The Forum: Picking apart freedom at Beverly

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As seen in the Nov. 8 issue

Max Stahl, opinion editor

How much freedom does the school allow us? As straightforward as the question may seem, there isn’t a simple answer. From the varied responses offered in the previous four issues, that much is evident. We’ll have to go a bit deeper.

It is important, first, to define what “freedom” actually means in this context. Without a clear definition, it would be reasonable to extend the concept of freedom into the realm of economics: technically, our public education is free. Therefore, I’ll define freedom as the ability to act or make decisions without restraint from authority or other outside forces. To what extent, then, does the school curtail this freedom?

Let’s look at the issue editor-in-chief Mabel Kabani brought up in the first Forum article. Off-campus lunch seems to stand among the most-desired freedoms denied to Beverly students. While it would be nice for students to stay at school for spirit events and other lunch activities, these diversions should not be a motivating factor in the prohibition of off-campus lunch. Provided students have met a certain academic and behavioral threshold (e.g., a minimum GPA and a satisfactory discipline record) and have waived the school’s legal responsibility for them, they should have the freedom to leave campus for lunch.

School security adds another facet to the debate. As graphics editor Marguerite Alberts conjectured in the last issue, it is possible that security gives students too much leeway and hasn’t done enough to keep danger away from the school. Many will remember that when the district proposed to build a fence around the high school, students and parents protested, and the district relented. Certainly security at Beverly is not as strict as it is elsewhere. At select schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, students must pass through metal detectors when entering campus. The Beverly Hills community, however, is vastly different from those around many of the Los Angeles schools, so the high level of trust security leaves in Beverly students may be justifiable. There’s really no way of knowing.

I do agree with spotlight editor Jessica Lu, though, in her critique of the school’s attendance policy. Losing 3 percent from a grade for an unexcused absence is as excessive as the excused-absence policy is arbitrary. While the school should encourage students to attend classes, the consequences for not doing so are too harsh. The most oppressive aspect of the attendance policy, however, remains the .6 percent deducted from one’s grade for an unexcused tardy. Under this rule, walking into class half a minute or half an hour after the bell rings both damage one’s grade equally. As with absences, it is important that the school discourages tardies, but perhaps some leniency would serve it better than its current system.

Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the most prominent aspects of the freedom debate, a new question arises: How much freedom do students actually deserve? Like all humans, teenagers can’t be trusted to make certain decisions for themselves. While it is important for teenagers to exercise some measure of freedom and learn from their mistakes, an excess of freedom would be disastrous for them and for the school. Beverly’s administrators know this, and although in some cases the rules may seem too restrictive or too permissive, they strike a decent enough balance. Perhaps students could benefit from a little more freedom, but not enough to justify anger toward the administrators, or the school board, or anyone else making decisions that limit or extend our freedom. So to answer the original question, How much freedom does the school allow us?

Enough.

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