Off-campus lunch restrictions controversial among students

October 30, 2018 — by Neeti Badve and Kaitlyn Tsai

As the lunch bell rings, waves of students stream toward the quad; among these, several upperclassmen head out the front entrance on the hunt for their favorite lunch spots. Among them are a few underclassmen who hiding in the crowd and trying to sneak off campus.

Several times a month, the staff catches such students and assigns them Saturday school. The rules are simple and known across campus: Freshmen and sophomores know they are not permitted to leave campus during lunch, but they don’t know the historical reasons for the policy

According to assistant principal Kerry Mohnike, the school had an open campus for all grade levels through  the mid-1990s. The schedule was different then, with seven periods a day, no tutorial and a 30-minute lunch after fourth period.

“Students left in droves — there were lots of speeding tickets, and I recall several car accidents around the surface street both in the morning and the afternoon,” Mohnike said.

However, because the size of the cafeteria cannot accommodate all students, the administration continued to allow all students to go off campus until 1995, when the school closed the campus to underclassmen.

Mohnike also addressed the legal restrictions regarding the policy, adding that the school has a legal obligation to oversee students. In legal terms, this responsibility is called “in loco parentis,” meaning “in the place of a parent.” Administrators and staff members must ensure students’ safety while they are on campus, and allowing only upperclassmen to go off campus is one way of doing so.

Some students, like sophomore Aindri Patra agree with the lunch restrictions, saying the rules are important for maintaining order at school and keeping students safe.

“Things would get out of hand — keeping track of students and the chaos of getting in and out of school would be too much,” Patra said.

However, other students would like the off-campus privilege to extend to underclassmen.

“Some sophomores can already drive, so they should be allowed to go off like the juniors and seniors,” sophomore Kaitlyn Yu said.

She also mentioned the lack of options underclassmen have for food compared to their upperclassmen peers.

“Some people want to go off instead of eating their own lunch or buying the school lunch, and since they have upperclassmen friends, they should be able to go off with them,” Yu said.

Even some upperclassmen disapprove of the off-campus lunch rules; senior Ria Jobalia agrees that underclassmen should be able to go out for lunch.

“Underclassmen should be able to get different food if they want to,” Jobalia said. “There are food spots in downtown Saratoga that students could probably walk to, even if they cannot drive.”

Despite these complaints, there is no effort underway to change the closed campus policy for underclassmen — and they’ll have to continue risking Saturday School if they want to leave campus during the school day.

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