The message sent by more than 60 Brookings-Harbor High School students and a dozen parents who packed Mondays school board meeting was clear: No closed campus at lunch.
I stand here in front of you tonight as a junior representing the students from Brookings-Harbor High School who believe the campus should be open at lunch for juniors and seniors, Junior Lisa Nowlin told the school board.
Nowlin was one of four students who addressed school board members about the existing closed campus policy.
Approved in June, 1998, the policy has been phased in during the last two years. This year, only seniors were allowed to leave campus at lunch. Next year, no students will be allowed to leave.
Mondays student protest followed several failed attempts last week that included a planned morning walk-out and lunchtime sit-in.
This time, the students had the administrators undivided attention. The audience enthusiastically applauded each student after they finished their comments to the board.
Nowlin said the closed campus policy was approved too quickly and without careful research. The Health Advisory Committee said the issue deserved more study, yet there wasnt any, she said.
At the time the policy was approved, school board members cited concerns about student safety, drugs, vandalism and shoplifting at nearby businesses during lunch. Board members reiterated those concerns Monday.
The students who addressed the board said they understood those concerns, but felt the juniors and seniors were being unfairly restricted because of the bad behavior of a few students.
We understand your responsibility is to keep us safe, Nowlin said. Yet in a year or two, we will be out in the real world, in college, in the service, or working. We need to learn to take care of ourselves. This would be an appropriate transition time.
On a side issue, freshman Travis Alcorn read to the board a list of businesses which told him their business would be hurt if juniors and seniors cant leave campus at lunch.
McDonalds told me that on rainy days, students are the only customers there at lunch time, Alcorn said.
Junior Karissa Hayes listed several reasons why juniors and seniors should be allowed to leave campus:
First, at age 16 students are allowed to drive a car. If we are considered responsible enough to operate a potential lethal machine, then why not recognize the idea that we can make good choices about what to do when off campus.
Second, keeping students on campus at lunch will have no impact on narcotic problems on or off campus. As in the world at large, stopping it totally will not happen without a closed campus.
Third, a closed campus will not prevent acts of litter, shoplifting and vandalism. The acts of a few will not change with or without a closed campus.
Fourth, allowing only juniors and seniors to leave campus would serve as an incentive to underclassman to do well so they can enjoy the same privilege. When their turn comes, they too will be ready.
Hayes concluded by asking the school board to give students a chance to prove they can be responsible.
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Trust us a little so we can trust you, she said. It can be a win-win situation. Give us a chance.
Brookings-Harbor High School Principal Floyd Strandberg, along with several board members, congratulated the students for their thoughtful and well prepared arguments.
Asking for respect is a part of their ongoing maturity, Strandberg told the audience. He then told the board, I understand accidents have happened and the safety issues expressed by the board. I will do what the board tells me to do.
Board member Jeane Sever said she understood the students concerns, however, she said that several high schools in the region, including one in Coquille and Gold Beach, have closed campuses for good reason.
They dont do it because they hate you, or want to punish you. They do it because its a safe thing to do, Sever said.
The Pilot, however, checked with administrators at both Coquille High School and Union High School in Gold Beach and found that neither school has a closed-campus policy.
Strandberg told the board that when the policy was first adopted there was a problem with older students bullying and hazing underclassmen.
The number of incidents has dropped since then, he said.
Board member Tom Davis congratulated the students for a job well done, saying, welcome to Democracy 101.
Davis then asked Strandberg whether he was for or against closing the campus.
Strandberg replied, According to the U.S. Constitution the fifth amendment is still valid.
He then added, The students have made some valid points. They are moving toward maturity and maybe they should be granted certain privileges.
However, he said, I will do whatever the board tells me to do.
Davis then spoke to the audience, asking students if, should the closed-campus policy be relaxed, they would be willing to accept criteria such as maintaining a certain grade point average, adhere to district attendance policy and even sign a contract with the principal.
A majority of the students appeared to like that idea.
School Board President Brian Larrson wrapped the discussion up explaining the board generally does not take action on issues expressed during the public comment period of the meeting.
But he recommended the board put the issue on the May agenda as an action item.
This way we can get reports on the pros and cons of the policy and determine if it needs a second look, Larrson said.
The board unanimously voted to do so.
On Tuesday, student Daniel Zia delivered a petition to the school district office containing 354 signatures of students who believed that students should have the right to leave campus at lunch time. A copy of the petition was also delivered to The Pilot.