High school refers to an institution which is responsible for providing secondary education, the stage of education before one reaches the legal status of adulthood. High school is generally the name given to such institutions in the United States; the following article outlines the secondary education system in the United States and characteristics of those institutions which are prominent in Daria.
Students: The majority of the United States divides pre-adult students into grades which are associated with the total years of student education - the grades range from First Grade (Grade 1) to Twelfth Grade (Grade 12). Students of most high schools are between Grade 9 and Grade 12. Students complete their secondary education usually either by completing the 12th grade or by failing to matriculate ("dropping out").
High school students are usually not called "ninth graders" or "twelfth graders" although these terms are occasionally used. Most of the time the following terms are used.
- Grade 9: freshman. Both male and female students are called freshmen.
- Grade 10: sophomore
- Grade 11: junior
- Grade 12: senior
In Season One of Daria, Daria enters Lawndale High School as a sophomore after transferring from Highland High School. Quinn begins at Lawndale High as a freshman and the series concludes with Daria's graduation at the end of her senior year.
The educational day: In most American high school the school day is divided into periods, each of which usually corresponds to a course of study taught by a teacher specializing in some study topic like English or history. Periods can range in time but the general length of a period is 45 minutes to an hour and there are between six and eight periods in a school day. It is rare that a student will spend more than an hour or two during the day with any given instructor.
Classes begin early in the morning and finish in the afternoon, taking place five days a week from Monday to Friday.
There is usually a brief class at the beginning of the day called homeroom in which students assemble for a brief period of time (10-15 minutes) to hear announcements and to take care of administrative matters which apply to the entire school. There is also a lunch period generally lasting from 30 minutes to an hour.
Neither Daria nor Quinn is seen in homeroom - it could be that their first period class is slightly longer than others and serves as a defacto homeroom. Daria and Jane (and other students) are sometimes seen eating in the school cafeteria.
Instruction: It is implied that most of the classes seen in Daria are traditional school classes. i. e. classes where the students listen to a lecture by the teacher for the majority of class time.
Instructors are generally addressed as "Mr. (name)" or "Ms. (name)". In Daria there are some exceptions, such as Mrs. Bennett. Even the administrator of Lawndale High is addressed as Ms. Li even though many principals are addressed as "Principal (name)" or "Vice-Principal (name)".
Certification of teachers takes place at the state level in the United States and not the national level. The standard for certification is generally a four-year degree in education with a specialty minor in the discipline one intends to teach. (Mr. O'Neill, for example, could have graduated from a four-year university with a major in education and a minor in English. Most states will recognize and accept teaching credits or certifications earned in another state.
Generally, teaching is not a high-status job in the United States. Some areas of the country have an acute shortage of teachers and will accept instructors provisionally if they have any college degree. Mr. DeMartino complains in some episodes of financial woe - we do not know if this is directly related to what he makes at Lawndale High, but given Ms. Li's history of financial misappropriation one should not be surprised if he isn't paid well.
Administration: Generally above the principal in authority is a superintendent, who supervises schooling at all grade levels for a county or city region. (Superintendent Cartwright is Ms. Li's superior.)) Most states at the county level (except for major metropolitan areas) have local school run by a Board of Education, whose members are sometimes elected.
Activities: Sports are very big at the high school level and most schools - even if they have a hundred students or less - are expected to field teams to compete against other schools. Football and basketball are the most popular sports, with girls' basketball, baseball and soccer (football) also popular at some schools. Despite the fashion choices of Kevin Thompson and Brittany Taylor in Daria, most schools do not expect their athletes to wear their uniforms in class.
There are generally student clubs that meet at high school whose membership is open to all interested students. (It is unknown if the Fashion Club is an officially-sponsored Lawndale club.) These clubs generally have a faculty member as a sponsor.
Transportation: Depending on distance, students may either walk to school or take a state-operated school bus to school. The driving age in the United States is sixteen, and depending on the school's willingness to supply parking some students drive to school.
The school year': The school year generally begins in late August or early September. It breaks at December for a Christmas break of 1-2 weeks time and begins again in January. There may or may not be a week-long Spring Break in March. The end of the school year generally takes place in May or early June, and there is generally no school during the months of June, July and August.