By Abbey Soltis
Getting to drive is a major turning point in a teenager’s high school career. It's the beginning of independence, a slow transition into becoming a young adult. Driving to school for the first time is like your certificate of being an upperclassmen. So why can’t students use their driving privileges to their advantage? Lunch periods are typically half an hour long, why is it an issue for students to drive to Royal Farms, less than two miles away, to get lunch? Students have their licenses and parking permit, so why can’t we leave? School lunches aren't always appetizing, and not everyone has time in the morning to pack a lunch.
Allowing students to go off campus to get lunch would be the quintessential way to asses their responsibility. Each student is fully aware of when their lunch ends, therefore they should know when they need to get back. This kind of responsibility can be carried after they graduation. It's a great way to learn time management and prove responsibility. Teachers and administrators encourage students to be independent, yet they are not letting us leave.
Students should earn this privilege. I understand the worry of students skipping class, or coming late, but that's the point of a privilege. A privilege is earned, and if you can continue to use the privilege to your advantage, you can continue to use it. If you abuse the privilege, it can be taken away.
In other school systems/districts, such as Montgomery County, upper classmen are allowed off campus for lunch. From the Walter Johnson High School Open Lunch Policy, it is stated, “Always remember open lunch is a privilege not a right! It will be taken away from students who do not adhere to the rules.” These rules include: making sure students are back by fifth period, and driving the speed limit when entering and leaving the parking lot. Walter High School has one, forty-two minute lunch for all students. This allows them to leave school and grab lunch from one of the surrounding places to eat in Montgomery County.
This policy has been present in Montgomery County since 1979. Open lunch hasn’t been a problem since then, therefore this policy should be expanded to other schools in other counties. Previous Vice Principal, Bennie Green at B-CC High School, tells the Bethesda Patch, “I’ve been here for five years and open lunch has always existed, so it’s probably been more than 10 or 20 years.” Howard County administration has to trust their students until given a reason not to.
The common concerns regarding open lunch include drugs or alcohol use, cutting class, or being put in dangerous situations. One hundred percent of the teachers interviewed had liability at their number one concern. There is a major concern of reckless driving, and students getting in accidents, but an accident can happen anywhere, at anytime. Students at Glenelg have expressed their opinions on how the could ensure their safety, and are all in favor to having an open lunch. After discussing examples of the rules from the Montgomery County policy to students, they were completely content to these rules. They also agreed that the right should be taken away if you can’t follow the rules. Anna Callahan, Junior, and Matt Heimlicher, Senior, say one way to ensure safety is to have students sign in and sign out before they leave. Amy Smith, Junior, says students and their parents should sign a waiver, that way Glenelg isn’t liable for any potential accidents.
Keelin Johnson, Senior, had an open lunch at her previous school. She stated that in order to participate in the privilege of an open lunch, you had to show school ID’s before leaving and when returning. This was apart of a process of keeping tabs on which students were in the school and which students were not. Johnson also believes that good grades are the ticket to leaving the school for lunch.
A huge concern of staff is students ditching. However if students want to ditch, they will. Even without open lunch, students still ditch class. Nick Scaldara, Senior, argues that students already ditch so the consequences shouldn’t change. If students ditch, the privilege of open lunch should be taken from them. If anything, open lunch will prevent students from ditching. If they know it’s a risky privilege to have, they won’t risk it being taken away from them. Currently, students don’t have anything to lose. Besides detention, which is a risk they’re willing to take, there’s nothing being taken from them. Open lunch is a privilege that can be taken away, so if students want it, they’re less likely to jeopardize it being taken away from them.
Juniors and Seniors are expected to know what they want to do, where they want to go, and what their future is going to look like in the next five years, yet we can't leave the school parking lot to drive a mile to get lunch. We need to be treated how we are expected to act. Students should be able trusted to leave school grounds to get lunch and be back in time. As responsible students, we should be coordinating with our teachers and administration to give us the privileges we deserve.