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Ornberg, Restelli, Trebisacci 1

Julie Ornberg, Bryanna Restelli, and Nicholas Trebisacci

Mrs. Oliveira
College Writing
23 December 2016
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, students are college
bound; where they finalize college applications, receive recommendations and take the SATs
and ACTs. In a students senior year, the requirements vary, but nonetheless they grapple with
several requirements and responsibilities to graduate. In the past century, later noted within
Generation X (1965-1980), this hard work was recognized and rewarded through senior
privileges. By simply providing seniors the opportunity to have joyous moments and
acknowledge their work ethic, it created a bond between seniors which lasted throughout the
decades. Eventually, schools started to disregard requirements and student benefits. Today
despite constant demands, the privileges have slowly been revoked; particularly noted at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). Mr. Grimes
declared that in the past few years, senior privileges grew scarce. Although Westerly High
School provides 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, during lunch or study hall. Also, senior week consisted of renting out Misquamicut
cottages, prom, banquets, awards ceremonies, and a senior picnic at David's Resort in

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Connecticut (Trebisacci, R). In 1976, seniors were considered responsible adults, taking initiative
for their actions on school property. Now, seniors are unable to go to their car without receiving a
pass first. More than a decade later in 1989, senior privileges remained the same with additional
fun activities. 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
was established, meaning seniors were able to leave depending on their schedule. Moreover,
seniors engaged in a senior field trip and a banquet held at the Westerly Yacht Club (Ornberg,
Jo). Seniors during Generation X were awarded freedoms and were treated more like adults.
Seniors now at Westerly High School, wish the same philosophy applied, which granted previous
years seniors more privileges no other classes were awarded with (Ornberg, Ju).
On March 7, 2008, 256 seniors staged a walk-out protesting their senior rights and
privileges. The privileges these students were protesting for, was a senior section at lunch, a
senior fun day, a senior lounge and a study hall, which were all stripped from them (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 barely 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,
thus holding the protest (Trebisacci, A).
Currently, Westerly High School seniors have some major 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, a senior picnic, a senior parking

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lot, outside seating for lunch, and an all night graduation party, which follows graduation. 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 reward. Additionally, their exemption from final exams are at the discretion of the
teacher, not automatic, like most seniors assume. Even with these rewards, Westerly seniors
believe they deserve more.
A survey was sent out to the senior Class of 2017 to discover if they would like additional
privileges, or are content with the ones we currently obtain. Sixty seniors responded to the
survey, 91.7% feel as though seniors do not have a sufficient amount of liberties. Furthermore,
95% claimed they wish to have more senior privileges, like those at Stonington High School.
Lastly, when asked what the additional senior privileges could be the top two answers were
senior release and a senior lounge which are both provided at Stonington. Many Westerly seniors
would believe that there is less freedom, when at Stonington High School seniors are provided
freedom while still maintaining good grades and being respectful (Ornberg, Ju). Overall,
Westerly High School should expand the amount of privileges seniors have especially knowing
all the school project and requirements needed for the graduation day in June.
Across the river in Stonington, Westerlys rival school, seniors rights are not a primary
issue. Stonington allows seniors to participate in many senior privileges provided by the school.
After conducting an interview with a senior, Alexia Pucci, from Stonington, it became clear
Stonington has more freedom. The Class of 2017 at Stonington are provided with a donated
senior lounge where they can sleep, relax, or do homework. In addition, senior release is
available, meaning that when study hall is first or last block of the day, they are able to come into

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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. However, Stoningtons schedule allows seniors the time for privileges and freedoms
granted throughout the school day.
The reason for this decrease in rights at Westerly High School, was due to a new Rhode
Island Department of Education Commissioner. In 2008, when Deborah Gist became the
commissioner of education in Rhode Island, new laws were created eliminating study hall.
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 not instructional, it was cut from the
curriculum, and is excluded from the system currently. The idea of seniors aching for more rights
has carried over into the future, however no senior class has attempted a protest since.
When granting seniors more privileges, the school has to worry about legal matters. The
courts place the teachers and administrations at the school accountable for the safety and well
being of the students, making it clear that the school must protect the students from foreseeable
harm, injury and death. If the school does not protect the students from any danger, the law
claims they have acted negligently and these 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 legal term applies to school
administrators and teachers, and states that while the child is at school or at a school function the
school has the duties and responsibilities of acting in place of the students parents. The legal

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doctrine also makes administration liable for accidents and injuries students experience under
their supervision. The Prudent Teacher Theory, however, is how the courts determine who is
responsible 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 was to be playing in the parking lot of
their school at recess and was struck by a car, the teachers actions would be irresponsible since
the events would have been predictable. Even still, not all accidents at school are the result of the
school being careless. If the school does everything in their power to protect their students, then
the courts will rule in favor of the school (Calisi). Although the Prudent Teacher Theory helps the
schools, doctrines, such as in loco parentis, make administration weary of giving seniors
freedoms because even if the student is eighteen years old, the school is still liable for any harm
they endure.
With all increasing demands placed on seniors throughout the school year, forms of
reward should be placed into consideration. Bound by coursework and deadlines, along with
graduation requirements, seniors should receive recognition for putting forth their best efforts.
Unfortunately, administration can only grant the senior class certain privileges, and according to
Todd 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 seniors...but it
would be nice to offer privileges to all students that met expectations (Grimes). Principal
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,

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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.

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.

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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.