Senior Game Assassin Canceled in Wake of Parkland Shooting

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Senior Game Assassin Canceled in Wake of Parkland Shooting

Sneha Dey

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Assassin organizer Matt Greenberg announced the long-anticipated game would be cancelled for the first time since it emerged eight years ago. This comes after SHS principal Kenneth Bonamo held a senior assembly, where he pled with students to reconsider the effects of the game in a post-Parkland world.

Assassin, also known as Marker Tag, is a senior game where players try to eliminate each other using markers. A participant can eliminate or “kill” his assigned opponent by marking their skin. To avoid an elimination, participating students often dress in scarves, gloves, and extra layers. To enter, seniors gave $15 to 2018 organizers Greenberg, Michael Berkowitz and Steven Wetchler. This year’s game was scheduled to begin this Thursday.

Bonamo called the senior assembly on Monday, just two days in advance, to discuss “senior activities in light of recent concerns about school safety.” At the assembly, he recognized the tradition and sense of senior privilege that came with Assassin but also noted the increase in fear in the school building. To have Assassin, he concluded, would be a direct contradiction to the message students are trying to send with the SHS March 14th walkout. He claimed he would not cancel the game, but was simply recommending seniors to do so.

Berkowitz, Greenberg, and Wetchler, created a poll to see how participants wanted to proceed. An overwhelming majority voted to continue as is. But when Greenberg, Berkowitz, and Wetchler officially announced the game would continue, they faced a backlash.

Ultimately, the decision that drove the organizers to cancel was the email Bonamo sent out to parents, which portrayed Assassin in a negative way and suggested that holding the contest was insensitive.  “We’re just as disappointed as you guys but the decision was essentially out of our hands and made explicitly clear by faculty and many parents,” wrote Berkowitz to participants.

Even preceding its cancellation, this year’s seniors have experienced difficulties getting the game together. There had been a lot of confusion over who the organizers would be. Even after an election was held to select the organizers, fewer than half of seniors signed up.

High schools in Chicago have been experiencing the same pressure to shut down the nationally played game. It is unclear whether Assassin is canceled for this year or permanently.

Matt Greenberg’s statement in the Facebook group is as written below

In response to overwhelming dissent from parents and Scarsdale High School faculty, we have decided to cancel Assassin this year.

Although I believe that participation in Assassin does not in the slightest suggest a lack of sympathy for recent victims of school shootings and see a huge distinction between marker tag and mass gun violence, I understand that Assassin is unsettling for SHS teachers and students, especially in the current climate. It would not be right for the minority of our senior class (less than half of our class was signed up to participate in Assassin) to play a game that subjects the majority to something that could be conceived as alarming or violent.

I would like to apologize to the many seniors who were signed up to play and voted to adhere to that decision on our Facebook poll even after today’s speech from Principal Bonamo. Believe me — I am as disappointed as you all are that we are not able to enjoy the senior tradition we watched grades above us partake in throughout our first three years at the high school.

If you would like a $15 refund, contact myself, Steven Wetchler, or Michael Berkowitz. However, if you would like to donate your money, we will be donating whatever money is not claimed to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the hopes that our relatively small contribution may help others, especially troubled teens, to resolve their struggles with mental illness without violence.

If any senior would like to take up the reigns and facilitate “Marker Tag” themselves, feel free to do so.