Staff Editorial: Let Juniors Leave Campus – Off-campus privileges should be extended
One of the administration’s goals is to promote unity and integration among various grades, to become a more complete and integrated community. Programs, extra-curricular activities, and even classes often feature inter-grade participation. This has produced an upper school where students interact regularly with their peers from other grades, where it is perfectly possible for a freshman to be friends with a sophomore or an upperclassman. Yet, some things are reserved exclusively for one grade, like off-campus privileges for seniors. Does this practice result in unnecessary division between the grades? Should more students be allowed to leave during lunch?
As a staff, we believe this privilege, the right to leave the school during breaks, is unfairly granted exclusively to seniors. For at the end of the day, there are not sufficient reasons to bar non-seniors from leaving campus during lunch and breaks.
Granted, there are numerous justifications which could be expressed for keeping this privilege restricted to seniors. The transition from middle school to upper school can be a rough one, and the last thing that underclassmen need is something to distract them from school, unlike seniors who will generally be suited to cope with additional distractions after three years of high school. Seniors are usually able to drive, thus minimizing the number of students who are being driven by student drivers, a significant safety advantage, and maximizing the benefit they receive from off campus privileges. Extending off-campus privileges to large numbers of students without drivers’ licenses would mean that students would have to find rides with their older peers, invariably leading to a situation where kids with more upperclassmen friends are able to leave school, but others are not. The concern raised by Principal Rabbi Avi Levitt was that expanding the pool of students driving beyond what was inherited from the previous administration would result in more students speeding back to school at the end of lunch or just ditching class entirely. And even assuming that this concern could be overcome, he felt that the ability to leave campus functions as a “perk” of being a senior, the sole proprietorship of this privilege serving as a critical symbolic privilege for seniors.
Yet these reasons are not sufficient to justify denying this privilege to juniors. The majority of the eleventh grade has learners’ permits and many either have licenses or will have them by the end of the year, thus obviating both concern about excessive student drivers and worry about less well connected students not getting rides. They have already adapted to upper school and another responsibility or privilege will not unduly detract from their schoolwork. They are no more likely to speed than seniors, and are in fact less likely to ditch class because, generally speaking, students feel more strongly about grades in junior year than in senior year. Symbolically, there are numerous other unique senior privileges which do not inconvenience their younger peers. Seniors are welcome to take prime seats at assemblies, maintain their own column in davening, inhabit the senior lounge, and take advantage of all their other marks of seniority. They will not suffer unduly if one of the only senior privileges which would materially benefit another grade is opened up to their younger peers.
Beyond there being no reason to keep the status quo, there are several important reasons why these rights should be granted. As the bearers of the heaviest workload, the juniors, more than anyone else, need to be able to get a breath of fresh air during the day. Student council is often at its most active during junior year and would benefit significantly from the ability to leave campus to purchase fundraising materials, more so perhaps than even the senior council. And refusal to grant such a right reinforces an arbitrary, contrived division. Juniors are often just as mature as seniors; they are just as serious, just as responsible. The school recognizes this, and thus groups juniors and seniors together for almost half of the school-day. Juniors and seniors are fundamentally the same. The school’s refusal to recognize this and grant juniors the privileges they deserve fosters an unnecessary sense of superiority and separation between grades, something the school has, to its merit, fought hard to avoid.
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