Homecoming Bonfire Update

In advance of this weekend’s homecoming, the District recently received some inquiries as to why a Homecoming Bonfire was not included in this year’s activities. While at one time these events were common among high schools throughout Suffolk County, this is no longer true for many reasons and there were many factors the District considered when making the decision to eliminate the event this year.

First and foremost was our concern for students’ safety and security. When parents drop their children off at the Bonfire, there is an assumption that the event provides an environment that is both safe and secure. In reality, the Bonfire event is one that can create a potentially dangerous situation.

It is attended mainly by younger students who gravitate to the areas of the “Bowl” where there is a cover of darkness. There is no record of the students who attend. There is no accounting for students who choose to leave the school grounds on their own. There have been adults and other students attending the Bonfire or parked in the parking area who have no affiliation with the school or district.  The school employees and security personnel at the Bonfire are challenged to manage and control those who attend. This concern has been heightened because of the world in which we live ­ – one challenged by the ongoing potential for school violence. Concerns have also been expressed about having a huge fire on school grounds with only a plastic caution tape between the fire and those who attend.

Furthermore, our high school’s Bonfire has been sparsely attended in recent years.  Very few high school students attend the event. The varsity football team is required to attend to be introduced, which is the only planned activity during the evening besides the lighting and extinguishing of the Bonfire. This pales in comparison to the Pep Rally, which is held earlier toward the end of the school day, during which all teams are introduced to all students in grades 6-12. Student-Athletes are warmly greeted and encouraged by all of their secondary schoolmates during that event and a sense of school spirit is fostered.

To be clear, the choice to not hold this event is a District decision. The Port Jefferson Fire Department has been and continues to be very willing to assist the District in conducting the Bonfire and we are very appreciative of their partnership.

We understand that there are some parents and students who are disappointed by this decision.  If there is to be an evening Homecoming event in the future, greater planning for the attendance and active participation of our students in enjoyable, safe, and engaging activities with appropriate supervision is recommended.