(I have chosen to not post my intro and a few other sentences, as some may find them offensive)
“The welfare and safety of our students is our first priority,” “safety is the primary reason,” and, “the location of our school is not conducive to an open campus” are three of the main arguments school authorities have made against open campus. These arguments are reasonable in that school officials do not want to be held accountable for irresponsible actions students take off school grounds. However, the effects of disallowing adolescents to go out into the “real world” during school hours, are severely limiting students’ ability to make responsible decisions independently. One parent from North Shore said, ''I don't think kids learn responsibility by leaving school, and parents who work like to know that their children are in school and are safe.'' This statement coincides with my belief that the effects of closing campus are severely sheltering and over-protecting young adults. It is completely rational for parents to worry about their children, but there comes a point in life when parents must minimize the amount of decision-making they carry out for their children, and balance their fears with the need to prepare kids for independence in the coming years.
According to the New York Times, many Long Island high schools decided to implement an open campus ten years ago because of inadequate space to accommodate large numbers of students. In more recent years, Great Neck South’s population has tripled, and many changes have been made in order to satisfy the needs of the student body and faculty. These changes include the discarding of daily period changes, which added a variety in the weekly class arrangement, the addition of periods three through eight as lunch periods, and the transformation of the GP room into a classroom. The GP room used to be a quiet area in which students could socialize, do homework, and eat lunch. Now, the GP room is still a place for students to buy lunch, however, they now must find somewhere else to eat. The main hall is generally full during lunch periods, the library does not permit food, and the cafeteria is not pragmatic for those who wish to do homework because the noise level is generally above what most students find reasonable to concentrate. Recently, a friend and I who usually sit in the hallway to eat lunch were told that we had to find another place to eat. Our school does not sufficiently provide enough locations for students to eat lunch. Having an open campus would permit seniors to get a lunch that satisfies their social, educational, and spatial needs.
Moreover, at age eighteen, adolescents are not only recognized as potential drivers, but they are legally able to vote, sign contracts, get married, enlist in the army, and make other life-changing choices. In these cases, the law recognizes eighteen-year-olds as mature adults who have the ability to make responsible, independent decisions. Why then should it be the school’s responsibility to keep these “mature adults” safe? Shouldn’t it be the student and the student’s parents’ responsibilities to ensure that this “mature adult” is driving safely? Also, a school is an institution maintained by the state. The state legally recognizes licensed drivers as people who have the ability to make accurate decisions on the road. It is not the school’s place to decide that all seniors should have to wait until fourth quarter to use their licenses effectively.
There are many ways to maintain an open campus. One effective plan includes making a rule that the only seniors who are allowed to leave are those with two consecutive free periods. This guarantees plenty of time for students to buy food and return to school without rushing. If parents do not want their child to leave campus, they can simply ensure that their child does not have two free periods in a row by contacting their child’s guidance counselor. In order to promote this parental consent, parents should be sent a letter that asks whether or not they permit their child to leave campus. If the parent consents, special lettering should be typed on the child’s school ID card. This way, we can adopt the policy of Commack High School where the student who leaves campus gives his or her ID to the security guard at the gate, and only upon arrival back to school receives the card. This ensures that students will not cut classes, and will effectively keep track of who leaves campus. The vice-principal noted that it would be difficult for parents to say no. In this situation, it is the parent’s prerogative to give consent or not, and gives him or her full responsibility for doing so.
This paper is meant in no way to disregard the families who have suffered losses through open campus policies. However, it is meant to remind parents, administration, teachers, and all others opposed to open campus that society cannot hold anyone but the driver accountable for his or her irresponsible actions on the road. There are many benefits to having an open campus, and it can easily be regulated.