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fresh-man week

Amherst Regional High School (Amherst, Massachusetts)

Amherst Regional High School (ARHS) is a secondary school in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States, for students in grades 9–12. Its official colors are maroon and white. ARHS's current principal is Mark Jackson.

Academics

Amherst Regional High School runs on a trimester system. Students take five courses per trimester: three to four are academics, and one to two are electives. Amherst Regional High School is the only public secondary school in the near area to offer a course in Stained Glass.

Extracurricular activities

Sports

The school's sports teams are all known as "The Hurricanes". ARHS is one of many high schools in Massachusetts with a nationally-ranked Ultimate program. The boys' and girls' Ultimate teams have both won the national championship several times; including the girl's program winning the national championship five consecutive times.

The girls' cross-country team has won 11 consecutive Western Massachusetts titles, and seven state championships since 1990. The boys’ cross-country team has also been dominant in the region for several years, winning six of the last seven Western Mass Championships, and a state championship in 2001. Amherst Boy's XC is listed in the top 110 high schools in America.

The 1992–1993 “Lady Hurricanes” girls' basketball team, which won the state championships, inspired the book In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais. The boys basketball team has a 2003 state title. The baseball and volleyball teams both have a 2006 Western Mass title, while the softball team received a Western Mass title in 2008.

Clubs

ARHS has over 25 clubs, ranging in topic from Asian culture to Seinfeld Club, a group devoted to the enjoyment of the sitcom of the same name.

Survival Living

While not technically an extracurricular activity, since the class is taken for credit, ARHS is one of the few schools in the nation to offer a Wilderness Survival program. The class meets through the spring trimester, and covers subjects such as orienteering, wilderness first aid, emergency shelters, wild edibles, and emergency fire-building (typically, students are warned that anytime there is rain during class, the scheduled class will be replaced with a fire-building class).

Former teacher Charlie Camp started the program. Exercises include an overnight hike with the whole class, a two-day orienteering campout in pairs, and a three-day practicum where students simulate being lost in the wilderness alone. Many former students return to help teach the class or aid with the major exercises, and often describe the class as a highly formative event in their lives.

Alumni

Famous alumni of ARHS include:

Controversies

The town of Amherst, situated in an area surrounded by five colleges, prides itself on being particularly socially conscientious. Because of this, issues ranging from First Amendment rights to race relations have a habit of repeatedly cropping up in Amherst Regional High School. Recently it has experienced a wave of controversies over several different issues, many of which have helped put it in the national spotlight.

In 1990, Principal Ilene Levitt instituted a sexual harassment policy, among the first of its kind for a high school in the nation. The policy banned "staring or leering with sexual overtones", among other acts; it received significant media attention.

In 1999, ARHS's school production of West Side Story was cancelled when several Puerto Rican students and parents complained about what they perceived as stereotypical representations in the musical. The musical split both students and teachers, and put ARHS's superintendent Gus Sayer under fire for his stand that "No group, neither in the majority nor in the minority, should have the ability to censor the decisions our community’s educators make about what to teach, what to read, or what to produce on the stage." Internationally known conductor Jessel Murray, who had served as the choral instructor and director of the school musical, left the United States entirely and returned to his native Trinidad as a result of the debate and cancellation.

The Vagina Monologues

In 2004 Amherst Regional High School received international press coverage for their decision to allow students to perform The Vagina Monologues. Although many adults within and outside of the community felt that The Vagina Monologues dealt with inappropriate material for teenagers, some ARHS students felt that the performance had relevance to their lives. Appearing on NBC News, 17-year-old Kristin Tyler, who helped organize the event, stated that "one in five girls in high school are either sexually or physically abused on a date."

In 2007 The Vagina Monologues were performed by Amherst Regional High School students again. Women's Rights Club, founded in fall 2006 by Sophie Rabinovitz, '07, sponsored the show. After seeking permission from principal Mark Jackson to perform the monologues in their high school auditorium, their request was denied. Jackson cited reasons such as the town's looming budget cuts, previous controversy and negative publicity associated with the show, as well as lack of interest by teachers and staff to help organize the performance. The members of the club persisted and succeeded in securing the Northampton Center for the Arts for their show. The Vagina Monologues took place on February 15th, 17th and 18th. The Saturday and Sunday night shows both sold out, and the club succeeded in raising several thousand dollars to donate to local women's charities.

In 2008, due to continued student efforts, and the support of principal Mark Jackson, The Vagina Monologues moved back to the High School. The play was an energetic success, with strong support from community organizations, a large number of students and parents, and the high school administration. In combination with a "Week of Awareness," designed to talk about the issues discussed in The Vagina Monologues, the play raised over $8,000 for the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition and the Men's Resource Center for Change (Both based in the Pioneer Valley).

The "Freshmen" Decision

In 2005 the word "freshman" was deemed by then assistant principal Marta Guevarra to no longer be acceptable for use in the school. The term was deemed sexist because it contains the word "man" and therefore implies that all students in the 9th grade are men. Opponents of the decision assert that it is unreasonable because the word "freshman" has morphed outside of the bounds of possibly meaning "fresh man". Although the administration persists on using the term "9th graders", the change had little effect on the student body and most teachers. In response to the "freshman" controversy, a satirical letter was written to the administration by a student claiming that the school should also change the name "High School" as it oppresses short people, and suggests that the students are always intoxicated.

See also

References

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