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Letter: $90K of Taxpayer Money to Lock in Benicia High Schoolers in at Lunch?

"How can a school district abruptly strip it away, intrusively playing 'Big Brother' at a point when students need to learn how to progressively manage their personal development for school, college and the work world?"

The following letter comes from Benicia resident, Pat Anderson. Post your opinion to Benicia Patch here

I'm sorry -- but I find it pretty damn hard to believe that three-fifths of our School Board, in the space of 45 minutes, voted away up to $90,000 of our public educational funds to support an unproven, hare-brained scheme:  locking in all 1,400 of our high schoolers during their lunch period, and forcing cafeteria food on them.  That the vote was championed by Mr. Messina, who recently  bemoaned spending a quarter of that amount on a long-deserved parcel tax for our schools, is beyond belief!

All three board members showed immaturity and disrespect to the public and their colleagues by not tabling the motion until the full five-member Board could discuss this cock-eyed "program."

Under the vague heading of improved "safety,"  1400 of our teenagers are to be abruptly locked in, and told that their state-issued drivers licenses are worthless while school is in session.  NO hard research is presented in a public forum. Just anecdotes and hunches.  Goofy, unsubstantiated claims.  Fears are framed.  Whoosh.   We suddenly "lock down" with such stellar high schools as Vallejo's and Pittsburgh's.

Trying to magically eradicate a few automobile accidents among teen aged drivers, sad as they truly are, is hardly justification for shredding the earned liberty of every single student who steadfastly worked to earn their driving privileges.  Parents, we grandparents and students themselves worked and saved hard and long to support the student's driving responsibility.   How can a school district abruptly strip it away, intrusively playing "Big Brother" at a point when students need to learn how to progressively manage their personal development for school, college and the work world? 

BTW -- Did anyone ask the local food-serving merchants how they'll make up for lost revenues and the locally-generated sales-tax?  When the administration claims this will be slowly implemented, why the sudden rush to implement with a generous budget?  What other pressing and truly educational needs are dumped so that a "bait and switch" forced implementation can be rushed through?

In addition, a big "No thanks" to the imperious Ms. La Riviere.  Her sardonic statements and poor analogies at the Board meeting and in the press reflect a top-down nastiness towards others' points of view.  She seems regrettably tone-deaf to adolescents' needs to be allowed to wrestle with these stages and responsibilities of their own development.  

Locking in students to stand in even longer, dreary  food lines, -- fanciful  awnings or not --and sit in crowded quarters every single school day, chowing down on school cafeteria food?!   How "safe"  can that nonsense be for students' public health and student morale?   What of those who must return home for medical, dietary or parental needs?  And should some horrific Columbine-style event occur, why on earth cramp everybody into a fishbowl-on-campus?

Leave that $90,000 of our tax dollars in the educational budget alone, friends.  This sham is counter to real, serious educational needs.

Share your thoughts below this story, or click here to post your own opinion to Benicia Patch here

Karen LaRiviere March 06, 2013 at 10:37 PM
You know Pat, if you had taken the time to research this issue even a little, you would have found that this was not a 45 minute endeavor, but a 6 year process and not made because of my 3 minute comments. You didn’t need to make this personal, but referring to me and my comments as “imperious” and “sardonic” are pretty funny. In the last 6 years, there have been 4 principals, numerous meetings with community members, neighbors, parents, students, teachers, police, and school district officials. Funny, your name doesn’t ring a bell. There have been articles in The Paw, Benicia Herald, Vallejo Times-Herald as well as postings on the Patch. With students, we visited other schools, interviewed their cafeteria personnel and worked to ensure that the cafeteria could, in fact, accommodate the increased number of students. To imply that this “cockeyed ‘program’” based on “anecdotes and hunches and goofy, unsubstantiated claims” was hatched in a vacuum and implemented on my comments alone is ridiculous. This really isn’t an “unproven harebrained scheme.” Of 29 high schools contacted in Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda and Napa Counties, all but 3 (Benicia, Napa and Vintage with parent permission) have a closed campus lunch policy. In addition to “such stellar high schools as Vallejo’s and Pittsburg’s,” Monte Vista in Danville, Acalanes in Lafayette, and Campolindo in Moraga, all high performing schools with closed campuses at lunch.
Karen LaRiviere March 06, 2013 at 10:38 PM
San Ramon Valley High administrators just made the decision with no public input to end their policy of allowing 11th and 12th graders to leave at lunchtime beginning next fall. Students’ driving privileges aren’t being infringed upon and there is no “right” to drive off campus for lunch, but if there was, every other high school with a lunchtime closed campus policy in California would be guilty of infringing on it too. All new drivers are restricted, by law, from having any passengers in their car under the age of 24 for 12 months. That law is one of the reasons many California high schools decided to close their campuses at lunchtime. School districts are responsible for all students from the beginning to the end of the school day, including lunch. Beyond the safety issues, the liability issues involved with allowing students to drive off campus, most with other students in their cars, some potentially breaking the law was just too We even asked many of the kids where they went for lunch when they left campus - In ‘N Out in Pinole, Wing Stop, Costco and Panda Express in Vallejo were the winners. No sales tax revenue for Benicia in any of those locations. Many people stay away from the local restaurants (and the front of the high school) during lunch time and will probably come back to fill in for the missing students. It’s school, if a student has to leave for “medical, dietary or parental needs” I’m sure appropriate accommodations will be arranged.
Karen LaRiviere March 06, 2013 at 10:38 PM
So Pat, I will conclude - if you had been involved at all in the last 6 years, all of your hyperbolic concerns, comments and questions would have been answered. You probably wouldn’t have changed your mind, but you would have seen that many people put a great deal of care, thought and research in to this decision. There was no “whoosh, we suddenly ‘lock down’” the campus arbitrarily or because I am “tone deaf to adolescents’ needs.” “Adolescents” is the key word there and it is the adults’ responsibility to ensure that the needs of ALL are met and, most importantly, that they are kept safe during the school day.
Jason March 06, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Who's being forced to eat cafeteria food? Are students barred from bringing their own lunch?
Karen LaRiviere March 06, 2013 at 11:47 PM
And in addition to Domino's Pizza, Subway and Jamba Juice will soon be on campus. Sounds awful!
John Headley March 07, 2013 at 05:18 AM
That picture looks delicious.
Cheryl T. March 07, 2013 at 02:55 PM
Karen, I'd have commented on Pat Anderson's diatribe, but you fielded it so succinctly and factually I've been saved the trouble. Nicely done.
Robert Livesay March 07, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Karen I do believe you make a very good arguement about a closed campus. I personally think it should be open. When I made it to High School one of my first thoughts was that I now was considered on my way to being an adult. All campuses were open when I went to school and being able to leave at lunch time was a freedom that we thought we earned by moving up through the school grades. Student behavior kept many students off sports teams and other activities for a suspended time or for the whole year. Guess what there is very little difference today than there was 65 years ago. Just less parental guidence and school discipline. I am a strong believer that these students should be able to discipline themselves and not jeopardize their privileges. If they do they will be taken away from them. In just a very few years the same students are going to be part of what is happening in our country. I think in the past they have always met our expectations. They deserve the privilege of going off campus.
Michelle Kye March 07, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Why is a letter to the editor the main story? Not acceptable -- put it with letters or opinions.
Aaron Nowling March 07, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Having knowledge of a student involved in a serious accident in my high school many years ago, $90,000 is not too much money for the safety of the entire high school population. The incident which I am referring too wound up with a six week stay in the hospital. The amount of time to go off campus for lunch is not conducive to getting the lunch, eating it, and getting back in a timely and safe manner. The Benicia High School cafeteria does a good job in providing lunch in accordance with federal and state standards. A bag lunch can also be put together for probably less than $1.00. There is no reason for a student to leave the campus and pay upwards of $5.00 for a lunch and arrive back at school late for class. The moral of the story is students should not have to provide revenue to local businesses while sacraficing the safety of the student. While many priviledges occur at age 18 , full majority privileges only occur at age 21 or older. Also, parents expect their children to be supervise while at school and this cannot be done if they are running all over town trying to buy an off campus lunch.
Karen LaRiviere March 07, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Close to 75% of high school campuses in the country are "closed" at lunch time. The negatives far outweigh the positives. It's 38 minutes, the students must drive to wherever they are going, those who are walking are generally not doing it for the fresh air, the Benicia Police have been asking for this for many, many years because they simply don't have the manpower to deal with the "calls for service" during that time period involving 14-17 year olds. BUSD has been looking the other way for years as new drivers race off campus with 3-4 friends in their cars that they aren't supposed to have. If there was a tragedy the liability would be enormous. I would almost bet that liability insurance carriers might strongly encourage this action as well. And the students have all been made aware that the tardies after lunch were a huge problem and not improving. Those disrupt everyone, even the kids who return on time. It's 38 minutes, really. If having to stay on campus at lunch is the biggest restriction the kids have to face in their young lives, things should work out well for them down the road. :)
Clarissa Rivasplata March 07, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Home schooling eliminates all those problems and when involved w/ your children, they have much more respect for people, take on more responsibility and love their life. I have done so for the past 8 years. BUSD has no idea how many families have pulled their kids out of the schools or how much revenue they are losing from that. It's usually not just one child, it's all the family's children. I pulled both my sons out and know many local families that have done the same. BUSD worries how they could increase the budget? How about having a viable independent study program so the local families actually have an option that would keep them in the district? Other districts do it, obviously. My student funds go to Sonoma. I consistently vote against parcel taxes for the BUSD as my children do not benefit from them. And the home schooled HS students that I know? Most are concurrently taking college courses at Solano when they are 16. By the time they graduate from high school, they're halfway done with college credits. I have known people who have done the independent study program w/ BUSD who said it's a joke. It's just too bad that our district doesn't fix that problem so families that have pulled their children out of our local schools have other options. Those who say home schooled kids aren't socialized or deal w/ class-room settings are clueless. We have those options. We also have no age or grade barriers either. Everyone gets along. (BUSD--Put the funds in the right place!)
Marnix A. van Ammers March 07, 2013 at 06:07 PM
What's the $90,000 for? The locks?
Clarissa Rivasplata March 07, 2013 at 06:36 PM
:-D Lol.That's hysterical, Marnix! Not just locks... barbed wire for the fences and guardhouses at the parking lot exits which will probably be staffed by parent volunteers! (More restrictions only encourage bad behavior and truancy. We all know how defiant a teenager can be. This is almost like a dare to them.)
"The Black Panther of Poetry" March 07, 2013 at 06:53 PM
"The Black Panther of Poetry" 10:51 am on Thursday, March 7, 2013 Our kids getting a GOOD to GREAT public education is no laughing matter!!!! But looking into the root spelling of your name this subject is probably funny because an un-educated populace means more OUT SOURCING of our jobs, among other things!!!
Stephanie March 08, 2013 at 07:06 AM
I was taught at home by my Mom from 1st grade to 9th grade and there is no doubt in my mind that I received a far superior and more well rounded education than my public school peers. My daughter was due to attend BMS this year and I pulled her out of the BUSD faster than you can blink- my only regret is not pulling my son (3rd grade) as well. They will both be homeschooled next year and I look forward to them learning to enjoy school, and actually enjoying LEARNING in a non-hostile environment. Bullying, hierarchies, clothing and body issues, and all other manner of nonsense will all be eradicated. I can't tell you how much happier my daughter is this year- her self confidence alone took such an amazingly positive leap when she wasn't subjected to all of the nonsense that now goes on in our public schools. I give major kudos to any folks who make it a point to teach their kids at home, because the "education" offered to our children in public schools is ghastly, insufficient, and only trains them to have deep insecurities and a general dislike of learning. I understand the there are some children who don't face the same opposition and difficulties that mine and many other children have, but there are more and more parents pulling their kids from the BUSD and that is a fact that shouts for itself.
Sam Scrutchins March 12, 2013 at 01:07 AM
I agree with original post. Stop babying our high school'ers and let them grow up. Jesus!!. They will make good decisions and bad decisions. That is what life is all about. Spend the money on education, not administration.
Babaloo March 12, 2013 at 03:55 AM
Sounds like Pat was right,,,"your tone is denegrating" and your opinon really gives the impression that NOONE elses opinion matters... soo..if the shoes fits.. So today the first of the fights has begun. who knows why ? does it really matter ? the kids will be penned in, stresses, "drama" and all the wonderful experiences of high school will hit them in the face. some literally some figureitively. As with anything,,the complete and totally banning, restrictions or "conviction" with out trial is ILLEGAL. Hopefully this ends up in the courts. maybe it will. Personally if I was held "captive" so to speak and forced to have to stay in for lunch, and not be able to "exercise my constitutional rights" I would not abide by the "dictation". Now there will be an executive order prohibiting all students from leaving school. to me this sounds like being held against your will. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But if this goes through. i would suggest all parents to ask for the resignation of the Principal, the Vice Principals and ALL the school board members who were involved in the voting and "restrictions" placed on our children. VOTE THEM OUT.
Babaloo March 12, 2013 at 04:00 AM
Subway is actually healthy. depends on what sandwiches you order. Dominoes is now a lighter fare and Jamba juice, is rather tasty. the real reason that the school is closed is problably this. follow the money. who will benefit the most. is it the school ? or the concessions ? how much is the schools "cut" of the profits ? that is the question ? and does anyone that helped make the decisions financially benefit from the closure of the school and may they own, or have a financial interest in the concessions ?
Babaloo March 12, 2013 at 04:08 AM
So basically you are taking away their rights as a "free" person. meaning they are not really free when they are at school. So that means the School is "responsible for them". ie. food, shelter. the school district is taking on alot of responsibility. How can the school purchase food for the entire school every day. Lunch must now be provided for those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves by keeping the children "captive". making them "a ward of the state" during school hours. if they were allowed to go home their food is " paid for by their families". if they stay at school ...and are not allowed to leave. then the school MUST provide food , shelter and safety for these children. Since they cannot provide food, shelter for these students, these students should not be "held captive or against their will". this subject will not go away until " our people are set free".
Babaloo March 12, 2013 at 04:10 AM
um,,our jobs are being outsourced already by " corporations" an inanimate object. and oboma...NOBAMA.. moneyboma...
JC March 12, 2013 at 04:29 AM
..."Not just locks... barbed wire for the fences and guardhouses at the parking lot exits which will probably be staffed..." Were we talking about the High School, or a Prison? I'm confused. I'm sure that EVERYONE involved with the decision, had an open campus, while in H.S. And none of them, chose to remain on campus- for every lunch, while attending school. So, how many additional cafeteria's are going to be built? Because everyone remembers that the Jocks were never hanging out anywhere near the Gear-heads who were no where near the Nerds. So at least 2 additional inside area's available to consume food are needed. (but should be more like 1 additional full-cafeteria, and 4+ inside areas, to consume food) And by treating the students like prisoners, I predict that they will begin to act more like prisoners. There will be a huge increase in altercations, between students. Along with declining test scores, and higher absence rates. Even today, High School students have no idea, of how to act in the real world - because they are becoming increasingly isolated from being personally responsible for anything. It used to be the kids responsibility to get to the bus stop on-time. Before and after school. Not anymore. If you were getting thirsty, you had to plan a pass by a working water faucet - BETWEEN CLASSES. Somehow, it became a constitutional right, that kids may bring drinks into the classrooms, and consume them during class? MORE LATER
Winter March 12, 2013 at 11:00 PM
the best money every spent was in deciding to protect our children by closing campus at lunch ... should have been accomplished years ago and will most likely save many kids lives!
"The Black Panther of Poetry" March 13, 2013 at 03:21 AM
hear .... hear!!

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