Lawn chairs carry the day

Assistant Principal Greg Camacho-Light talks with students Chris

– Students tired of standing in the heat to eat their lunches
can thank a group of juniors and seniors who, after a staged
protest, march and petition, convinced administration to allow lawn
chairs during lunch.
Gilroy – Students tired of standing in the heat to eat their lunches can thank a group of juniors and seniors who, after a staged protest, march and petition, convinced administration to allow lawn chairs during lunch.

A cry of victory arose from roughly a dozen Gilroy High School students – all male except one – after they plopped down in their lawn chairs in front of Principal Bob Bravo’s office Friday in an effort, as one student put it, “to exercise our freedom.”

On Wednesday, four students brought lawn chairs to school to use during lunch because they said they were tired of eating standing up, as there aren’t nearly enough benches in the quad area for all students to sit.

Many students stand or find a spot of grass to spend their half-hour lunch period. But for students who aren’t lucky enough to find a patch of shade, eating in the heat can get unbearable, the group said.

Because GHS students are not allowed to go to their cars during the day to retrieve items, the lawn-chair group carried their gear with them from class to class.

Senior Matt Arvizu said none of the high school’s principals or teachers told them Wednesday the chairs were a problem. So, they did it again Thursday and pushed the envelope a little further: A few more students joined the group, and they brought an ice chest stocked with potato chips and root beer.

But this time administration took issue. The students were told bringing the items to school was against school rules, and assistant principal Mani Corzo confiscated their gear.

That made the students cry foul. No where in the high school’s handbook, they argued, did it explicitly state those items were prohibited on campus. A petition was started and by Friday afternoon the students said they had about 90 student signatures.

On Friday, the students brought the lawn chairs and ice chest to school again. When the lunch bell rang at 12:16pm, they headed to an area just south of the quad under some cherry trees, unfolded their chairs and set up camp.

A few minutes later, assistant principal Greg Camacho-Light came knocking.

“Yesterday, it was kind of a funny thing. Today, it’s defiance,” he told the students, who, judging by the look on some of their faces, weren’t sure whether to back off or speak up.

“Is it really that bad of a thing?” one student asked.

“Yes, it is, because if you can do it, she can do it and he can do it, too,” Camacho-Light replied, gesturing toward a few students walking by.

After the assistant principal walked away, the students discussed their options.

“We just don’t see what the problem is,” said senior Anthony Christian. “We’re not doing anything wrong. Their logic doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Prior to lunch Friday, Camacho-Light explained his reasoning.

“I told the kids yesterday, anything you do, multiply it by 25. What would happen if 25 kids did the same thing you’re doing? We can’t have everyone in lawn chairs,” he said.

Also involved were safety issues, especially with the ice chests, Camacho-Light said. Students could store any number of items in the coolers and carry them inconspicuously through the day.

In hopes of coming to an understanding, Corzo agreed to meet next week with students from the high school’s Leadership Class, a few of which were part of the lawn-chair group, to explain administration’s reasoning.

But the students didn’t want to wait. As they discussed Friday whether to let the issue fall by the wayside or forge onward, one student pitched an idea that was well received: “Dude, let’s go to Bravo’s office.”

They folded up their chairs, grabbed the ice chest and marched across campus to just outside the administration building, where they settled in, opened some potato chips and started crunching.

Bravo soon appeared and talked with the kids, then headed off to discuss the matter with other personnel. A few minutes later, he came back and told the students what they’d been waiting to hear: Lawn chairs are a go.

“They can try the chair thing, and we’ll see how it goes,” Bravo said after the students, cheering victory, returned to their spot under the cherry trees.

One potential hang-up that could halt the lawn-chair allowance is if storing the chairs in classrooms causes problems for teachers, Bravo said. If the students want to sit in the chairs during lunch, they’ll have to lug them around to their classes all day.

“If the teachers say it’s not a storage problem, it’s OK,” Bravo said. “But I need to hear from teachers that it’s not a problem.”

The ice chests, however, will remain a no go. Bringing coolers could introduce the possibility of students bringing large quantities of food to school and selling it to other students, reducing the need for the high school’s food service.

As far as he can remember, Bravo said the students’ lawn-chair-and-ice-chest suggestion is a new one. For the students, their victory came as a sweet success.

“We’re just trying to enjoy ourselves here,” Christian said, slipping on a pair of sunglasses.

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