Wilton High School

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Wilton High School Emblem
Wilton High School
Magnet School No
School District Wilton Public Schools
School Colors Blue and White
Coeducational Yes
Year Opened September 1971
Charter School No
Grade Levels 9-12
School type Public
Principal Robert O'Donnell
Year-round schedule No
Enrollment 1216
Sports Teams The Warriors
Mascot Warrior
Homepage http://www.wiltonps.org/wilton-high-school

Wilton High School is a public high school in Wilton, Connecticut, USA, considered "one of Connecticut’s top performers" in various measures of school success in 2007,[1] including scores on standardized mathematics and reading tests.[2] In 2016, U.S. News and World Report ranked Wilton as the 7th best public high school in Connecticut and 386th in the United States.[3]

The school's present, permanent location did not open until 1971. Since then the school has experienced rapid population growth. From the height of the 1970s to 2006, the student body grew 7.5 times. In fall 2001, a major multimillion-dollar construction project was completed, significantly expanding the square footage of the school.[citation needed] Growth from 2001 to 2006 increased 29 percent.[4]

The school's current principal is Robert O'Donnell, who in 2011 replaced long-time-principal Timothy H. Canty, himself a Wilton graduate. Canty was involved in several high-profile free speech disputes with students before transferring to the Board of Education for two years and then announcing his departure from the school district in 2013.[1][5][6]


The demographics of the school are unusual for Connecticut. Historically, compared to other high schools in the state, the student body of Wilton High School has been more affluent and substantially less diverse:

Ethnicity/economic status indicator.[4] Year Wilton Similar
Eligible for free/reduced price meals 2005-06 0.9% 1.0% 22.4%
Eligible for free/reduced price meals 2002-03 0.6% n/a 17.6%
Juniors, Seniors working 16+ hrs./week 2005-06 n/a 6.5% 21.7
Juniors, Seniors working 16+ hrs./week 2000-01 15.8% n/a 31.7
K-12 students, non-English home language 2005-06 4.7% 2.7% 11.4
White 2004-05 92.7% 67%[7]
Hispanic 2004-05 1.9% 15%[7]
African American 2004-05 1.3% 14%[7]
Asian American 2004-05 4.0% 3%[7]
American Indian 2004-05 0.1% >1%[7]

The most recent statistics published by the state for the student population of the district as a whole shows that the population characteristics have not substantially changed:[8]

Population group Count District %-age
of Total
State %-age
of Total
Eligible for free/
reduced price meals
53 1.3% 38%
English learners 17 0.4% 6.4%
White 3,491 83.7% 55.9%
Hispanic or Latino 138 3.3% 23.0%
Black or African American 43 1.0% 12.8%
Asian 380 9.1% 4.9%
American Indian
or Alaskan Native
* * 0.2%

History of secondary education in town[edit]

Before 1959[edit]

Even though Wilton became an independent town in 1802, separating from Norwalk,[9] its education system was highly unorganized until the late 1950s.

In the early and mid-20th century, Wilton students went to high schools in Westport, New Canaan, Norwalk (until 1930), Danbury and Ridgefield. Since the schools in these communities were becoming overcrowded with population growth, a regional high school for Wilton was proposed in 1935 but was vetoed by the state governor. In the following year, Wilton, Weston and Redding began a joint study, which rejected the idea again. Instead, the committee recommended that Wilton wait for population to increase enough to support a high school, and in the meantime buy enough land for the school. In 1940, a town meeting approved the purchase of the Harbs Farm property, a 65-acre (260,000 m2) tract near the intersection of School and Danbury Roads. In 1944, a regional high school was proposed again, and again the idea was rejected, this time by the town of Redding, which killed the proposal. A consultant hired by Wilton town officials recommended in 1948 that town population growth could support a high school in less than a decade. The regional high school idea was then permanently dropped.[10]

Before the 1959 academic year, all students seeking public secondary school education had to attend Staples High School in Westport. In 1951, Westport officials, facing their own town's population growth, notified Wilton that it should prepare to remove its high school students from that town's school by 1957. In 1956, 10th-grade students began attending classes in the Wilton Junior High School building, and 11th-grade students joined them there in fall 1957, so that only Wilton's seniors were at the Westport high school. In that final school year for Wilton students in Westport, the top two graduating seniors at Staples High School were from Wilton. A $1.2 million wing was completed for the junior high school building in fall 1958.[11]

High School shuffle 1959-1971[edit]

In 1962, the public secondary education building moved again. This time the destination was a brand new structure currently known as the Middlebrook School. The first graduating class of this new high school, the class of 1963, numbered 170. Overall enrollment that year was 615. Although this was a new facility, it was quickly deemed inappropriate due to its small size, in the wake of the "baby boomer" education era.

In 1966, a building committee was created to expand the new high school building, but the group recommended that the town instead buy land to the northwest of the high school building, and in 1967 the town approved the idea. The land was condemned, but the property owners appealed to the courts, delaying the project. Temporary classrooms were set up outside the old high school building. The town approved $12.6 million for the building, and the new structure was built to hold 1,500 students, with the possibility of expansion to hold 2,000.[12]

The present day Wilton High School opened in September 1971, reaching a maximum student population of 1,646 during the 1976-77 academic year. WHS has graduated nearly 12,500 students up to the 2006-07 academic year.[13]

Recent history[edit]

A Better Chance[edit]

In 1996, Wilton High School participated in the A Better Chance (ABC) program which brought minority students from inner-city schools to live in town and attend the school. From 2004, ABC leased the former Goslee House at 6 Godfrey Place from the town library for student housing.[14]

Later construction[edit]

In 2001, two extensive additions to the school were completed as well as other renovations. The project included new classrooms, more modern science laboratories, new music rooms, a larger cafeteria and a new theater building with an 800-seat auditorium.[15]

Controversy regarding treatment of special needs students[edit]

In 2007, the state of Connecticut enacted legislation preventing physical restraint or seclusion of special needs students except in limited situations,[16] largely as a result of allegations of mistreatment of four special education students in Wilton High School and other Wilton schools in 2005.[17][18] Jill Ely claimed that, without notifying her, the school forced her intellectually disabled son into a room at the high school that was held shut until he became completely quiet.[18] She said that her son injured his arm trying to get out and once, she later learned, "he was left crying and whimpering for almost the entire day." An investigation by the Wilton Bulletin in 2006 found that the high school "safe room" had never been inspected by the fire marshall and lacked a Building Department certificate of occupancy.[19] Maryanne Lombardi made similar claims that her 9-year old autistic son, who did not speak, was routinely sent to a "padded cell called the timeout room" at another Wilton school.[18][19] Gloria Bass, the grandmother of two special needs students, also said that one child had been restrained for months in a storage closet without her knowledge.[18][19] Superintendent Gary Richards defended the schools’ actions saying, "We do the best we can with kids who sometimes are very challenged."[18]

Free speech controversy[edit]

In March 2007, a controversy arose which achieved national prominence when the principal, Timothy Canty, on the objection of a student, cancelled an original student play by an advanced theater class concerning the Iraq War, a project he had originally approved. He justified his action by claiming it might hurt Wilton families "who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak", and that there was not enough classroom and rehearsal time to ensure it would provide "a legitimate instructional experience for our students".[20] The play, Voices in Conflict, had been written and produced by students under the direction of Bonnie Dickinson, an English teacher with 13 years' experience. It was supposed to have been performed in school during the day. School officials, including Superintendent Gary Richards, notwithstanding national attention over the cancellation and a letter protesting signed by Stephen Sondheim, Edward Albee, Christopher Durang, John Guare and John Patrick Shanley, refused to allow the production to be performed at the school.

Theater groups rallied to the students’ defense, and the play was subsequently performed at the Fairfield Theatre Company, The Vineyard Theatre, The Culture Project and The Public Theater.[21] The play was produced for Connecticut Public Television, and Dickinson became the official 2007 Honoree of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the winner of the Connecticut Center for First Amendment Rights 2007 "Freedom Award".[22]

Decision to institute fees for sports and extra-curricular activities[edit]

In 2013, after the Wilton Board of Finance returned its proposed budget with instructions to reduce it by $750,000, the Board of Education voted to impose "pay-to-play" fees on all sports and school clubs, with a fee of up to $100 per sport and $50 per club.[23]

2014 Swastika graffiti[edit]

On September 4, 2014, Principal Robert O'Dennell notified parents that a swastika had been carved into a locker at the school. He advised that the investigation had been "prioritized" and that the perpetrator had been identified and the police notified. He noted that a "plan" to address the situation had yet to be formulated.[24] Two weeks later a second swastika was discovered carved into a bathroom stall. Principal O'Donnell characterized the act as a "poor choice." Superintendent Kevin Smith said the incident was "slightly different" than the first and that "no one in particular is being targeted." Shortly thereafter, students advised O'Donnell of a third swastika, this one carved into a wooden door. O'Donnell, however, dismissed this case as one that was "many years old."[25]

Racially-tinged fan baiting at football game[edit]

On the night of Friday, November 11, 2016, the Wilton High School football team played against Danbury High School at Fujitani Field[26] and a group of Wilton students were heard chanting "build the wall" — a phrase commonly heard at Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rallies where he frequently stressed the need to prevent Mexicans from entering the US.[27] While Wilton High School is relatively non-diverse[28] minorities make up more than half of Danbury High School’s student body and a high number are Hispanic.[29] On November 17, the Mayor of Danbury, Mark Boughton, issued a request asking that Wilton High School publicly apologize.[30]


Boys' lacrosse[edit]

Since the sport gained school-sponsorship, the team has won 21 Connecticut state championships and 13 FCIAC titles.[31] Guy Whitten, the varsity American football coach, was hired in 1969 to field a competitive group of athletes from the school's club and intramural programs. Whitten, who is regarded as an influential figure to the popularity that the sport enjoys today throughout the state, ended up coaching boys' lacrosse at WHS for 26 years before his retirement at the end of the 1995 season. Whitten competed for years against the veteran New Canaan coach Howard Benedict. Whitten and Benedict are considered the "Founding Fathers of Connecticut Lacrosse". Whitten was chosen as the head coach of the USA U-19 National Team, which won the World Championship in Adelaide, Australia, in 1988. Upon retirement, Whitten had achieved 410 wins with only 77 losses for a career winning percentage of 84.2. He led the Wilton team to 17 state championships and 11 Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference titles. In Whitten's final year, 1995, the team was undefeated. At the time, he was one of only four coaches in the history of the sport to reach 400 wins. In the history of Wilton lacrosse, the varsity team has never had a losing season; the lowest record ever by the Warriors was in 2007 when they went %.500. Many of the program's athletes have gone on to compete in college teams on the NCAA division I level.

Season W L Pct. FCIAC tournament CIAC (state) tournament National ranking
2011 16 6 .730 Lost semi-final to Darien Won State Championship (#21) over New Canaan in the CIAC Finals and defeated Darien in the CIAC semi-finals Ranked #29 in nation[32]
2004 20 3 .870 Lost Finals to Darien Won State Championship (#20) over New Canaan Ranked #21 in nation[citation needed]
1999 20 2 .910 Won Championship over Darien Won State Championship (#19) Ranked #8 in nation[citation needed]
1998 19 3 .863 Lost semi-finals to New Canaan Won State Championship (#18) over New Canaan Ranked #11 in nation[citation needed]
1995 23 0 1.000 Won Championship Won State Championship Ranked #2 in nation[citation needed]

Girls' lacrosse[edit]

The girls' lacrosse team won 13 FCIAC titles in 15 years, as well as several state championships.[10] In 2001 the Warriors won their first state title, over rival Darien.[33] In 2014, they won the Class M State Championship against New Canaan.[citation needed]

Boys' soccer[edit]

The boys' soccer program has won State Championship titles in 1988 and 1998.[citation needed]


The baseball team won the FCIAC Championship in 2017, 2015, and 1995.[citation needed]



The Wilton-Ridgefield rivalry started in 1987 when, after a heated hockey game, a bench-clearing brawl erupted. After 10 minutes of fighting, two students had to go to the hospital and nearly everyone on both teams was suspended. The fans on both sides met after the game outside of the rink (Winter Garden Ice Arena) and proceeded to fight for up to an hour. Since then neither side has backed down and at nearly every sports event between the two there is some sort of fight.[citation needed]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cowan, Alison Leigh, "Play About Iraq War Divides a Connecticut School", The New York Times Metro section, 24 March 2007
  2. ^ Connecticut State High Schools - CT School Rankings
  3. ^ "Wilton High School". U.S. News & World Report. 18 April 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Strategic School Profile 2005-2006 for Wilton High School" (PDF).  Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  5. ^ Wilton High School official website http://www.wilton.k12.ct.us/whs
  6. ^ Adams, Rob (26 March 2013). "Canty is leaving for Darien". Wilton Bulletin.  Accessed 9 May 2013
  7. ^ a b c d e "Demographics of Wilton High School". Great Schools.  Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  8. ^ "Wilton School District: District Profile and Performance Report, 2015–16". Connecticut Department of Education. February 24, 2017. 
  9. ^ Town USA - Wilton, CT http://www.town-usa.com/connecticut/fairfield/wilton.html
  10. ^ a b Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, page 366
  11. ^ Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, pp 413-414
  12. ^ Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, pp 415-416
  13. ^ WHS Student Handbook http://www.wilton.k12.ct.us/whs/adm/stuhandbook.pdf
  14. ^ Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, pp 449-450
  15. ^ Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, page 541
  16. ^ Moran, John (12 February 2012). "Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Connecticut Public Schools". ORL Research Report.  Accessed 9 May 2013
  17. ^ Mylo, Lauren (15 January 2009). "Wilton women join fight for disability rights". Wilton Villager. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  18. ^ a b c d e Frahm, Robert A. "Parents criticize restraints in schools; at hearing, they seek change in the law". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 9 May 2013.  (behind pay wall).
  19. ^ a b c Urban, Peter (13 January 2009). "Trio seeks to protect disabled children". The (Danbury, CT) News-Times. Retrieved 9 May 2013.  (from the Connecticut Post).
  20. ^ Cowan, Alison Leigh (24 March 2007). "Play About Iraq War Divides a Connecticut School,". New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  21. ^ Ryzik, Melena (14 June 2007). "Unwelcome at Home, Student Play Is a Hit in New York,". New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  22. ^ "Voices in Conflict", Connecticut Public Broadcast Network.
  23. ^ Adams, Rob (12 April 2013). "Pay to participate comes to Wilton High School". Wilton Bulletin. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  24. ^ Herve, Heather Borden (September 9, 2014). "Swastika Etched Onto Wilton High School Locker". Good Morning Wilton. Retrieved July 22, 2018. 
  25. ^ Herve, Heather Borden (September 29, 2014). "After Second Swastika Found at WHS, What to Do?". Good Morning Wilton. Retrieved July 22, 2018. 
  26. ^ "Some Wilton students chant 'build the wall' during Danbury football game". Wilton Bulletin. November 17, 2016. Retrieved November 19, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Donald Trump: I would force Mexico to build border wall". MSNBC. Retrieved November 19, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Wilton High School - Wilton, Connecticut - CT - School details". www.greatschools.org. Retrieved 19 November 2016. 
  29. ^ "Danbury High School". SchoolDigger. Retrieved 19 November 2016. 
  30. ^ "City of Danbury - Mayor Boughton calls for formal apology..." Facebook. Retrieved 19 November 2016. 
  31. ^ Wilton Lacrosse History
  32. ^ http://rise.espn.go.com/lacrosse/team-rankings/Boys-2011-Rankings/Boys-2011.aspx?pursuit=Lacrosse
  33. ^ Our History
  34. ^ MacKenzie, Chris (13 March 1978). "A Clone No More, Jeremy Black Is Back". The Hour. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  35. ^ IMDB.com Paul Dano Bio https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0200452/bio
  36. ^ - Kristine Lilly at Women's Soccer World Online
  37. ^ The Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize on UNCA website
  38. ^ Bryant Mobile
  39. ^ John Scofield biography at All About Jazz
  40. ^ Davis, Chris (31 January 2011). "Obama picks Wilton grad as next Solicitor General". Wilton Bulletin. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°12′39″N 73°25′59″W / 41.2108°N 73.433°W / 41.2108; -73.433