If you look up the definition of “pep rally,” you will invariably find some reference to sports, as in a rally to build support for a specific team before a game. Take the Merriam-Webster definition:
An event before a school sports event that is meant to get students and fans excited and to encourage the team to win; also : a similar event in which speakers try to get a group of people excited and enthusiastic about something
For years now, it is the second part of that definition that explains a different kind of pep rally, these aimed at getting kids excited to take high-standardized tests — as if that is any way possible. In fact, in this era of of test-based accountability for public schools, such rallies have become de rigueur in many schools, with cheerleaders — and chants such as “Ace the Test!” or “Rock the Test!” — bands, music, jokes, animals, etc. Principals have been known to promise to shave their heads or promise pizza parties or do other things that would presumably amuse students if they do well on the tests. And sometimes there is even more.
The “more” at a testing pep rally this past Thursday at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Fla., included professional performers doing stunts with fire, according to multiple reports. But something went terribly wrong:
One fire-breathing performer got hurt, and seven students were treated at hospitals for respiratory complaints, according to multiple media reports. the Palm Beach Post reported:
For the final dunk during a pep rally Thursday at Atlantic High School, performer Ricky “Inferno” Charles sat on the inflatable runway just before the basketball hoop, took a swig of some liquid and held his fiery baton in place, waiting.
As another performer made his running approach to the basket, Charles blew and the flames climbed.
On numerous videos shot by students and staff in the packed gymnasium, the crowd screams and cheers because the man jumped over the flames and made the dunk. But then, the spectators keep screaming. Charles’ face was on fire.
Charles was hospitalized and reported in good condition.
If you are wondering why any school would have a pep rally that includes fire, that’s a good question. The Palm Beach County School District issued a statement about the incident:
What happened today at Atlantic Community High School is inexcusable. It’s a direct violation of District policy. The District’s rules are clear that fire and pyrotechnics are forbidden inside our buildings.
This incident will be investigated by the District’s Risk Management department and local fire officials, with assistance from School District Police. As the investigation is still open, it’s too early to determine what consequences will result from this.
CBS12 reported that Palm Beach County Schools spokeswoman Kathy Burstein said the incident happened during a rally for the Florida Standard Assessment testing.
If you somehow thought that the testing fervor was receding, now that No Child Left Behind is history and Congress passed its successor law last December, guess again.
If you somehow thought adults would rethink such nonsense, guess again.