High School Lunch

Updated on December 03, 2012
S.G. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
18 answers

I was reading responses about high school senior traditions and I saw a few references to seniors being allowed to leave campus for lunch, and that the other students have to stay at school. Is this the norm? Where I live elementary students may leave for lunch with parents permission, and jr. high and high school are free to do as they please at lunch. When I was in high school I was able to get a spare either before or after lunch period, and I would be able to squeeze in working a lunch shift at the Burger King, or I could go to the mall or the library etc. Are students not able to eat lunch at home? What is the rationale? Just curious.

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So What Happened?

Wow, that is so much different from the way things are here in Canada. We don't use the terms open or closed campus, because I have never heard of a closed campus. All of our students have a one hour lunch. In elementary if the child stays at school it is 20 minutes to eat and 40 minutes outdoor recess. Many kids walk home for lunch though. In some areas eaating lunch at school is not even an option. In jr. high students are free to go once they are dismissed for lunch. It is between them and their parents to decide where they go and what they do. They may stay at school and eat in the cafeteria or go home. In high school students are not treated as children, they are allowed and encouraged to make their own choices. In high school I remember being responsible for scheduling all of my doctors and dental appointments myself, and for driving myself to them. You were responsible for how many classes you missed, and if you missed a certain number of any one class you met with the principal and your parents were informed.

Our city is designed so that all neighbourhoods have schools within walking distance. I guess we have more schools, but smaller student bodies. (our elementary has 200 students). Two elementary schools feed into one jr. high and two jr. highs feed into one high school. I hope we do not ever move towards the closes campus way of doing things. Sounds like jail.

It is amazing how many cultural differences I am learning about between our two countries. I watch all the same tv programs and read the same books and think our cultures are so much alike, but they are very different. Another huge difference I see is the dependence on cell phones down there. Here they are still not a necessity. We still have pay phones and public courtesy phones, children are not given cell phones and not every adult has a cell phone. Of course cell phones and cell phone plans are still more expensive here, so maybe that will change when prices start to come down.

Teenagers are sometimes injured or killed in accidents here too, occasionally during the school day, but more often outside of school hours. Of course adults are just as often killed and injured in car accidents.

I don't really see how teens can be expected to learn to behave as responsible adults if they are treated like children.

Featured Answers



answers from Dallas on

I think it depends on the district. Here we have closed campus. No leaving. Parents, grandparents, aunts, etc can bring lunch into students and stay and eat if they want to. But they can't leave for lunch. It's a time and safety issue.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

No. It was allowed until a 16-year-old was killed driving out to lunch, in front of the school. Car accident.

There is no reason to leave for lunch. I can see if a parent takes the child, fine. But there is no reason for a 16-year-old to be driving, in my opinion. I can name at least 9 in my school who died WHILE I attended, from car crashes.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

When I was in HS (82-86) we had an open campus, meaning we could leave for lunch.
My kids do NOT have this option, their HS is very tightly supervised.
My kids were surprised when I told them how much freedom I had as a teen. All I could do is shrug and say, well I guess we weren't all getting high and drunk and pregnant at lunch like you guys do nowadays, right?
(insert heavy sarcasm here)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I teach at a school with over 3000 students. We would like to keep all of them here for lunch because it would cut down on accidents, and on drug and alcohol use during lunch. We have a huge problem with students coming back after lunch high. Our cafeteria simply can't feed that many students in the amount of time allotted for lunch.

The reason juniors and seniors can leave is because they have cars. There aren't fast food places within walking distance of the school, and most student don't live within walking distance, so they must drive to eat. Also, our lunch is only 45 minutes long. They need to rush.

It's not an ideal situation, but it works alright. Of course, some lower-classmen sneak off-campus, too. That's a problem, too.

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answers from Washington DC on

we had open lunch when i was in HS. many of us had jobs we went to during that time. but then, we actually got an hour. i'm still aghast that kids today often have 20 minutes to gulp down their grub, and yet the idea that public school is for 'socialization' persists.
oops. a rant almost overtook me!
safety concerns seem to be the main factor today. schools need to control kids' every move and interaction, so no leaving the campus. i'm really shocked that your school district is so open. it's awesome, but rare.
it's hard to fathom how the next generation is ever going to manage independent thought and action. never in history have children been so utterly controlled.

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answers from Chicago on

Seeing as the school is responsible for the child during those hours most schools keep campus' closed. Mine was the kind where Jr/Sr could go off with a special pass where the parents agreed and waivers were signed/made. I think it is to protect the student and the school.

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answers from Boston on

We were not allowed to leave in high school at any grade (I suppose as 18 year olds we could have, but no one pushed this). My kids are not allowed to leave their high school (or any school) during the day. Our schools are basically in lock down after and before dismissal - there is only one door to get in any of the schools - for all but the high school, you have to ring a bell and they buzz you in from the office (thereby unlocking the locked door) and then you have to go into the office and state your business. In the high school you can walk in the door, but have to detour through the office to make it into the main part of the school. When I dismiss my kids from the high school, I have to show a photo ID. The first time I did this for my SD it was a huge big deal because my husband accidentally listed me under my maiden name when he filled out the form so the authorized pick up list had a different name from my ID.

The kids here get 20 or 25 minutes for lunch in high school so there would be no point in leaving anyway. Additionally, as a parent, I like knowing where my kids are and during the school day, I expect them to be literally at school. I don't see any point in giving teenagers yet another reason to wander around unsupervised.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

In our district, the only grade levels allowed to leave campus for lunch ( with pre-approved parental signatures) are grades 11-12 which are the Sr High Schools which only house grades 11-12. We have a huge district.

All other schools are closed campus meaning no student leaves campus but a parent is welcome to drop off or bring and have lunch with their child.

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answers from Washington DC on

I graduated hs in 2001, we weren't supposed to leave campus. However, in my senior year I only had to take two classes, so I took the two classes and left. I went to the local community college after that, and then worked full-time also. So I did, but if you had afternoon classes, you were not supposed to leave then.

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answers from Jacksonville on

YEAAAARS ago (like 25 ?) when I was a senior, we were given the privilege of being able to leave campus for lunch. I don't know if they still do that or not, here. My son is only in 9th so we will see when he gets there.

I know in the younger grades, no, you don't get to leave. In fact, they discourage parents taking the child out for lunch. Lunch is only like 30 minutes anyway---hardly time to go anywhere. They DO encourage parents to come sit/eat with their child at school, though.
The idea of working fast food during a school lunch break is foreign to me.

In fact, until 9th grade, our local schools don't even give the kids the freedom to sit with whom they want to in the cafeteria. They sit next to whomever they were in line behind/in front of. No seat swapping is allowed. I hate it for my daughter, b/c she takes her lunch (is rather picky and doesn't like the school lunches), and the kids who bring lunches don't stand in line with their friends/class and go thru the lunch line... they just go sit down. So she is often sitting next to kids she doesn't even KNOW, let alone friends with. Most kids in her class eat the school lunch, so her friends are still standing in the lunch plate line while she is seated next to other kids from other classes who also brought their lunch.

I don't like the system, but I suppose they have their reasons for it. And my daughter could choose to eat the school lunch if she wanted. I am choosing to view it as an opportunity for character building. :/

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Here, kids don't go home for lunch. Our schools are not in walking distance and we are not a sidewalk area. Kids were allowed to do that when I was a kid, growing up in the city, but my mother worked so that wasn't something that was an option for me.

My daughter is a senior in HS. Juniors and seniors, can, with parents' permission, go "uptown" if they have a free period. My daughter doesn't have a "lunch" but she has a free on some days, depending on what days her labs are for her two sciences (so she typically has a free one out of every three days). They aren't supposed to take their cars anywhere, if they have cars (my daughter does not).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

Here in Nebraska in the US they offer open campus rather sparingly anymore. When I was in school for our Junior and Senior year if your parents signed a form you could leave for lunch. Now, after Columbine and similar things they now practice closed campus and you can now only leave our children's high school for lunch if we go get them.

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answers from Atlanta on

At my school we weren't supposed to leave campus for lunch - because there was no where you could get to and back in 20 minutes - if seniors could finagle their schedule to have a free period after lunch, they could have left since their movements aren't really tracked. Most of the nearby high schools allowed seniors (and only seniors) to leave for lunch.

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answers from Houston on

My kid's campus is closed so the kids can't leave for lunch. When I was in HS we weren't suppose to leave either, but som kids did. My husband's school had an open campus so he, and some of his friends, would walk home for lunch.

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answers from Seattle on

Here it's open campus for highschool, sometimes open campus for middleschool, and parents can get their kids whenever they durn well please for all 3 levels... but since "lunch" (and recess) is only 20 minutes for elementary... it doesn't make a lot of sense to grab your elementary kid for lunch.

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answers from Anchorage on

When I was in school only the high school had open campus, and I think that is good. Most teens will just find ways to get in trouble anyways, and I would not want my elementary aged kids our running around town unsupervised.

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answers from Washington DC on

I went to 3 different high schools. First one was for my freshman year and I think it was an open campus. I never did leave though because I couldn't drive yet. Then we moved and I have to change schools. I went to the same school as my cousin and she got her license before me and so we would leave for lunch and go to mc donalds or where ever. Once I got my license in my junior year I was out everyday for lunch. My senior year we moved again and I had to switch schools again. It was a closed campus and they had a guard at the entrance and exit to the school checking ID's. The only way you were allowed to leave campus is if you didn't have anymore classes for the day after lunch and you would get a little sticker that was laminated into your ID card to prove it. They were very strict about it. I was one of the lucky ones who got to leave :)

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answers from Austin on

It used to be all high school students could leave campus for lunch. But after so many car accidents and deaths, of students rushing out and rushing back.. they decided to make it just Seniors.

There is no way we could let the younger kids go home for lunch.. there is not enough time and we would need crossing guards etc.. Too dangerous. The traffic is too heavy.

The other problem we are having in Austin this year is the percentage of kids leaving campus for lunch and not returning.. Apparently this school district has the highest percentage of truancy because of the privilege of being able to leave campus.. So you know what that means? They are considering, not letting ANY grade level students leave for lunch in the future.. .

1 mom found this helpful
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