Do business concerns and “fairness” concerns outweigh the concerns for student safety?

Operational and Safety Challenges of an Open Lunch

Purpose:

The purpose of this assignment is to get you to think more deeply about important operational challenges that school leaders face: student rights, school district liability, and student safety. As a future school leader, these issues are sure to come up during your tenure.

Directions:

For this assignment, you will write an essay (not including cover or reference page) in which you respond to the scenario below. You must use a minimum of three academic resources (not including your textbook) as you examine strategies to address these operational challenges. Please review the scenario and use the questions at the conclusion to guide your thinking for the response. Be sure to use APA formatting for all portions of this paper. Include a title page, an introduction with a directive thesis, paragraphs that support the thesis, a conclusion, and a reference page.

Scenario:

As in most schools, student safety is a huge concern at Oak Creek High School. Keeping students safe is a major operational responsibility for the school and its leaders. The superintendent has recently spoken to you regarding her concerns about school liability should something happen to students during the long-standing “open lunch” period that allows students to leave campus for lunch and choose where to eat. She would like you to review this situation and wants you to make the decision to keep the lunch as is, or to change it. As the school leader, you do not take this responsibility lightly, and you know that there are many factors to be considered before a decision is made. You decide for transparency’s sake that you should involve others in the decision, so you formed a committee of parents, business owners, community members, teachers, and students.

During your committee meeting, you laid out your concerns. You showed the committee data from other school districts showing that automobile accidents often occur during open lunches because students are in a hurry to get to lunch and then get back to school before being considered late to class. You told the committee that you are afraid someone will be badly hurt. You also shared reports from local citizens that students are smoking, drinking, and possibly abusing drugs during the open lunch and this behavior is unacceptable.

“These are unhealthy and dangerous activities,” you say. “In addition, other area schools have open lunches, and this opens the possibility of students mixing with those of other schools and of possible gang activity during these times.”

You then mention that some parents have reported rumors of sexual activity going on during the lunch hour. Since no one supervises students while away at lunch, some don’t return to school, or some return late. With this data and information you presented to the committee, your mind was mostly made up before the meeting.

This committee, which seemed like a good idea, soon turned into a disordered situation. You faced some passionate resistance to closing lunch and they had valid points to consider.

“I don’t agree with closing lunch at all,” said Will Turner, who operates a deli just a couple of blocks from the school. “Our lunch sales make up a big portion of our daily revenue. Without those sales, we might have to shut down.” Will also mentioned that he was a taxpayer.

“I don’t agree either,” added Madolin Elise, a senior at the school. “Bad behavior occurs only in a minority of students. The rest of us should not be punished, and to stop the off-campus lunch is not fair.”

“This is a right we have,” said Meredith Elaine, another student. “You can’t take that away from us; you are infringing upon our rights and the tradition that we have as students here.”

Several parents spoke against closure, too. They said the break from school was good for students academically as the break gave the students a chance to breathe and come back refreshed to learn.

“Our students need to have some independence,” said one parent. “They need to learn how to make decisions on their own, and an open lunch hour allows them to practice those skills.”

Teachers also said they liked the open hour—it gave them more time to prep since they didn’t have to supervise a lunchroom, hallways, or other areas. The district budget director also opposed the change because the school actually loses money on every student lunch it sells and cannot afford to strain an already tight budget. Finally, the curriculum director spoke against it, saying that if lunch were closed the schedule would have to be reworked to fashion the three different lunch shifts that would be required to feed all of the students in the school’s tiny cafeteria.

Your once-clear decision is now quite foggy with all the new information that you have to consider. However, the decision is yours to make. Will you close lunch and be satisfied that students are safer, or will you continue with the open lunch policy and possibly put the district at a liability risk to avoid making many people angry not to mention limiting the possible rights of students?

As you write your essay, weigh this decision considering the following:

Is the superintendent’s concern over liability justified?
Do business concerns and “fairness” concerns outweigh the concerns for student safety? Why or why not?
Do students have the right to go to lunch off campus? Why or why not?
Now that you have addressed the operational and safety issues if lunch stayed open and a student was badly injured, would the school and your personal liability be expanded due to foreseeability?
Do you see any compromise position here that would allow for some type of open lunch, but protect the district from liability?
What other issues do you see from this scenario? Remember to put yourself in the place of all stakeholders involved.
What would be your decision and the reason why you made such a decision?