Photo/Jeremy Franklin

It’s Rally Day today at Berkeley High School. My freshman son has enjoyed his first Spirit Week at BHS, as he has enjoyed most of his BHS experience so far. But Spirit Week seems to have a different meaning for some students.

Here’s the gist of a thoughtful email BHS parents and guardians received from Mark van Krieken of the BHS PTSA:

Rally Day has traditionally been a day for students to demonstrate their spirit for their school and for their graduating class. Unfortunately, it has also been a day in which many students choose to come to school under the influence of alcohol.

Over the years, students we’ve spoken with consistently estimate that about a third of their fellow students are under the influence of alcohol on Rally Day. Although this would seem to be an absurdly high estimate, many BHS staff members we’ve spoken with have stated that those numbers are probably accurate. If this is the case, it means that over 1,000 students will be intoxicated to some degree tomorrow at Berkeley High. This means that over 1,000 families really need to be talking with their children about alcohol.

I know some of the young and foolish will do young and foolish things. But if one-third of students are showing up drunk, or even slightly tipsy, there’s a large societal problem that needs addressing. Van Krieken’s email only arrived in my inbox in the middle of the evening last night. I applaud his outreach, but I can’t imagine many parents read it in time to have the appropriate discussion with their children.

California Healthy Kids Survey

As van Krieken’s email points out, there’s been data on the problem from independent sources. The 2008 California Healthy Kids Survey put a spotlight on BHS because of the high levels of marijuana and alcohol use compared to state and national levels. The chart above, from the Berkeley school board’s evaluation and assessment office report, looks at the statistics on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in the last 30 days for different grades. Fortunately in my family’s experience of BHS so far, the grim statistics don’t seem to be influencing the educational and social experience.

Do any readers have experience of Spirit Day at BHS? Is the alcohol consumption a one-day thing, or is it a persistent problem at the high school? Let us know.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...