Every year, Deerfield holds the “Sadie’s” dance to celebrate Halloween. For this dance, proctors find 11th and 12th grade “dates” of the opposite gender for the 9th and 10th graders on their hall. The 11th and 12th graders choose a costume theme and coordinate with their date via the date’s proctor, allowing the 11th or 12th grader to remain anonymous until the night of the dance.
For the past few years, there has been a discussion of aspects of Sadie’s that the community finds disconcerting. Ms. Amie Creagh, Assistant Head of School for Student Life, explained, “In the last 12 months, the number of voices and the volume of their concerns have increased.”
Given the complaints from parents and students alike about the dance’s dynamic, Ms. Creagh stated, “We felt like some adjustments need to be made… I would have felt irresponsible not to respond to these concerns.”
One of many concerns that has been brought up is the power dynamic between the 11th or 12th grader and their 9th or 10th grade date. Ms. Creagh said, “As a school, it sends a mixed message to send a post-graduate boy and a 9th grade girl on a ‘date.’” Ms. Creagh also spoke about inappropriate costumes, such as a bunny and a hunter, that only contribute to this “power imbalance.”
She also spoke to “the heteronormative nature of the dance [that] is exclusive to gay and lesbian members of the community,” as every boy is paired with a girl. Finally, she addressed the fact that some upperclassmen aren’t asked to be on halls, causing a “‘who’s hot and who’s not’ arrangement.”
Because of the prevalence of these issues, the Student Life office sought to work with proctors to find a solution that “wouldn’t blow up the dance completely, but would thoughtfully address the concerns that have come up,” Ms. Creagh said.
During the meeting between proctors and the Student Life office, a few proposals were put forward to address some of these concerns. Some proposed ideas included continuing a dialogue between proctors and their proctees to reinforce the idea that the pairs are not “dates,” and to have 9th and 10th grade halls walk over together to meet their dates at the dance.
Shai Lineberry ’17, a 9th grade proctor on Johnson I, addressed the importance of speaking with proctees about the language used in the context of “dates.” She said, “We talked about framing it right with your proctees through having the right dialogue to desexualize the whole thing.” Lineberry added that using a word like “partner” or “pair” could lessen the pressure associated with the word “date.”
Cynthia Lugo ’20 spoke about how 9th grade girls anticipated the dance: “I wasn’t really nervous, but a lot of the girls on my hall were.” She also expressed the disconnect between the expectation of a date versus the typical reality: “We said hello, what our name is, where we’re from, and that was it. When we got to the dance, we just split up.”
Other students appreciated the opportunity to meet students in different grades. Juliet Perry ’19 said, “I liked…how it integrates the upperclassmen and underclassmen.”
Logan Knight ’17 hopes to see people of different grades interact in a more normalized context. “I really like the idea of having an upperclassmen hall of the opposite gender be paired with an underclassmen hall and have feeds throughout the year, and have Sadie’s just be an aspect of that relationship.”
Ms. Creagh and the rest of the Deerfield administration hope to maintain the tradition of a Halloween dance. However, Ms. Creagh asserted, “Ultimately, [Sadie’s] has been making lots and lots of kids uncomfortable.” As a result, the administration is working with student leaders such as the proctors and the Student Planning Committee to make Sadies more inclusive in years to come.