Nearly one third of the 89 teens suspended so far this year at Crescenta Valley High School were caught breaking district rules, or worse, the law, during the lunch break, when the entire student body is allowed to leave campus for roughly one hour, officials reported Tuesday.
Six of the students suspended this school year were caught smoking cigarettes and marijuana in a private backyard during the open lunch.
The report comes as Glendale Unified officials mull ending Crescenta Valley High’s open lunch policy after noticing a spike in absences and tardies during fifth period, which immediately follows the midday break.
They have also expressed concerns about unsafe driving among students.
“The law says we are responsible for them from the time they leave their house in the morning to the time they get home in the afternoon,” Deputy Supt. John Garcia said at a school board meeting Tuesday. “That is inclusive of … the lunchtime, whether they are on our campus or not.”
Twenty-five of 89 in-school and at-home student suspensions issued since school started on Aug. 29 happened during lunch, Garcia said. For the fifth period, there was an average of 19.5 absences during the first 10 weeks of school, as opposed to a combined average of 18.6 absences for the first four periods, he added.
An average of 40.8 tardies were also logged in the fifth period during the first 10 weeks of school, compared to a combined average of 33.8 tardies for periods one through four.
School board member Greg Krikorian noted that the months-long scrutiny of lunch-time behavior has done nothing to change the absence and tardy statistics at Crescenta Valley High School.
“If I was a student at that school and I knew these things were going on, I would be passing the word around, saying, ‘Hey, we got to get our act together here, this is a serious situation,’” Krikorian said.
Crescenta Valley High is the only Glendale Unified school that allows students to leave at lunch on a daily basis. Hoover and Glendale high schools closed their campuses in 1992 and 1994, respectively, and Clark Magnet High School has never had an open lunch.
The district will continue to gather data in preparation for a Dec. 8 community forum at Crescenta Valley High School on the open lunch policy. The policy could go before the school board for a formal vote as early as Feb. 7, Garcia said.
Most students use the lunch hour for good purposes, including eating with family members or at local churches, said sophomore class president Joy McCreary.
“One of my best friends leaves and walks to his grandma’s house, and he has lunch with his grandma really often, and I think that is a really great thing,” McCreary said.
Crescenta Valley High School parent Pat Chambers said restricting children’s choices robs them of the chance to become successful decision makers.
“Students getting ready to go to the workforce, or further their education, will need to know how to get themselves to places on time, go out for lunch, pace themselves, cross the street, drive safely — just as they practice academic and study skills now, they need to practice life skills as well,” Chambers said.
While board members will not vote on the issues for a few months, some have already expressed support for eliminating, or at least modifying, the policy.
“Every single one of us wants to make sure that our students are safe at CV High School and all high schools,” school board member Nayiri Nahabedian said. “What we have control over as board members is the time that they are in school.”
FOR THE RECORD: This version corrects a headline that incorrectly stated student arrests were made post-lunch.