During lunch at Palombi, people used to be able to sit wherever they wanted. But over time, the executive decision was made to have students sit with their homeroom class. Students in the past had to sit with their Advisories at lunch due to the loudness of the lunchroom and as an attempt to minimize trouble-making. A few weeks ago, a few seventh grade students, whose lunch period had been the first to be punished, decided to write a letter to the school to change the lunches back to free seating. They included many important points, such as the following quote:
“You have probably noticed that the noise level is about the same. We think this is because the people who talk a lot have a lot of friends, making them loud, and because of this they have someone to talk to no matter where they have to sit. However, there are many students, who do not have as many friends, and are much quieter. Now, many of us have no one to talk to during advisory lunches. By forcing us to sit with our homeroom class, you punish the people who were not causing problems to begin with.”
This was the main basis for the paper, along with the facts: the lunchroom didn’t get much quieter, nor did students behave better. In fact, lunch periods have been more chaotic recently.
The original author shared the letter with her table using Google Docs, during her free time in eighth period. They all agreed with it. One of her friends suggested that she turn it into a petition. Eventually, they shared the letter (now petition) with everyone in their class. Those people sent it to their friends, and signed their name below the essay. After ten short minutes, they had already collected over 20 signatures!
People shared it with others and left their own signatures. The next day, the writers were delighted to find that they had already gotten about 60 signatures! Signing increased over the next three class periods. At one point, there were so many people on the document that people couldn’t type because of lag. Below is a quote from the main author of the petition.
“We were really surprised when we got so many signatures in such a short time. School wasn’t really something I looked forward to, but things really picked up when the word spread. People I had never seen in my entire life were talking to me about it, and I met a lot of people. During my study hall class, almost everyone was on the document and signing their names and talking about it, and everyone started clapping when we reached 100 names. It was a really great feeling.”
As with many events, the word spread like wildfire. And along with it came rumors. One of the four original petition owners made the decision to rid the non-owners of the rights to view and edit the document. Here is a quote from the anonymous petition owner.
“Many people were using the petition to chat with their friends and goof off. Even the people who did not intentionally change anything major still made mistakes. In my opinion, shutting down the petition and resharing after we had gone in and fixed everything was the best route to take. We had a few misunderstandings within the group and were still working out the details, which took away our ability to communicate effectively and work out the problems. However, I can’t say I regret doing what I did, but do understand how my peers felt after I did this.”
Students thought that the petition had been taken down by the school, when in reality they just couldn’t access it. After that, the popularity of the document simmered down. It had already reached its peak. But by the weekend, the petition had 170 signatures.
People also believed that they would get in trouble for signing. Speak of referrals and detention to signers scared students and many tried to take their name off. Others thought the petition had no chance of working and refused to sign. Even the owners knew there was probably a minuscule chance of getting the school to listen to them.
Over time, comments from students with personal stories and important points led to new sentences being added on. One owner added two new paragraphs. A parent left a great quote about his own experience in lunch duties and a method of keeping kids in line, which was later implemented at Palombi. He talked about PBIS, or Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports.
Eventually, the stress of the petition was getting too high. People everywhere were anxious to get it sent in to the principal and/or the dean. So, the lead owner’s parent called Mr. McCuistion about it. He was very understanding and agreed to talk to the owner in private. He called her down and talked to her for a bit, and then asked her and her team to give a presentation about what they could do to change the situation. She agreed and two days later, she arrived with the other owners during morning advisory. They shared a Google Slides presentation with Mr. Mac and Mr. Wight.
Afterward, the group discussed their ideas. The adults thought the students had brought up some very good points and decided to think about it and tell them their decision the next school day.
The principal and dean decided to give back free seating every day, along with many positive behavior rewards. Palombi is beginning to implement PBIS methods. Students can now earn REP tickets for good behavior around the school, which they can later enter in a raffle to win prizes! And now, instead of making every day Advisory seating, Advisory seating can be used as a punishment for extremely loud and continuously bad behavior. Students will now get two warnings when they are too loud, and if they do not improve their performance they will have to sit with their Advisories for one day.
“We are thrilled with the success of this petition, and we would like to thank everyone who signed and helped us out. And by the way, Mr. Mac laughed when we told him people thought we would get in trouble.” This is another quote from the lead author.
Enjoy your lunches everyone!
Written by Sarah Lester, with help from Marina Obaid.