“Safest School in America”

Rebecca Crosby

How Tardy Sweeps, Hall Restrictions, and After School Lounging Protect Oak Ridge– From themselves

President Obama announced yesterday that Oak Ridge High School is the safest school in America. Okay, well, that did not actually happen– but it should. With all the rules and regulations on campus, transforming our school into a scene straight out of Orwell’s “1984”, Oak Ridge is undoubtedly the leader in security.

Lately, students have been in an uproar about the increasing amount of tardy sweeps and other security measures being done by the school. Take, for example, the tardy sweeps, among many of their grievances. The deans of our school allegedly round students up like cattle and distribute ‘death slips’; at least, that is what it feels like for the students that fall victim to it.

“There was this one time I got caught in the halls, and they were, like, yelling at me and stuff,” Senior, Clifford St. Fort, said in my interview with the teen. He gave a sort of pout as he recounted the experience. “The one lady looked at me very mean, and it kind of hurt my feelings a little bit.”

Absolutely atrocious.

Despite the mistreatment of students during this “tardy sweep”, deans continue to defend them.

“Tardy sweeps are conducted to insure all students are on time getting educated,” Ms. Rivera, the sweetest dean you will ever meet, said. “Each dean is posted in each hallway and help guide students to class. This has been going on… since starting (the sweeps), students get to class, hallways are more clear, and the process is much faster.”

Ms. Rivera claims that this process is necessary for students who stagger and continue to socialize instead of heading to class; however, since when do students stand in the middle of the halls and stair cases, chatting with their friends or making out with their significant others or walk super slow in front of you and there’s no way to get around them and you want to say something but you don’t want to get hit.

The dean’s office protects students from lounging and getting into trouble in between classes, but what about lunch?

“No students are allowed in the building during lunch,” Ms. Rivera said, rearranging her detention-infested desk. “See what happens is these kids enter the building after lunch and make disturbances, which distract the students in their classrooms. They may use the courtyard or lunchroom.”

Perhaps… But have you considered the students who have, shockingly, legitimate reasons for wanting to access the buildings.

One must look at her lack of regard for those who only need to go to their locker or need to see a teacher for extra tutoring. Of course, I could go to my locker in the 400 building, third floor and then trek all the way to the 800 building, but uh, you see, there’s this thing- I’m sure you’ve  heard about it- called a “tardy sweep”.

Tyrannical tardy sweeps, lame lunch rules– what’s next in your “security measures” Oak Ridge?

Naturally, we come to the after school suppressing.

“Once the (after school) bell rings, students must go immediately to where they need to be,” Ms. Rivera said. “Students are not allowed to linger in the courtyard or the buildings. They need to be under adult supervision at all times.”

While this sounds reasonable, for many it is senseless. I have a friend that I have known since elementary, and we have ZERO opportunity to hang out– different classes, different lunches, and, now, different ways home. What possible reason could there be prohibiting the two of us to catch up on the day, sitting at a bench in the courtyard. Not only is it a safe school environment, but it is peaceful and relaxing. Why don’t you just post a few staff members around to watch us, and then at a certain time- say, 4:00 or 5:00, close up? Of course, that would be fair…

So, we have restrictions on students to keep them in class, out of sight from other students during lunch, and catching up with friends after school. What restrictions do we place on non-students in the community that keep Oak Ridge students safe? Well, we have a gate. It has a really big hole on the bottom that you can easily crawl under, but good luck trying to fit a car! There’s also a huge hole a few feet from that in the bar-made fence wrapped around the school. Of course, if that’s somehow not good enough for you, we have these signs, okay, and these signs tell you not to do stuff, so you can’t. Oh, and all visitors have to go through the front office and get a sticker, even though they can easily slip in with the students in the morning. It’s safe.

In all seriousness, these rules set forth by the dean’s office are important; no, they’re not perfect, and maybe we have a long line of negotiations to improve them, but they are there for a reason. Look around. We don’t exactly belong to a school known for its ‘upstanding citizenship’ and classy actions. You may not think that they’re fair, but they keep the school orderly and do provide a safe learning environment , considering the types of students we have here.

I urge students to think before they criticize the deans. Do you provide a reason why they should show more levity on these rules; do you always get to class on time; do you cause disturbances in the halls when you are wandering with your friends; do you lounge around with friends after school and do things you should not be doing? Honestly, all jokes aside, the deans are doing their best for us. They are always there when you need them; even their office reveals just how much they care. It’s stuffed with detentions and referrals that SHOULD have been written, but were not because they believed you could do better. So many times I stroll by and they are really sitting down with kids and encouraging them to strive for more than they think they see.

It is also imperative to notice the laxed guard on the exteriors of the campus. Administrators are so concerned about what we are doing, and yet there is rarely anyone watching the gate or patrolling the front. Who are you protecting students from? Themselves?

Ultimately, this is a situation that takes two, as so many do. In order to have a safe, but enjoyable, high school experience, both students and administrators need to give as much as they take.

In the perfect words of Ms. Rivera, “(The dean’s office) wants you to have fun, but we also want you to learn. This is a learning institution, not social. We want you to be yourselves, and we want what is best for you. We’re like your moms and dad. But we need help from the students to do what they are supposed to be doing. I think of our (motto): one team, one goal, pioneering our way to an A.”