Should seniors be allowed to leave campus during lunch?

From starting to vote to applying to college, senior year marks a turning point in many of our lives. Yet, we are still bound by the same rules that restrict 14-year-old freshmen just starting their high school career. There should be more leniency for seniors, starting with allowing them to leave campus during lunch. 

While there are no federal or state laws requiring a certain amount of time for lunch, schools across Miami-Dade county give their students around 30 minutes for lunch. Allowing seniors to leave will give them a break from the school they spend so much time in, and a little more freedom that can go a long way. 

According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 66 percent of students ages 15-17 reported feeling stressed about school, especially when it came to testing or even studying. After several years of dealing with this stress at a high school level, allowing seniors to leave during lunch could relieve some of this stress. 

While seniors can definitely benefit from this privilege, there are some obvious downsides. “There is just not enough time to implement it safely, especially considering the location of our school,” Activities Director Michelle Russell said. “The chaos of students leaving campus after school is enough for me to hold that opinion. While the concept of a break would certainly be nice and is needed at times, the safety of our students supersedes that.” 

One way to limit some of this chaos would be to implement staggered lunches, separating the amount of seniors leaving at a particular time. For example, first lunch would allow seniors A-L to leave campus and return safely, while second lunch would be seniors M-Z Therefore, half the amount of students would be entering and exiting the parking lot at a time. 

However, student safety is also a popular concern. In 1999, a lunchtime accident killed Hialeah High students Willie Moreira, Brian Barreto and Mayra Capote. The accident caused parents to protest the School Board to stop allowing students to leave campuses during lunch.

The School Board finally agreed to phase out allowing seniors to leave campus during lunch over the next five years. Still, many school districts around the nation currently allow students to leave campus during lunch starting with a parent permission form. Parents, students and an administrator must sign a form consenting to the rules and acknowledging risks. 

Liability is then taken off the school in the case that anything were to happen. Grades also play a major in allowing students to leave. Schools usually require certain GPAs to be maintained in order to leave, and if a student falls below a threshold they are no longer able to get lunch outside campus. After the student’s grades go up, they’re then able to continue leaving campus for lunch. 

As seniors, most of us have been driving for over a year, and therefore, have a track record of our driving history. To make sure we aren’t putting reckless students in danger, requirements to be eligible to leave school during lunch could be implemented. For instance, a year or more with a valid Driver’s License, no speeding tickets, and no accidents would all ensure only the safest student drivers get to leave campus for lunch. 

Staggered lunches, strict requirements, and permission forms are all solutions to lowering the risks, while allowing seniors to have more freedom. Allowing our seniors to leave will help develop time management skills, relieve stress, increase choices for lunch, and prepare them to take on the real world, where they will eventually have to make these decisions all on their own.