Category: News

Changing the Code: Dress Code Changes Allow Students to Have More Freedom of Expression

By: Jenna Kreh

Staff Writer

New this year at Hammond, the dress code has been altered to require only what many would call the bare minimum, allowing students to wear almost anything they would like. Hats and hoods are now permitted, as well as any size straps on shirts and tank tops (spaghetti straps) or no straps at all (sleeveless). This new dress code is beneficial to students, as it allows for a more personal self expression and less concerns for both students and staff as to what is acceptable to be worn in the school environment.

The new dress code asks only that students wear a shirt, pants, and shoes that cover their chest, midriff, pelvic/groin area, and buttocks. This change gives students much more freedom, and it takes the pressure off of students to think about whether their outfit is school-approved. It also allows the schools’ staff to focus on other matters in the school, since less students will need to be sent home or spoken to about their clothing.

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Pizza Wars Jumpstarts Spirit Week

Sarah Meklir 

Staff Writer

This year, Pizza Wars marked the official start to Hammond’s 2019-20 Spirit Week. The four classes competed to see who could eat the most pizzas by the end of the night. After a hard-fought battle—and a whole lot of pizza consumed—the final tally was as follows: 

First Place: 2020

Second Place: 2022

Third Place: 2021

Fourth Place: 2023

Seniors in the class of 2020 prevailed by a large margin. After taking an early lead, they sustained that initial momentum throughout the competition. 29 seniors independently devoured entire pies and made it onto the “Bragging Board.” Three students went above and beyond the call of duty, eating two 8-slice pies each. 

Isaiah Olujide, one of those three, predicted the win for his class. “Of course the seniors are gonna end up on top. That’s not even a question, that’s for sure.” This sentiment was shared by Malik Shuaib, fellow senior and dual-pie consumer. “2020 is [going to win], obviously. We’re winning right now, and we’re gonna keep winning. That’s the motto for this year.” 

Across the competition, most people with their names on the “Bragging Board” shared two thoughts. First, humans aren’t designed to eat full pizzas in one sitting:

“[I ate] An entire pizza. I’m not feeling good. Not feeling good at all.” -Sam Van Bemmel (2022)

“I ate a whole pizza, and then almost a second. [I feel] dead inside.” -Ali Ahmed (2022)

“I ate a whole box. Yeah, I’m hurting right now.” -Riley Woodward (2023)

But the upperclassmen felt the sacrifice was worth it for the good of their class:

“I ate two whole boxes of cheese pizza. I feel horrible. But I also feel great because it’s a point scored for my class.” -Malik Shauib (2020) 

“I ate one whole pizza. Cheese. It felt… empowering.” -Skylar Shaffer (2021)

“I ate 16 slices, two boxes. I’m feeling terrible, but… it’s worth it.” -Isaiah Olujide (2020)

The class of 2022 won second place in an upset over 2021. “It was neck and neck between the sophomores and juniors,” explained Ms. Pfanstiel, who coordinated the event. 

Mr. Livieratos expressed his hope for the sophomores to extend their upward trajectory into Spirit Week. “These sophomores are very organized and what they got done on their first day of spirit week was super impressive. I think it’s going to be an amazing competition. The freshmen are great this year, and as always, the juniors and seniors are gonna do awesome. It’s anyone’s game, so I’m excited to see who ends up on top.” 

In the end, however, Mr. Livieratos remained dedicated to the seniors. “The seniors will dominate…. Personally, I ate one pizza. It went to the senior class.” His airtight reasoning? “Because.” He eventually elaborated with, “Because I love them.” 

Malik Shauib commented on this as well, explaining the teacher’s motives. “He actually ate a pizza for our class. We didn’t do anything, he just loves our class. Yeah.” Both opted not to respond to claims of bribery. 

Now that Spirit Week’s begun, students can look forward to six days of intense competition and inexorable amounts of Hammond spirit. When asked about what makes Hammond’s Spirit Week so special, Vice Principal Mr. DiFato replied, “Literally everyone participates. Some schools, they do wacky-tacky day and you have maybe 50% participation… But here, you get pointed out if you don’t dress up. Everybody participates every day, and they go all-out. The seniors take the time to tell the freshmen what to expect so they know to go all-out. And that’s unique.” 

Students agreed. According to senior Isaiah Olujide, “Spirit Week is a time where we can all come together and participate in one holistic activity we all bond over.” Junior Skylar Shaffer added, “We pave the way for every other Howard County spirit week. No other school can compare to us. We are the mother of spirit week in Howard county.” 

 

2019 Brings Positive Change and Student Collaboration to Hammond High School

By: Isabel Berry and Sarah Meklir

Staff Writers

The Student Government Association (SGA) and Student Leadership Cadre (SLC) will be collaborating this school year to improve student life at Hammond. The first joint Student Government Association and Student Leadership Cadre meeting took place during Beartime in the second week of school. At this meeting the two groups discussed their plans for the year. 

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Photo Credit: Avery Moe

When asked about the meeting, assistant principal, Mr. DiFato expressed his hopes for the two organizations. “I feel like it went well; we asked Dr. DiPaula to come in and speak to our student leaders about the importance of student voice. And he really reiterated that it’s their school, and we are here to help them do whatever they want to accomplish.” At the meeting, students shared their ideas for the upcoming school year with the intention of boosting spirit and encouraging communication between the students and staff.

Out of many proposed ideas, one involved implementing a new year-long extension of spirit week called “King of the Den.” Similar to the “House Cup” from the Harry Potter universe, each month there will be dress-up days and events to boost morale. Participating in these events will give each class the opportunity to earn points, which will be counted up at the end of the year. The winning class will receive a prize. 

One of the most important and well-known aspects of student life at Hammond is our Spirit Week. The President of Student Government, Malik Shuiab, expanded on a few ideas they had discussed, focusing on introducing the freshmen to Hammond’s famous Spirit Week and emphasizing its importance. “For spirit week this year, as I’m sure some of you guys have heard already, it’s going to be a bit different… SGA members are going to walk around to all of the 9th grade english classes and tell them what it means to be at Hammond, what it means to be in Hammond’s Spirit Week.” This approach would grant the underclassmen a smoother transition into all of Hammond’s traditions.

In addition to indoctrinating them into our culture, some feel Student Government and the Student Leadership Cadre should work towards improving programs that support both students’ voices and their mental health. Shuiab, a senior, supports this goal. “SGA means a lot to me because I care a lot about the school, and … I can [state] my opinion and have my voice be heard in decision making, in things that I wasn’t necessarily involved in freshman or sophomore year, and it’s really important to me. SLC is also really important as they give students a reason to believe their voice actually matters.” 

This new approach is also supported by junior Camryn Johnson. Johnson, who is both varsity soccer captain and 2021 Class President, is also involved with SGA and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Johnson spoke about the challenges that students face at the start of a new school year, “I think there’s a little bit of a mental health issue across the juniors and seniors. As it gets to be a little bit more difficult [workload-wise], as well as for the underclassmen because starting a new school is difficult.” She suggested involving students, administration, and student services in open meetings where students could share, “…the best ways that we can manage stress and how they could help us.” This could greatly assist students and could help take Hammond to the next level when it comes to mental health care for the student body. 

As classes ramp up and students adjust to new responsibilities, it is good to see groups like Student Government Association and the Student Leadership Cadre working together to provide a safe, supportive environment where students can learn to work positively and effectively with staff members. Dr. DiPaula, who presented at the first meeting, described his aspirations for the alliance between the two groups. “The premise behind this is for students to take the lead, and for the staff, adults, and principal to get them to do what it is that they want to do… The first meeting was good, but it was a lot of me talking, and I think in the future, it’s going to be more of the students talking.” They will be working together to create positive change. This year, their collaboration will benefit not only the student body, but the Hammond community as a whole.

Creating a Safe Space for Everyone: Hammond’s New All-Gender Restroom

By Anna Taché

Editorials Editor

It’s a new year, and Hammond has undergone lots of changes. A large freshman class, new sports coaches, and more crowding in hallways. Hammond recently introduced another change that has piqued the attention of many: a new gender-neutral bathroom. Hammond’s new “all-gender” restroom, which now replaces the former boys’ bathroom situated near Mrs. Osborne’s room, has already created a bit of controversy within the time that school has been in session. Some people believe that a gender-neutral restroom could cause issues with both boys and girls using the bathroom at the same time, while others believe that it is a necessary accommodation for nonbinary and trans students. 

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Photo Courtesy of The Bear Press

The gender-neutral restroom was originally created for nonbinary and trans students who don’t feel comfortable using bathrooms for a gender they don’t identify with. 

But to some students, that meaning has become misconstrued. Some students feel uncomfortable using that restroom, due to the fact that different genders can use the bathroom at the same time. “I think that I wouldn’t be comfortable using the bathroom because both boys and girls can use it,” says Junior Han Le. “One of my family members here at school used it, and they said it was bad.” 

Although some students aren’t very comfortable with the gender-neutral bathroom, others are very supportive of the bathroom, like Junior Iman Tura. “We have a lot of nonbinary and non-gender conforming students that go to Hammond that should have access to a bathroom that they feel comfortable using.” Another supporter of the all-gender restroom is Senior Liya Kebede. “I feel that it’ll have a positive impact on those who have been waiting for a bathroom like this, or even a space like this, where they can feel safe, and that they don’t have to double-think about which bathroom they’re quote-unquote ‘supposed’ to use,” says Kebede. Although she is supportive of the bathroom, she still worries about the treatment and use of the bathroom, stating that she “think[s]that there are some people at Hammond who may take advantage of the fact that it’s an all-gender restroom.”

Overall, many students at Hammond are supportive of the new all-gender restroom, but they still have their worries. In order for the bathroom to be used in the way that it was originally intended to be, it should be publicized more as a restroom where nonbinary and trans people can feel safe. 

Students Angered by New Extra Credit Policy

By: Claire O’Rourke and Uma Ribeiro

Staff Writer

Revised for this 2019-2020 school, policy 8020.III.6 states: “Extra credit is not offered in Grades 6-12. However, students may be provided with opportunities to recover credit and demonstrate mastery through other relevant coursework. Opportunities should be given to students who are not passing whenever possible.”

The new extra credit policy was implemented this school year, stating that no students in middle school and up can receive extra assignments to boost their grades. The committee working on revising the HCPSS policies offered reasoning for this change in that students in the past had been skipping papers or other big projects banking on the less arduous extra credit opportunities to make up for their grades. 

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An Example of an Extra Credit Assignment: Hester Prynne by Terra O’Rourke

The new policy brings both positives and negatives to the table, as students are now forced to complete larger and more in-depth assignments that are part of the core curriculum rather than skipping them and waiting for the easier extra credit work. 

Skipping those larger assignments take away the students’ ability to truly learn needed academic skills, such as those acquired when writing a research paper or lab report. However, the policy overall can mostly be seen as a disadvantage to students, especially to those in high school, as with full schedules packed with extracurricular activities, sports practice, and homework, honor-roll students are bound to miss or not perform well on a few assignments.

Teachers are also disadvantaged by this policy. Despite having effective teaching abilities, some students might not be achieving as high a grade in a class or two due to the new policy and overpacked, stressful schedules. Teachers also have to find new ways to give students “…opportunities to recover credit and demonstrate mastery through other relevant coursework” which can take away time from preparing main assignments and lessons. 

Math teacher Mr. Dicus expressed that while it makes sense not to give students hundred-point extra credit assignments for simple tasks, it does not make sense to prevent students from gaining a few extra points through extra assignments. “I agree that students shouldn’t be able to earn one-hunded fifty percent on something because [you cannot] demonstrate learning more than one-hundred percent of what you were supposed to learn. However, I do believe [teachers] should find ways for students to do enrichment [assignments] and earn credit when [needed].”

Hammond students have expressed their frustration at this new and sudden policy.  

Freshman Safi Hampton thinks the new policy inconveniences students. “[Extra credit] really helps [students] out at the end of the quarter and with midterms when you sometimes need just a couple more points, and now we can’t get those extra points and that kind of sucks. […] Since we have to be on top of stuff, and I guess we should be on top of everything anyway, now we really need to be on top of everything. Since there’s no way to get extra points now we have to get full points on every one of those assignments or else there’s no way of making it up.”

One junior commented, “I don’t like [the new policy] because [extra credit] helps boost grades sometimes. You used to be able to do extra work if you did bad on a big test, and now you can’t do that…If you’re not a good test taker, or if you just didn’t do well on a test then you no longer have a way to boost your grade…they should get rid of this policy.”

Meanwhile, sophomore Kelly Kujawa stated, “I think [the new extra credit policy] is an excessive attempt to control what [grade] people are able to get. I understand why they do it, however, it’s limiting those kids who really need it and it’s not giving them the opportunity to really strive for a good grade when they want it and are motivated to do it. When [students] are motivated to [change their grades for the better], they will take on the extra credit and that’s why I feel like it’s something that should be allowed to bump up their grade because they’re willing to put in that extra time and extra effort to get that extra good grade.” 

It is no secret that the American public school system does not cater to individual learning styles. While one student might ace tests and quizzes but not have the best work ethic, others might never miss homework assignments but be poor test-takers. Extra credit aided in helping all students, no matter their strong suits, and now that has been taken away. 

The lack of extra credit within Howard County this year is only making it harder for students to explore their individuality, as they will be even more concerned about grades. The worry over grades only lessens student creativity and curiosity.

Hammond Wins 2019 Sportsmanship Cup

By: Claire O’Rourke and Uma Ribeiro 

Features and Co-News Editor

Hammond has received the HCPSS Sportsmanship Cup for the fourth time, truly demonstrating the positive teamwork Hammond’s sports teams reflect on a daily basis. With encouraging coaches and helpful teammates, it is no surprise that Hammond has been the recipient of this award four times in the past five years among all the other high schools within the county. Dr. DiPaula and Mr. Lerner were presented with the award by the HCPSS Board of Education.

Mr. Lerner, Hammond’s athletic director, commented on winning the award, saying “The award is a big deal. It’s the only athletic award that is recognized by the Board of Education. We have great kids and our coaches really enjoy what they do. One of the things [our coaches] try and do in addition to teaching the kids the sport is teaching them the right way to win and the right way to lose: to win with class and lose with class. We’re also always hospitable to our opponents and when we are at away facilities we try and leave them better than we found them. Our kids and coaches are doing the right thing, and that’s really why we win the award so often.”

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Sportsmanship at Hammond is seen everywhere, he continued. “You see [sportsmanship] all over the place. In athletic contests, like, [for instance], in wrestling contests, after [a wrestler] pins a kid, we might help them off the mat, and our kids don’t gloat if we win, and they don’t pout if they lose. Hammond is so great because we are so diverse and people really get along well. It’s pretty incredible to see, so not only is [sportsmanship demonstrated] within our athletics program, but it is in our whole school as well.”

The Sportsmanship Cup is not only impactful to our directors here at Hammond, but also holds meaning for many of the individual athletes.

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District V Athletic Director of the Year: Coach Mike Lerner

Taylor Liguori

Sports Editor

Coach Mike Lerner has won the award for District V Athletic Director for the 2018-2019 school Year, and students definitely think it was well-deserved!  He cares more about his athletes and players than most people could ever hope for. His caring yet witty personality is just one of the things that makes him loved by so many.  W!

Coach Lerner has impacted the lives of so many and his athletes have nothing but respect for him and his genuine caring attitude towards them, whether it be on the court, on the field, or in the classroom. Senior Jordan Davis knows how deserving Coach Lerner is of this award saying, “He truly cares about his athletes. He is one of the kindest people I have ever met and has helped me throughout my athletic career.” Being a hardworking father and husband, Lerner still puts all he has into his job and it truly shows. Coach Lerner shows to his athletes that they are always the priority and he makes it known that he is always in their corner.

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