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Photo Kerfuffle from Darien High Ruffles Parental Feathers

There'll be some 'splainin' to do when Darien High School students return to school after the February break, Principal Ellen Dunn says.

This photo from the Neirad website shows rude comments written on a student's car -- perhaps staged to illustrate an article.
This photo from the Neirad website shows rude comments written on a student's car -- perhaps staged to illustrate an article.
A picture with rude comments published by Neirad, the Darien High School newspaper, has perturbed some adults, and Principal Ellen Dunn says she'll be talking to students about it.

The photo (attached to this article) reportedly illustrated a Neirad article about student parking, possibly including complaints from seniors that juniors were parking in places reserved for seniors. (While the photo can be seen on the Neirad website, the article wasn't available when I checked on Tuesday.)

The photo shows rude comments written on the windows of a car: "ticket goes here," "Junior stop driving" and "Pig." The picture may have been staged by Neirad staff to illustrate complaints about where juniors park their cars.

One mother (of children not yet in high school) was disturbed enough by the photo to post a statement in the Darien Patch "Boards" announcements section. She wrote (in part):

"I felt compelled to write regarding a recent incident where an under classman's car was vandalized in the high school parking lot by (assumable) upper classmen. Then it was displayed and advertised in the school newspaper as a goof? 

"What are parents teaching their children?  If the boy parked in the wrong spot why not ask administration to handle the situation. These students took it upon themselves to harass, bully and vandalize private property?"

(The writer apparently later removed the statement from the Darien Patch website. Before it was removed, I copied the statement but didn't copy the writer's name. Some comments from other Patch readers posted under the statement agreed with it, some didn't.)

Darien Patch sent Principal Ellen Dunn a copy of the statement and also asked Dunn for information about the photo and whether or not she thought it was appropriate. She wrote back (in part):

"The photograph was associated with an article in the Neirad distributed on Friday. It came to my attention at the end of the school day. Since this week is February Recess, students and faculty are not in school. We will be investigating fully when school reopens on Monday.

"I was disappointed to see the photo and it is not what I expect from our students. It appears that the intent was not vandalism but certainly there are better ways for our students to communicate their concerns about underclassmen parking. We will be meeting with students and our campus monitors to make certain that this does not happen again and we will handle any disciplinary issues that may arise."

(I haven't seen the article that the photo illustrated -- school's closed, Darien Library doesn't have copies, Dunn didn't respond to a request for a copy and I wasn't able to find one. The controversy is about the photo, not the article, but if any reader would be so kind, please use a smartphone to snap a photo of the article [good enough for the article to be readable] and email it to Darien@Patch.com -- much obliged!)

Statement Posted on Patch


Here's the full statement from the concerned parent as it was posted late Tuesday morning on Darien Patch (the headline, now gone, either said or asked whether Darien High School promotes bullying):

As a new resident to Connecticut and a mother of children quickly approaching the high school, I felt compelled to write regarding a recent incident where an under classmans car was vandalized in the high school parking lot by (assumable) upper classmen.

Then it was displayed and advertised in the school newspaper as a goof?  What are parents teaching their children?  If the boy parked in the wrong spot why not ask administration to handle the situation.

These students took it upon themselves to harass, bully and vandalize private property? I am seriously considering private school if this is the type of peers my children will associate with.

Does administration have the final edit in the newspaper. I cant imagine an adult letting that slip by...and if they did approve it, shame on them. Makes me miss the West Coast.......

DHS Principal's Response


Dunn responded to an email from Darien Patch asking for information and her reaction. This is her entire response:

Answering the question posed on the Patch earlier, I must first assure you that we do not promote bullying at DHS. The photograph was associated with an article in the Neirad distributed on Friday.

It came to my attention at the end of the school day. Since this week is February Recess, students and faculty are not in school. We will be investigating fully when school reopens on Monday.

I was disappointed to see the photo and it is not what I expect from our students. It appears that the intent was not vandalism but certainly there are better ways for our students to communicate their concerns about underclassmen parking.

We will be meeting with students and our campus monitors to make certain that this does not happen again and we will handle any disciplinary issues that may arise. I regret that this photograph leaves the wrong impression about our students because they are wonderful young people and I am proud of them.

Some do make choices that disappoint us occasionally, and it is our responsibility to educate them and provide consequences for behavior that is unacceptable.
David Gurliacci (Editor) February 19, 2014 at 01:07 AM
Full disclosure: This reporter, when a student at Darien High School, did his share of perturbing those older and wiser than himself -- a habit he's retained.
Albert Campbell February 19, 2014 at 06:47 PM
The new resident commenter is blissfully ignorant. The car is painted with what appears to be the water soluble car paint that is used across the nation for spirit days, car decorations, and etc. It is commonly used by Darien sports teams and can be washed off in a minute or so. The junior parking pandemic has been plaguing DHS for years. When I was a student, at the old high school, junior parking would result in mass amounts of parking lot overflow. The DHS administration has been ignoring this issue for years and does not effectively ticket students. Juniors are not allowed to park at DHS, so the driver of the pictured car deserves to the punished. The DHS faculty and staff aren't properly rendering violators culpable, so they deserve to face the embarrassment that is associated with a bit of harmless car paint. They broke a rule, so they should have to face the repercussions, whether they are imposed by the DHS administration or their peers who have taken matters into their own hands. The true issue is not the alleged vandalism, moreover, it is the seditious juniors who violate DHS parking rules and the subsequent poor response from the DHS faculty and staff. Students have raised concerns time and time again over the past few years and nothing has obviously been done. Feel free to send your children to private school. Your complaining will not be missed.
concerned parent February 26, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Wow, talk about ignorant. I had to grab a copy of the Neirad just to see what this article was all about. First, I don’t believe two wrongs make it right. The Junior should never have parked at the high school but it’s not the seniors job to monitor this. Ignorance is when an adult thinks it’s ok for kids to take matters into their own hands. Ignorance is when the really smart, definitely not, ignorant student wrote “The ticket goes here” with the arrow, is right in the drivers vision, so when they are driving off their vision is obstructed. A junior parking at the high school is definitely in the wrong but that doesn’t make them a PIG? Seems a bit harsh. What surprised me the most in this article was the campus monitor admitted they have “slacked off” and asked the seniors to mark up juniors cars then they go out and give tickets. Now THAT is really ignorant! I don’t expect to send my child to school to be doing their job. I may be ignorant for asking, but wouldn’t this be a liability issue?
Deborah Cretella February 26, 2014 at 03:31 PM
I would have to agree with the statement above by concerned parent. This issue needs to be addressed. Maybe juniors aren't allowed to drive to school, but that should be an issue administration should be taking care of. And if someone's car did get vandalized in such manner, it should not have been advertised in the school news paper. Not too sure how long ago Mr. Campbell went to school, but as far as I'm concerned, times have changed and schools all over the globe have been cracking down on bullying. Get with the times before you start calling others ignorant. Whether it is removable window chalk or not, it is still vandalism, and bullying. Calling someone a pig and god only knows what else that we cant see from this picture is not appropriate and not acceptable. Incase Mr. Campbell and anyone else who doesn't see a problem with this issue isn't aware, vandalism is an action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property. Look it up. I'm sure if you walked out to your car and saw someone tampered with it in any way, you would be furious. I know I sure would be. What would you do if your child came home with mean slurs written on the car? Would you still think it isn't a problem? Would you still call the concerned people addressing this issue "ignorant"? That's the problem in the world today, people just don't seem to have their heads on straight, and condoning the actions that these students made to another student's property is appalling. What is even more appalling is that in another article it states that the campus monitor is telling the students to mark up the cars. What is this world coming to? Whatever it is, its unfortunate. It would be nice to know that my kids will be protected from bullying as much as possible, but needless to say, I do not have that feeling after following this feed. Safe to say that the only ignorant person in this situation is an adult agreeing that a child deserves to be punished by being bullied.
Deborah Cretella February 26, 2014 at 03:45 PM
And let's not kid ourselves. This picture wasn't "staged" for the paper. It was a real incident that happened to a real student. I'm sure there are many others that have had this happen to them. We just get a glimpse of one. Nothing about this is fake, funny, or okay for that matter.
Albert Campbell February 26, 2014 at 11:09 PM
I respectfully disagree with you and feel no sympathy for the affected student. The junior chose to break a longstanding rule and he or she should be happy that his or her car is covered in water soluble paint and not occupying its rightful place at the Darien Police Station after being towed. If this happened to my son or daughter, I would tell him or her that I hope he or she has learned his or her lesson and will follow the rules in the future. If the "pain" associated with washing off the paint (a task that takes a few mere minutes) and owning up to his or her actions is too much for the victim, then he or she should not have broken the rule in the first place.
Albert Campbell February 26, 2014 at 11:12 PM
The DHS administration should be taking measures to better regulate illegal parking. That is the way to truly end these acts that you are so passionately appalled by. Instead of complaining about the car paint, you should focus your energy on urging DHS to get to the real root of the problem -- parking issues.
Deborah Cretella February 27, 2014 at 03:36 PM
I believe I said that I agree that it isn't right for a student to break the rules, but just as the junior received "consequences" (as you would put it) whoever vandalized the property should also face the consequences. No matter what the circumstances are, you do not touch or tamper someone else property. I don't think you understand the issue here. Aside from the car being vandalized, (yes with window paint that takes a minute to be washed off, we get it) it was WHAT was written on the car that is the problem. Also, that this student is obviously being bullied with the words written on that car and it was advertised in the school paper and website, and not to mention is STILL on the website. Anyone who has a brain would agree with me. That being said, I'm done on this topic. And for the record, to be ignorant is lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated. (direct definition) So think twice before you call a concerned parent "ignorant". Maybe, Mr. Campbell, you should educate yourself of what's right from wrong, and maybe just then you will get the bigger picture here.
Albert Campbell February 27, 2014 at 11:36 PM
Really Deborah. Calling the concerned parent ignorant was a perfectly valid statement. She said, "If the boy parked in the wrong spot why not ask administration to handle the situation". That statement is ignorant because she did not know that this problem has been raised to administration time and time again -- a prime example of "lacking knowledge or awareness in general" (direct definition). Also, I hate to knock you off your high horse, but you are not the end all be all judge of what is right and wrong. I am allowed to have my own opinion (whether you agree with it or not), and I think that the car painting is not a big deal. If a high school student cannot handle having his or her car painted in response to breaking a longstanding rule, then he or she should grow up. If the painted statements really are too much for the affected student to handle, then he or she should go back under their mother's wing and take a nap in the cradle. High school should serve as a microcosm of the real world. And in the real world, there won't be parents or administrators to shelter you from the consequences of your actions. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.
Albert Campbell February 27, 2014 at 11:41 PM
In MY opinion, students and parents in today's world are overly sensitive. A high school student being called a "pig" is not the end of the world. If that statement really hurts a 16-18 year old that severely, then he or she should go back to the elementary school playground where he or she belongs.
momindarien February 28, 2014 at 06:49 AM
I love our little sociopaths in the making! And guess what? Adults who are fully functioning do not go around begrudging parking spaces to others, labeling each other pigs, and defacing each other's property. I have a word you can look up: maturity.
Albert Campbell February 28, 2014 at 06:02 PM
Momindarien, why don't you step out of the bubble that is this town. Your precious child will eventually have to step into the real world -- one that is replete with people who engage in stealing, cheating, and other forms pernicious activity (in business, social circles, and all other realms). Also, those parking spaces are not "begrudged" from the juniors. It is illegal for them to park at DHS and they are lucky that their vehicles were not towed. Properly functioning adults refrain from breaking the law -- it looks like the affected student is a "sociopath in the making" as well.

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