The following is an op-ed by columnist Elizabeth Porter for her column, “The Final Word.” All of the opinions and viewpoints expressed within the article are solely that of the author and may not reflect the beliefs of The Forest Scout newspaper.
Rising seniors: we have something to talk about. I’m sure you’ve all heard whisperings about the new rules for next year. So far we’ve heard that senior superlatives and senior acts are going away, that absence rules will be strictly enforced, and that no one will be allowed off campus except for seniors during lunch periods. I can’t speak to the truth of these rumors but given that many teachers and students have been discussing them, it seems that there is a significant risk that they’re true. I think that we can have an impact on this. Not by complaining and ranting, but by being organized, articulate, and reasonable.
At the risk of sounding like I’m whining, our grade has gone through many changes throughout our high school careers, some good from our perspective and others not. I believe we have taken them in stride. We were the first grade not to have athletic study hall as underclassmen. We saw the finals schedule changed. Then the school day schedule. The cafeteria had a complete makeover. The attendance policy has changed, as have the rules in the library. We were the first grade to use Chromebooks, the first grade to take PARCC tests and the first grade to take the SAT instead of the ACT. We had off campus passes, and then we didn’t. We could eat in the library, and then we couldn’t. We took it all in stride. But there is a time and a place for students to stop and ask, “What is happening?” and “Why?” and most importantly, “What can we do about it?” I believe that time is now.
The “senior privileges” at LFHS–parking at school and being allowed to go off campus during free periods–are just that, privileges. The implicit understanding is that past students at Lake Forest High School earned them, and so have we. We did our time in the basement–saying “here” when our name was called, signing in and out, and sitting silently for 50 minutes during study hall. Then we graduated to the library, still signing in and out, but with slightly more freedom. As juniors we finally earned athletic study halls and enjoyed our coveted spot in the upper commons. But we stayed at school. A vast majority of us played by the rules and we deserve the senior privileges that have been awarded to every previous generation of LFHS alumni.
Adults and teachers are constantly reminding us of what comes after our 4 years here. The fabled “real world” which, depending on your definition, means college or being in the workforce. The right to choose where we eat and go in our free time and how we study are freedoms that are more similar to the “real world” than scanning in to a study hall room. Being kept under lock and key from 8:15 to 3:20 is not really preparation for the “real world” whereas no institutions require you to stay in a spot when you have “free” time, except perhaps prison. In fact, many of us are or will soon be legal adults. We can enlist in the military, smoke cigarettes, pay taxes, get married, gamble, and vote for the next leader of the free world. Why on Earth can’t we drive our cars to Foodstuffs to get a salad when we don’t have class?
To an adult that does not understand this issue it may sound like I’m overreacting. But the loss of small daily freedoms does impact people, and freedoms as small as this are worth fighting for. What we should all be wondering is why some in the administration or faculty think this new rule is necessary. Why is this happening now? What did we do to lose this freedom? As far as we students can tell the answer is nothing. I’ve been told that the recently graduated class had an issue with attendance. I am not sure if that is true, but if it so, collectively punishing the class of 2018 for the mistakes of the class of 2017 is entirely unfair.
I understand that the school has a duty to promote good attendance and ensure that students are in school when they are supposed to be. However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure this besides denying responsible seniors their privileges. If some students are breaking the rules or have many unexcused absences–by all means take away their senior privileges. In fact, that will encourage good behavior more than not allowing seniors off campus at all, which will only lead to rebellion and anger. Let us consider what another nearby, competitive school employs as policy for their seniors when it comes to off-campus lunch, attendance, and mandated study halls.
Libertyville High School, for example, uses their off-campus lunch privilege (a full, 50-minute period) for seniors as an incentive to promote consistent attendance, sound academic standing, and appropriate behavior within the school. Often, if there are disciplinary issues at hand–for truancy, poor behavior, or any other offense–the off-campus lunch privilege is the first benefit to be stripped from seniors. In regards to study hall, seniors at LHS can benefit from either having a 1st or 8th period “resource center” assignment, which grants them the opportunity to take advantage of a late start or an early release, but not both. Still, if their resource center assignment falls in the middle of the day, they must remain on campus and accounted for by Libertyville High School.
For Stevenson High School, one which is frequently compared to LFHS by members of our community, juniors and seniors are allowed to go off-campus during free periods and lunch periods according to their student handbook.
My fellow rising seniors, you are right to think that this is totally unfair. You have a right to be upset and complain about it. But I genuinely still believe in this administration’s ability to do what’s right and act in the best interest of all students, teachers, administrators, and parents. However, at a minimum, we must demand that whoever is making these rules ask for and consider the feedback of the people this will affect, students and teachers. Further, we should demand that the administration provide a soundly reasoned explanation for changing the policy, including the goal of the new policy and how restricting our freedom would attain that goal.
My hope is that they will listen to our concerns and not take away senior privileges. We have always been reasonable in adapting to the changes that have come throughout the years, and I hope the administration can be reasonable with us. We are, generally speaking, well behaved, intelligent, responsible young adults. It is strange that the landslide winners of the recent School Board election ran on the platform that Lake Forest High School has never been better on the basis of the students’ performance on standardized tests and AP exams, and yet there appear to be members of the administration who believe that Lake Forest High School seniors are now so unreliable that they don’t deserve 45 minutes of freedom.
We need to be allowed freedom in order to learn how to exercise our freedom. Giving us privileges and holding us accountable for them is treating us like the future good citizens we intend to be. Locking away 18-year-old adults who are college and “real world” bound is treating us more like children than young men and women who have earned the right to decide things for ourselves. One of those methods will teach us responsibility, accountability, and time management while the other will teach us to resent this school and act like dependent children. One tiny taste of daily freedom–a mere 45 minutes to do as we please–is a basic right of high school seniors across the country and is nothing compared to the ultimate freedom we will have as soon as we graduate.
If you want us to act like responsible adults then start by treating us that way.