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Ornberg, Restelli, Trebisacci 1

Julie Ornberg, Bryanna Restelli, and Nicholas Trebisacci

Mrs. Oliveira
College Writing
5 January 2017
To Reward or Revoke
Senior projects pile on top of senior papers and exams, while the students try keeping up
with their regular coursework. Aside from completing senior objectives, Eighty percent of
students are college bound as well. They need to finalize college applications, request
recommendations and take the SATs and ACTs one last time. In a students senior year, the
requirements vary, and students grapple with those demands and responsibilities necessary to
graduate. Between the years 1965 to 1980, the efforts exhibited within Generation X were
recognized and even rewarded through senior privileges. By the administration providing seniors
the opportunity to obtain privileges, it encouraged them to complete coursework, while creating
a bond between seniors which lasted throughout the decades. Today despite constant demands
and students who produce outstanding work, the privileges have slowly been revoked,
particularly noted at Westerly High School. Years ago, it used to be different, stated the
current Westerly High School principal Todd Grimes who provided insight on senior privileges
(Grimes). Grimes declared that in the past few years, senior privileges have grown scarce.
Although Westerly High School provides a few privileges for their senior students, the senior
class deserves additional benefits they now lack.
The senior Class of 1976 participated in such rewards, including leaving throughout the
school day: either during lunch, or during study hall. Also, at the end of their academic year,

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seniors celebrated Senior Week. Senior Week consisted of renting Misquamicut cottages,
attending prom, banquets, award ceremonies, and a senior picnic at David's Resort in
Connecticut (Trebisacci, R). In 1976, seniors were considered somewhat responsible adults, who
held themselves accountable for their actions, on and off school property. Now, seniors are
unable to go to their car without receiving a pass first. More than a decade later in 1989, despite
a few additional activities, senior privileges remained the same. For instance, study halls were
reserved for the senior class, and a senior lounge was provided to accomplish any school work,
or just simply relax. Additionally, senior release time still existed, and allowed seniors to leave
campus depending on their schedule. Moreover, seniors engaged in a senior field trip and a
banquet held at the Westerly Yacht Club (Ornberg, John). Seniors during Generation X, were
awarded freedoms and were treated more like adults. Now at Westerly High School, seniors wish
the same philosophy, which granted such privileges, applied (Ornberg, Julie).
Currently, Westerly High School seniors have some privileges, but they seem minor
compared to decades prior. These rewards include a senior barbeque, which takes place at the
beginning of the year, senior exemption from final exams, if the senior has a 90 or above, a
senior picnic, a senior parking lot, outside seating for lunch, and an all night graduation party.
This year, the seniors attended a field trip to the movies, a small gesture, which can technically
count as a one-time senior privilege. There have not been any concrete discussions about having
annual senior field trips in the future, therefore the Class of 2017 may be the only senior class to
receive this privilege. Additionally, their exemption from final exams are at the discretion of the
teacher, not automatic, like most seniors assume. Though these rewards seem plentiful, if
fundraising does not occur, all of the events requiring money, can be revoked.

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Across the river in Stonington, Westerlys rival school, seniors rights are not a focal
issue. Stonington allows seniors to participate in many senior privileges provided by the school.
After conducting an interview with a senior, Alexa Pucci, from Stonington, it became clear
Stonington has more freedoms. The Class of 2017 at Stonington is provided with a donated
senior lounge where they can sleep, relax, or complete homework. In addition, senior release
time is available, which means that when study hall is first or last block of the day, seniors can
come into school at 8:55 AM or leave school at 12:35 PM (Pucci). Seniors at Stonington not only
have these additional entitlements, but also have senior week and fun activities similar to
Westerly High School. Stoningtons schedule however, allows seniors the time for privileges and
freedoms granted throughout the school day.
A survey was sent out to the senior Class of 2017 to discover if seniors would like
additional privileges, or if the members are content with the ones they currently have. Sixty
seniors responded to the survey, and 91.7% of them feel as though seniors do not have a
sufficient number of liberties. Furthermore, 95% claimed they wish to have more senior
privileges, giving them more freedom on campus. Lastly, when asked what the additional senior
privileges could be, the top-rated two answers were senior release time and a senior lounge
(Ornberg, Julie). Overall, Westerly High School should expand the number of privileges seniors
have, especially knowing the stress the seniors endure to complete the projects and requirements
needed to graduate.
The reason for the lack of rights at Westerly High School, is due to the actions of the
2008 Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner, Deborah Gist. In 2008, when Gist
became the commissioner of education in Rhode Island, she created new laws to eliminate study

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halls. Before Deborah Gist, it was a requirement to have instructional time for 330 minutes or 5
hours each day, excluding study hall and lunches (Rhode Island). However, when she
became the commissioner of education, the laws quickly changed, making it mandatory for
schools to have 1080 school hours in a single school year, or a minimum 6 hours of instructional
time per day (General Laws). Since Gist categorized study hall as non-instructional, she forced
Rhode Island schools to cut them from the curriculum, and this cut is still enforced currently.
These laws, created over nine years ago, continue to restrict Westerly High School, and other
schools in the state, from adding more senior privileges.
In an effort to regain privileges, or at least draw attention to the issue, 256 seniors staged
a walk-out protesting their lack of senior rights on March 7, 2008. These students protested for
privileges such as a senior section at lunch, a senior fun day, a senior lounge, and a study hall, all
of which were stripped from them earlier in the year (Vyse). Ashley Trebisacci, a Westerly High
School alumna from the Class of 2008 who participated in the protest, felt as though she
deserved the rights which were unjustly revoked. Not even eating outside was allowed, leaving
hardly any senior privileges for her class to enjoy. Angry at the state of Rhode Island for
requiring not only a senior project, but a portfolio as well, her senior class felt the immense
pressure. Ashley explained that even though they knew the administration could not issue them
new benefits, as a class, they wanted to display their emotions on a wider scale, and so they held
the protest (Trebisacci, A).
Certainly, when granting seniors more freedoms, the school has to worry about legal
matters. The courts place the teachers, administration, and the school accountable for the safety
and well being of the students, making it clear that the school must protect these individuals from

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foreseeable harm, injury and/or death. If the school does not protect the students from danger, the
law claims it has acted negligently and these irresponsible actions make them responsible, or
liable, for the injured students damages (Calisi). The legal principle which allows for an
individual to sue a school is In Loco Parentis, which translates to in place of parent. The term
applies to administrators and teachers, stating while the child is at school, it takes the role of the
students parents. The legal doctrine also makes administration liable for accidents and injuries
experienced by students under its supervision (Calisi).
The Prudent Teacher Theory, however, is how the courts determine responsibility in each
case (Calisi). There are several factors which classify an action as negligent, such as the overall
plan of supervision, if the teacher used reasonable care and if the event was foreseeable. For
example, if an elementary school student played in the parking lot at recess and was struck by a
car, the teachers actions would be irresponsible, since the events could have been predicted.
Even still, not all accidents at school are the result of the administration being careless. If it does
everything in its power to protect its students, then the courts will rule in favor of the school
(Calisi). Although the Prudent Teacher Theory helps the schools, doctrines like in loco parentis,
make administration weary of giving seniors freedoms.
With all increasing demands placed on seniors throughout the school year, new forms of
reward should be considered. Bound by coursework and deadlines, along with graduation
requirements, seniors should receive recognition for completing the required projects and
coursework. Unfortunately, administration can only grant the senior class certain privileges, and
according to Grimes, privileges at the high school seem abundant in comparison to other
neighboring schools. I don't know if Im a huge senior privilege fan its nothing against

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seniors...but it would be nice to offer privileges to all students that met expectations (Grimes).
Grimes quickly added, although I do like the fact that sometimes seniors get a little bit because,
you paid your dues for doing what you have to do (Grimes). In the future, Principal Grimes
mentions he would not strictly oppose privileges such as senior lounge, but the plan must be
logical. Working closely with administration and attending school improvement meetings,
seniors could potentially regain privileges. But if all else fails, future senior classes could revisit
the idea of a protest, relocating from the quad of Westerly High School to the sidewalks of the
States Capitol building.

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Works Cited
Calisi, Anthony P. Accidents at School, Liability and Injury Claims.,
Sept. 2016,
General Laws in Chapter 16-2 S 0366 Substitute A. State of Rhode Island in General Assembly
January Session, 2015, pp. 13.
Grimes, Todd. Personal interview. 9 Dec. 2016.
Ornberg, John. Personal interview. 7 Dec. 2016.
Ornberg, Julie. Senior Privileges. Survey. 9 Dec. 2016.
Pucci, Alexa. Personal interview. 6 Dec. 2016.
Rhode Island Department of Education . Non-Public School Frequently Asked Questions, Nov.
2015, pp. 998. doi:10.1002/9781118371923.ch2.
Trebisacci, Ashley. Personal interview. 10 Dec. 2016.
Trebisacci, Robert. Personal interview. 10 Dec. 2016.
Vyse, Emily. Students Protest for Privileges. The Barker, 17 Mar. 2008.