A student run Senior Assassins game that was to take place outside of school was shut down by administration in the latter months of March after concerns about student safety.
The shutdown came after a Willowbrook student injured another student on school grounds when a student shot the injured student with a frozen orbee. While other high schools in the area are still hosting similar games, both AT and Willowbrook have theirs in jeopardy. Police were involved and seniors were even threatened with the consequence of being unable to participate in graduation.
Senior Assassins is a game in which students who wish to participate pay an entry fee and are later assigned a target, which is another student in the game. The student is tasked with tracking down and finding their target, and then shooting them with a water gun, all while being hunted themselves by the person they were assigned to.
A heavy list of rules in place sought to ensure that the game would not find itself being played anywhere on AT campus, nor in other off limits places, such as churches and work sites.
The cancellation, which was negligent in particular to the work of one student who had taken on the task of setting the game up, left many of the seniors who were hoping to participate outraged at administration.
“I was like why?” said senior Mateo Gomez, who was planning to participate in the game before it shut down. “We’re all annoyed by the things that he [administration] has been doing because it’s not fair.”
Administration condemned the game, saying that they wanted to ensure students did not participate in what they considered to be a dangerous event that could jeopardize student safety.
“We are aware of a current TikTok trend called the “Orbeez challenge, as well as a “Senior Assassin” challenge, that encourages students to use airsoft-type guns to shoot gel beads that expand in water at individuals,” said District 88 Superintendent Dr. Jean Barabanente in a statement to AT parents. “This trend is extremely dangerous and highly inappropriate. The possession and/or use of any gun, including look-alike items and toys, is never permitted on campus and can create an immediate emergency situation,” she added.
However , students maintained that the game did not involve the use of these airsoft beads, called orbeez, or any toys besides plastic squirt guns filled with water. They also denied the idea that the actions of the game would take place on school grounds.
“The first rule, the main rule, is that it’s not allowed in school,” said Gomez.
“And that’s water guns only,” added senior Madelyn Ford, who also intended to participate in the game. “I think they are just concerned with water guns because ‘gun’ is in the name. The association is why they’re really worried about it but it’s just water guns.”
Ford felt that the concerns she had described were inappropriate to hold about high school seniors.
“Little kids use water guns, so not being able to trust high school seniors with water guns is just a little disappointing as a senior,” she said.
Administration was plagued with complaints about the event’s dissociation from school. Principal Jack Andrews said that the event’s social media presence gave the school no option but to put a stop to it.
“Someone said to me ‘well, if we’re shooting squirt guns at each other in someone’s backyard…’,” said Andrews. “[In that case,] you’re shooting squirt guns in the backyard, you know what I mean. It’s not something that is blasted on social media for the entire world to see. With the social media and the tie to Addison Trail though, we can message regarding not condoning this not saying this is something we support,” he said.
Andrews did not necessarily answer whether administration was allowed to withhold diplomas from students for a game outside of school. He did say that participating in graduation was a privilege that could be lost should rules be violated on school grounds.
“What was the one at Willowbrook? There was a rule that it can’t be on campus or inside school and then the student brought it on school grounds,” said Andrews, referencing the original incident in which a Willowbrook student injured another student on school grounds as a part of the game. “Participating in graduation is a privilege and if there is an act that is a disruption to the school day and certain things, that is always considered.But yes, if there are disruptions in the school day or different things that happen, that is always a part of our conversations,” he said.
Other schools in the area are still holding their games. AT, however, refunded the money for all participants.
Gomez said that the money raised was set to go to good use.
“My argument was that the 500 dollars that we created with this game, someone was gonna win that and that was gonna be a scholarship. That goes to your tuition,” he said. “We had to fill out a google form, we had to pay, we had to do all these things. It’s a legit game, it’s a scholarship.”
Gomez expressed frustration in the discrepancy between AT and other schools.
“It’s not fair. Hinsdale South is doing it. Lake park is doing it. Other schools are doing it and because they’re scared they wont let us do stuff,” he said.
He added that the shutdown was unfair to those who had worked so hard to set up the event, one of which was even scared after supposedly being taken out of class by the police to discuss the situation.
“I was debating having a meeting and making him frustrated so he can see that every single leader and everyone who has made all these things possible this year is mad,” said Gomez.
Some students, like Ford, said they could understand the administration’s decision despite being against it overall.
“I understand the safety concern of it from a school ascpct and an administration aspect but I think that if students were to understand that this kind of activity is to be kept outside of school and nobody brought any water guns to school or anything like that then it really shouldn’t be an issue,” she said.
Gomez and Ford both lamented the blow to their senior year.
“Everybody was looking forward to this and so much effort was put into it just to see it shut down with a simple snap of the fingers,” said Ford. “Looking back on it’s like a spark of senior year that we’re not gonna be able to say that we participated in.”
AT is expected to send out another round of notice regarding the game if more concerns are uncovered from a safety standpoint. Despite acceptance of the inevitability of the game’s end, many seniors felt that an effort to do the game discretely would not be a good idea.
“We have a lot to lose,” said Gomez.
“We do have a lot to lose,” agreed Ford. “This is our senior year. We have already lost enough.”