Rigid school structure conditions

Teens have to ask their teachers for permission to go to the bathroom.

They can not go out into the parking lot to their cars unless they obtain not only a teacher’s permission but also the office’s permission.

If they want a quiet environment to help them focus—say the hall or a booth—they need permission for that, too.

Not much decision making is made by the student, not even those in the senior year.

“It just seems kind of silly that the teachers want us to become like these independent people because we’re at school,” junior Ivori Hufnagel said. “But yet we [get] asked these questions that were kinda’ like kindergarteners asking to do everything that we need.”

However, the student handbook states that the school rules are trying to help with employment opportunities and enforcing rules that would not be allowed in the normal work field.

The educational environment aims to teach teens in a professional environment, but misses the mark when it requires students to depend on adults for basic decision-making and permission to be independent, both qualities desired in the outside work environment.

The administration doesn’t give enough freedom to the students who are being micromanaged and it makes it really hard for them to not want to rebel. They are expected to compete for the same things and do the same things a normal work environment would but also be held down because they are needing to ask a teacher if they can work with someone else, or move around the room. On the other hand, those rules are in the student handbook to be sure that school is a safe place for everyone and if one of these more minor rules is broken the consequences are not severe. 

“There’s like three types of group violations: group one, group two and group three, and the higher the number, the more severe the consequence,” principal Jeff Trapp said. 

A rare few schools have worked to balance the need for discipline with an emphasis on student independence.

One school in Massachusetts does not have any teachers. Instead, they have parents or people around the town come in and watch over the students. The students establish the discipline rules and are in charge of their own learning.

Administrations and the teachers could give a little more freedom so the students can have a more independent school environment while still keeping everyone in the school safe. 

“Schools need to foster independence and being able to be in charge of where you go is important, and yet there is a balancing part and that balancing part is taking the trust from parents and making sure that students are safe and okay,” social worker John Twining said.