For a long time, the open campus policy has allowed students in grades ten and above to come and go as they please, as long as they’re not missing a class. You may have been surprised to hear that this year, RHS is piloting a policy change which extends this privilege to freshmen, which has had some pretty positive reactions. Freshmen, of course, are glad that they no longer have to worry about getting in trouble for leaving. The sophomores, juniors, and seniors, while bitter that the restrictive rule wasn’t abolished until after their freshman year, seem to agree that it was unnecessary. I sat down with Dr. Gorman to discuss the topic in more depth. He talked about how the rule prohibiting freshmen from leaving campus during school hours was somewhat of a relic from way back in 1986 when RHS reorganized as a four-year high school. Administrators feared that an open campus would be too much responsibility for ninth-graders, so they chose instead to be cautious and only give the privilege to the older grades.
Thirty-two years later, long after the restructuring of the high school, the rule began to seem somewhat irrelevant. “We had a number of freshmen that were going off campus,” Dr. Gorman said, “and we knew about that. And we caught as many as we could, but when we started to really look at it, we said, ‘well, what is the policy doing and why do we have it in place?’” According to Dr. Gorman, the idea of changing the policy was brought up a few times but gained momentum over the last year. “Just after school, [the freshmen] walk to town, they go to Starbucks, so what’s the difference?” Seemingly, the decision to get rid of the rule was a good one. “It’s worked extremely well so far”, he said.
As with any policy change, however, this one has not been without some criticisms. A few parents have gone to the Board of Education and HSA with concerns that ninth-graders are simply not mature enough to handle this much freedom. With that, Dr. Gorman emphasized that parents retain the right to deny their child’s off-campus privileges at any age. He noted that every year a handful of students are assigned academic study hall during their free periods as well as restricted to closed lunches.
The decision has also been met with praise, and at HSA meetings last year many parents and staff members were in favor of the change and discussed it openly.
From a student’s perspective, things don’t seem much different. The old rule was very hard for administrators to enforce, and many teachers didn’t want to go through the trouble of punishing students they saw come back with bubble tea, coffee, or other items clearly purchased in town. While the results have been positive so far, Dr. Gorman made it clear that this year is a trial period and it is too early to tell whether or not this policy will be renewed. Until then at least, freshmen will be able to continue enjoying their newfound freedom.
Graphic: Caroline Wagschal