Lunch Release: A Senior Tradition

Tia Petrzilka, Staff Writer

Images from a student's ID that identify a student as a senior who participates in lunch release.
Images from a student’s ID that identify a student as a senior who participates in lunch release.

Each year, as students complete another year in high school, they get another year closer to the cherished senior privileges.  Arguably the best and most notable of these privileges is senior lunch release, which of course, is only for seniors.

“I love lunch release. I like the fact that it gives you a chance to leave the school for an hour and get a change of scenery,” explained senior Madeleine Muller.

Upon registration, with parent approval, incoming seniors have the option to enjoy lunch release, where they have the opportunity to leave school, allowing them to dine at their favorite restaurants or go make a homemade meal in the comfort of their own home.

“[Cafeteria food is] not my favorite, so if I’m going to spend money on food I might as well buy food from my favorite place to eat like Taco Bell or Noodles and Company,” stated junior Nadia Carabello, who is interested in making lunch release a part of her final year of high school.

Despite the fun of going out each day for lunch, it can be costly at times, and as the year goes on, many students find themselves doing other activities whether it’s just going home or getting other things accomplished.

“I can go anywhere I want and it doesn’t even have to be a place to eat. I can get other stuff done as well,” stated Bierman.

At LHS, senior lunch release has been a tradition for quite some time, according to Mike Dolan, the head security supervisor.

“Going back to the 1960s when I was in school here, I graduated in 1969, we didn’t have senior lunch release, everybody stayed on campus.  My class of 1969, we had some politicians, some people who were thinking outside the box and they went to the administration and finally by second semester of my senior year, we were able to negotiate with the administration, the first ever senior lunch release,” shared Mr. Dolan with a smile.

With a long-lasting tradition like senior lunch release comes rules and procedures, such as making sure a student has lunch release by checking their ID, that are necessary to follow in order to maintain the tradition and keep track of students.

However, some students believe that security may take the rules of lunch release too seriously in relation to how the system works.

“I think security is a bit too much. They see the same kids walk in and out every period so I’m not sure why they enforce their rules so much,” stated Bierman.

On the other hand, some students believe that security is simply doing their job.

“They are just doing their job they have to [do],” said Muller.  “I would say they are very understanding.”

Mr. Dolan expressed why security may seem to be enforcing rules more than usual and explained what the purpose behind lunch release really is.

“We will go through periods where I’ll ask my people to do a harder check as you leave.  Especially when we get information that underclassmen are going out, but the other thing I always like to say is senior lunch release is just that.  It’s releasing you from school to go have lunch,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you go out and buy your lunch at Panera and bring it back and sit in the stairwell and eat in school, and I think that that’s a misconception.  It also does not mean that you have the privilege to walk the halls during your lunch hour.  That’s not the purpose of senior lunch release because there are academics going on throughout the school and we have to maintain some form of decorum within the school also.”

Mr. Dolan added that behavior outside of LHS during lunch release, by rule, should be conductive to the LHS way of thinking and there may be consequences for acting inappropriately, but he explained that, “99 percent of our people that go out for lunch, they act like the adults that we expect them to act like and they go out and they enjoy it.”

A main aspect of senior lunch release is that it’s only for registered seniors, an aspect that some students don’t agree with.  Non-seniors may feel that they should be allowed to go out with their friends, but failing to obey the rules can result in consequences, including the revoking of lunch release.

“Usually if we find a violation of the senior lunch release, say it’s a junior going out with another senior, the senior may lose their privilege, it may be taken away for a period of time,” stated Mr. Dolan.

Mr. Dolan added that the consequence for the junior, or any underclassman for the matter, would be determined by their dean.

Arriving back to school past the designated time for a lunch period could result in the serving of detention, a common consequence at LHS.

“I have snuck out [before] because I have study hall and lunch release back-to-back. I ended up getting two detentions which I thought was pretty stupid since study hall isn’t a legit class, but it was worth it because I got a solid lift in at the gym during the time I was gone,” explained Bierman.

With all the fun and independence that comes along with senior lunch release, it’s no surprise that some students believe the rule should change, giving juniors the same freedom.

Allowing juniors to leave the building during lunch periods may seem like a simple thing to change, but it could present more challenges.

“I feel like if they allow it for juniors, wouldn’t the sophomores who have their licenses want it to? There has to be a line drawn somewhere, so I doubt the change would occur,” pointed out junior Hannah Loizzo.

According to Mr. Dolan, it would be a difficult thing to work out, especially with the amount of students to keep track of and the size of the parking lot.

Mr. Dolan also commented on the fact that juniors would not have cars directly at LHS and therefore it would be even more difficult.

“I think that juniors and seniors are both considered upperclassmen and as a result, I think they should be allowed to have lunch release as long as they prove themselves to be responsible. But it may be hard for them to go out because they are not allowed to park campus so either way, seniority still pulls through since only seniors may park in the parking lot,” explained junior Lucy Zeng.

Bierman added: “I don’t think it (junior lunch release) would be used too often because of the long walk they (juniors) would have to take to their cars.”

Another thing to keep in mind when regarding lunch release is that it isn’t a right: it’s not something guaranteed everywhere or even at LHS as a senior, and just like any other privilege in life, if everyone had it, it wouldn’t be as special.

“It would be nice if we (juniors) could [have lunch release], but it seems like more of a senior privilege thing. Meaning, it is their last year so they should get some rewards or something. However, some juniors are friends with seniors and it would be nice if juniors could go with their senior friends,” expressed junior Hannah Smith.

Giving juniors lunch release could diminish the value it has for seniors.

“We don’t want to cheapen the whole aspect of it.  We want senior lunch privilege to be just that.  I have a special spot in my heart for the seniors and they’ve earned this privilege as seniors to go out to lunch,” explained Mr. Dolan.

Muller offered a similar opinion.

“I like that only seniors have it! It’s like an added bonus that you don’t think about till senior year,” shared Muller.

When asked if he thinks this rule could change in the future, Mr. Dolan explained that he cannot see this ever happening.

“I don’t think we’re gonna see that rule changed and again, I’ll go back to what I said before.  I believe it’s a senior privilege and it should remain just that.  It makes you look forward to your senior year a little bit more.  I’d like to see it stay that way.  It’s something that’s nice to look forward to during your first three years.  I know not everybody loves sitting in the cafeteria and I also remember many stories when I was in the cafeteria too.  Many stories that would bring a grin [to my face],” stated Dolan.

Said Loizzo: “I do think it is a kind of perk that comes with seniority, and that makes it more special. Besides, our school lunches are not terrible, so staying at school is not really that big of a deal.”

The last year of high school is usually a memorable one at LHS.  It’s the last year seniors will spend with the people they grew up with.  Lunch release is part of the senior-year experience and is something many students look forward to for years.

“I’m looking forward the freedom and the ability to hang out with my friends for a little [time] during the day, out of school,” shared Carabello.

Lunch release will likely remain a senior tradition for years to come, as it started in 1969.