Senior Assassin: Innocent Fun or Dangerous Tradition?

Two seniors after an encounter in the Senior Assassin game.

Two seniors after an encounter in the Senior Assassin game.

It’s Thursday night and an RMHS senior is driving around town with friends. They notice someone has been trailing behind them for the last 20 minutes and realize it’s one of the assassins–one of their RMHS classmates–trying to “eliminate” them. They reach a dead end street and pull into someone’s driveway to turn around, but are blocked in by the other car. As they yell at the other car to move, another car shows up. The person in this third car is the assassin of someone in the second car. The car that just showed up tries to back out, but ends up scraping the original senior’s car, which will cost a lot to repair. 

All of these students are (or were) playing Senior Assassin.

Senior Assassin has been played at RMHS since about 2014. No one knows the true start date of the senior tradition, but many teachers say it started around 2014. Some teachers like Mr. Morrissey, history teacher at RMHS, think the game started “around 2016 or 17. But I don’t really know.”

Senior Assassin (SA) is when a bunch of seniors pool money together for the last one standing to win it all. Players can use any form of water to eliminate a target, like a water balloon or a water bottle, but most just use a plastic water gun. After being assigned a target, their assassin has three days to eliminate them. Every player must contribute $10 for a chance at the $1000 pot. This year, around 160 seniors were playing the game at some point.

It’s just for fun. But I definitely do recognize that it can be kind of dangerous…

— Riley Glynn ('23)

While there are some rules, like the fact that no one is allowed to eliminate anyone on school grounds from 7 AM – 4 PM, cars have to be turned off to eliminate someone, and there is no entering people’s workplaces or homes unless they get permission from family members, the game has continued to spark controversy every year it has been played.




Senior Assassin has led to multiple debates and controversies, partly due to its name. Many school faculty and staff say that the name Senior “Assassin is very inappropriate, in light of recent school shootings across America. RMHS principal Mr. Tracey wrote in an email that the title “is probably a little tone deaf to the global or national issues around mass shootings and gun violence.” School Resource Officer Brian Lewis used the same words: “The game itself was very tone deaf to what’s going on nationwide with all the shootings.”

Students that played SA this year like Riley Glynn (‘23) think, “It’s just for fun. But I definitely do recognize that it can be kind of dangerous, especially in the current time.” Although the game is not affiliated with RMHS or Reading Public Schools and is not played at RMHS during school hours, many students think SA is just harmless fun but still recognize the controversy because “America right now is in an area where shootings in schools are on people’s minds,” said Mr. Morrissey. 

Mr. Tracey noted that other towns that play the game have had serious scares with students holding weapons that looked real. In one town, he sayid,  “They had an incident where [the police] received a call that a student was walking in the parking lot with an AR-15. Police showed up with six or seven cruisers and guns drawn. The poor kid had to go down on his belly. You know, all he had was a water gun. In Concord there was something very similar.  The Concord principal ended up having to send out an email to the parents, saying before someone gets hurt or there’s a tragedy, let’s try something else for tradition.” Mr. Tracey said, “I also see that it’s a fun activity that students are playing outside of school and I support that,” and he hasn’t called for the game to be shut down, but he notes that “assassinating classmates” is not ok in this day and age.

The game itself was very tone deaf to what’s going on nationwide with all the shootings.

— Officer Lewis

In addition to the name and use of toy weapons, community members and school employees have also complained about the questionable and potentially dangerous decisions students make while playing the game. In addition to causing damage to a student’s car (mentioned above), this year, students have made use of new technology like GPS trackers in order to eliminate their targets. While in the real world, doing so without someone’s knowledge can even constitute stalking, students think that if they sign up for the game, they agree to these intrusions. Glynn says that she was targeted by a student who “put an Apple Air Tag in my car in order to track me.” She said, “If I didn’t know who the person was, I would definitely think it’s really scary. But it ended up just being kind of fun.” 

The Reading police have been involved in several incidents this year, and have seen even more serious incidents in the past involving students “driving recklessly” and “trespassing”. Officer Lewis said, “A few years ago, someone was chasing someone in their car on a weekend. They actually drove across someone’s front yard and knocked a plant over while it was a kid’s birthday party at a nearby house.” While no one was hurt, and the students were only “spoken to,” it could have been worse. Officer Lewis said that the police department has some “frustration with officers being dispatched to calls like this because people are trespassing on other people’s yards or they drive recklessly to try to get a target” because they “have to dispatch resources” that could be used for actual emergencies. 

Sachin Patel (‘23) who was this year’s game organizer, said there were not too many problems this year other than “a couple of issues” when he had to spend “an hour on the phone working through [the problem]”.

Future of the Game

For all of these reasons, the future of Senior Assassin is up in the air. One change that will most likely occur is changing the name, and perhaps the way the game is played with fake guns.

But, Patel said that even if there are changes, he hopes the tradition continues. 

“It’s just seniors trying to have fun as their year closes out. It’s not meant to be harmful in any way. It’s meant to be a fun game,” said Patel.