other high schools, and could be dismissed as a typical high school experience, this is exactly what B-CC discourages. Our school encourages inclusivity and diversity, not exclusion and homogeneity. Social hierarchies may be typical of high school culture, but they shouldn’t be typical of Baron behavior. Every B-CC student should feel comfortable expressing school spirit and participating in school traditions, regardless of what group they belong to.

While the solution may be challenging at first, perhaps the problem can be solved by the intermingling of groups. Students don’t have to be best friends, but if we make the effort to smile at each other in the hallways and be friendly with one another, we can eliminate some of the tension. The jerseys may have sent the wrong message, but the situation is a two-way street. While those participating the most in school traditions can work to be more inclusive, those not as heavily involved with school spirit can put more effort into communicating with and getting to know those who are.

As one anonymous student put it, “we need to be less polarized by groups and all come together and get to know each other.”

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