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What happens when a student prank turns into a protest?

RightIsWrong

Diamond Member
Apr 29, 2005
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It seems that some students protested their lunch "hour" only being 30 minutes to no avail so they decided to play a little prank on the school staff to make a point. Word got out and it turned into a protest with a total of 29 kids taking part (it may/probably would have been more...but time ran out).

The prank/protest?

Pay for your $2 lunch in pennies to show that the lunch "hour" being 30 minutes was not an adequate enough time to actually eat your lunch.

Free the "Readington 29" as they are being called.

Some protesters use their feet, others their voices. Students this week at a Hunterdon County middle school used their cents.

Upset with a lunch period they say should be longer than 30 minutes, at least 29 teenagers at the Readington Middle School decided to pay for their $2 lunches with pennies.

The cafeteria line backed up, school officials were not amused and almost immediately handed out two days of detention to the group of seventh- and eighth-graders.

School officials cited disrespect toward cafeteria workers and fellow students as reason for the punishment.

"Most reasonable people understand that the school needed to respond to this," said Superintendent Jorden Schiff.

Currency experts said the Coinstar machines found at most grocery stores take just under 30 seconds to count 200 pennies and the ones found at Atlantic City casinos take about 45. Cashiers at the school took considerably longer to count out the estimated 5,800 pennies by hand. As a result, Schiff said, other students missed out on their mid-day meal.

The punishment outraged some parents like Pete Garibaldi, whose son Andrew was slapped with the detentions.

"They could have turned it into a civics lesson, or applauded the kids for speaking out," he said. The punishment "is a knee-jerk reaction and an immature response to an immature prank."

The plan, according to the students, was conceived on Wednesday during a social studies class when several classmates discussed the rushed lunch period. Within minutes, text messages were sent, then forwarded, until momentum built among the nearly 250 eighth-graders. At home, kids raided couch cushions, kitchen drawers, and old coffee cans for long-forgotten pennies.

When they arrived at the cafeteria Thursday -- around 11:15 a.m. -- their pockets were heavy with change. The special of the day -- cinnamon French toast and sausage at a cost of $2 -- was waiting. And before lunch was over the registers were stuffed with nearly 32 pounds of pennies.

By the end of the day, the detentions had been issued.

Wearing a homemade shirt that asked "Got Pennies?" Jennifer Hunt, 14, walked from the middle school yesterday, still clearly upset with the administration. She planned to participate but found herself at the rear of the line and unable to join in after teachers put a stop to the protest.

In a sign of solidarity, Hunt, like many students, brought her lunch from home on Friday, leaving boxes of pizza uneaten and plates of tossed salad untouched.

The brown bag protest will continue into next week, students said.

"We knew it would back up the lines a little bit but we didn't think the lunch ladies would take it personally," said Andrew Garibaldi, who noted the pennies were both rolled and loose.

Like many others yesterday, Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union, applauded the students for their "creative free speech protest."

A telephone message left at Maschio's Food Service in Flanders, which supplies food and staffing to the school, was not returned.

Some parents, like Lisa O'Donoghue, whose son Patrick was involved, said she supports the punishment.

"It was in fun and was not a malicious action, but it did affect others in a negative way," O'Donoghue said.
An update to the story:

But as news of "Pennygate" began spreading, it soon became clear that this cause was bigger than even a silver dollar. Parents and civil rights advocates, outraged at the school's position, began raising a stink. The story received nationwide coverage.

On Sunday, District Superintendent Jorden Schiff sent an e-mail to parents and students, saying that he was "concerned" about "the media attention." He said it would be up to the parents to decide whether their children serve detention for what he called "a prank."

Whether this placates parents remains to be seen. Some were angry at his choice of words. Others may feel the district has unwisely backed down on a matter of principle. Still others may think the Huntington County school district has given its students a valuable lesson in media relations. Which message resonates, of course, is a matter of parental control.
I also loved this line but didn't want to put the whole article in so I clipped the rest of it:

School officials were not impressed and began doling out detention like sloppy Joe's.
 

Braznor

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 2005
3,846
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Was this the guy who asked on ATOT whether it would be a nice idea to pay 12$ ion pennies?
 

Throckmorton

Lifer
Aug 23, 2007
16,830
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What school rule did they break by paying for lunch with legal tender? By giving them detention for not breaking any rule, they are teaching the kids a dangerous lesson-- that authority overrides the rule of law.
 

RightIsWrong

Diamond Member
Apr 29, 2005
5,649
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Originally posted by: bbdub333
Free speech suffers another setback
Yeah, whatever you say.
Wow. What an insightful position and argument that you make. Now that you put it that way....I see it in a whole new light.

Either add something to the thread or FOAD Troll
 

PottedMeat

Lifer
Apr 17, 2002
12,365
471
126
Props to the students for putting this together. The school district definitely could have handled this better though - a mess of detentions for paying with legal tender???

Free speech suffers another setback :(
Oh come on, exaggerate much?

 

Genx87

Lifer
Apr 8, 2002
41,061
494
126
Clever. What the staff should have done is make them count it twice. :D

Being intentionally disruptive is usually grounds for detention. I think in this case paying with 200 pennies is being intentionally disruptive.

 

LegendKiller

Lifer
Mar 5, 2001
18,256
68
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My dad did something similar to this when he was going to school on the GI bill. The university raised prices of tuition precipitously, apparently the GI bill didn't cover the increases fast enough. Thus, all of the Vets banded together and paid for the increase in pennies and encouraged other students to do the same.

I think that schools go way too far in their bureaucracy and desire to use their power in many cases. Zero tolerance becomes despotism.
 

yowolabi

Diamond Member
Jun 29, 2001
4,183
2
81
Originally posted by: Genx87
Clever. What the staff should have done is make them count it twice. :D

Being intentionally disruptive is usually grounds for detention. I think in this case paying with 200 pennies is being intentionally disruptive.
If only one person had decided to pay with 200 pennies is it intentionally disruptive and worthy of dentention?

If not, you're making each individual responsible for everyone's actions which is a terrible precedent and is impossible to enforce fairly. You're pretty much outlawing organization, or the appearance of organization.
 

RightIsWrong

Diamond Member
Apr 29, 2005
5,649
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Originally posted by: Corporate Thug
free speech is much more limited in scope in school settings.
I agree that they should not have total free reign, but why do they have to be deaf, mute robots?

The article states that they expressed their concerns to the school who promptly dismissed them and did nothing. They choose to protest in a manner that would indicate that the majority of the class was aware of in advance (from the article...texting about it was rampant) so that those that did not wish to participate could bring their lunch in advance.

Originally posted by: PottedMeat
Props to the students for putting this together. The school district definitely could have handled this better though - a mess of detentions for paying with legal tender???

Free speech suffers another setback :(
Oh come on, exaggerate much?
I don't feel that I am exaggerating much at all. We are already told that we have to huddle together in "Free speech zones" at political rallies involving the president and the two parties' conventions. If we are not careful, the rules being applied at schools will creep into society as acceptable practice for how adults "should" behave as well.

Kind of slippery slope-ish, but I would much rather err on the side of caution when it comes to my rights.
 

Genx87

Lifer
Apr 8, 2002
41,061
494
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Originally posted by: yowolabi
Originally posted by: Genx87
Clever. What the staff should have done is make them count it twice. :D

Being intentionally disruptive is usually grounds for detention. I think in this case paying with 200 pennies is being intentionally disruptive.
If only one person had decided to pay with 200 pennies is it intentionally disruptive and worthy of dentention?

If not, you're making each individual responsible for everyone's actions which is a terrible precedent and is impossible to enforce fairly. You're pretty much outlawing organization, or the appearance of organization.
In a school setting? You are right, they are making it against the rules to organize a disruptive behavior.
 

maddogchen

Diamond Member
Feb 17, 2004
8,905
2
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a smart lunch lady would have redirected all the penny pushers to a seperate counter where they would have to count all the pennies and hand them over Then the lunch lady would count the pennies herself to check. Then they would receive their lunch, thereby not disrupting the normal flow of all the other students. And thus only the penny pushers would not have enough time to eat lunch.

if the message is that 30 mins is not enough time for everyone to get their lunches and eat them, then the school should stagger the lunch times. one grade gets lunch at 11:30-12. the next grade 12-12:30, next 12:30-1. Shorter lines.
 

RightIsWrong

Diamond Member
Apr 29, 2005
5,649
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Originally posted by: Genx87
Originally posted by: yowolabi
Originally posted by: Genx87
Clever. What the staff should have done is make them count it twice. :D

Being intentionally disruptive is usually grounds for detention. I think in this case paying with 200 pennies is being intentionally disruptive.
If only one person had decided to pay with 200 pennies is it intentionally disruptive and worthy of dentention?

If not, you're making each individual responsible for everyone's actions which is a terrible precedent and is impossible to enforce fairly. You're pretty much outlawing organization, or the appearance of organization.
In a school setting? You are right, they are making it against the rules to organize a disruptive behavior.
No they aren't. They are making it against the rules to organize in any manner in which they do not approve.

If organization itself is against the rules, they should disband all clubs and all sports teams. After all, organization is off limits at the school if it is disruptive. Almost every club/sports team gets out of class for specific events or practice for them. That is disrupting to the rest of the class.

See how easy it is to label something that you don't approve of to control the population?
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,346
4,059
126
The real issue, of course, is that a half hour is not enough time for lunch.
 

jonks

Lifer
Feb 7, 2005
13,918
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It's settled SC law that students have less rights in school than regular citizens outside school with regards to free speech, 4th amendment searches and a host of others.
 

RightIsWrong

Diamond Member
Apr 29, 2005
5,649
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0
Originally posted by: sirjonk
It's settled SC law that students have less rights in school than regular citizens outside school with regards to free speech, 4th amendment searches and a host of others.
Like I said, I understand that they do not have free reign. But what rule did they break that warranted detention?

They were not disruptive. They were doing what the school mandated that they do (pay for their lunch with legal tender). They stood patiently in line while the staff counted out the money to verify the amount.

What did they do that should result in detention and the blemish on their student record?
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,346
4,059
126
Originally posted by: sirjonk
It's settled SC law that students have less rights in school than regular citizens outside school with regards to free speech, 4th amendment searches and a host of others.
Obviously time and money can be saved, then, by eliminating lunch all together.
 

palehorse

Lifer
Dec 21, 2005
11,521
0
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Originally posted by: Moonbeam
The real issue, of course, is that a half hour is not enough time for lunch.
Tell that to my boss! :Q

The kids should have been gathered into an auditorium and a moderated discussion of the events should have taken place. Failure to use the incredible protest as some form of civics lesson should itself be punishable -- whoever decided to give the students detentions should be replaced and demoted.

I expect much greater from our schools.

damnit.
 

chucky2

Lifer
Dec 9, 1999
10,038
36
86
7th and 8th graders are 7th and 8th graders...this isn't college of even high school. These kids should be told what they will do, not think they have some right to protest or organize. That's F'ing insanity...what's next? They'll all tie their shoes in line to go out for recess because it's too short? They'll all type slowly in computer class because the PC's aren't good enough for them?

The correct avenue here was for the kids to tell their parents there's not enough time...or sign a petition and deliver it to the principle.

A bunch of big headed I'm going to protest because I think it'll be cool F tards just held up the line even longer so the kids behind them got 0 lunch time...good going morons!!!

Chuck
 

jonks

Lifer
Feb 7, 2005
13,918
18
81
Originally posted by: RightIsWrong
Originally posted by: sirjonk
It's settled SC law that students have less rights in school than regular citizens outside school with regards to free speech, 4th amendment searches and a host of others.
Like I said, I understand that they do not have free reign. But what rule did they break that warranted detention?

They were not disruptive. They were doing what the school mandated that they do (pay for their lunch with legal tender). They stood patiently in line while the staff counted out the money to verify the amount.

What did they do that should result in detention and the blemish on their student record?
Wait, you believe that story they told you in school about how detentions will keep you out of college or something? If you don't get suspended/expelled it has zero effect on your "record". I remember kids going to detention every day for skipping class. I think they're professors now hehe
 

StageLeft

No Lifer
Sep 29, 2000
70,150
2
0
I agree with the detentions. Pranks are funny but if I'm hungry and some DA is in front of me paying with pennies, I have not asked to be part of the prank, but it's being forced on me. I should also have y'all know that legally an establishment that has to take money for a purchase does not have to take it beyond certain levels, depending on denomination; i.e. if you want to buy a hamburger for $5 and use 500 pennies and they say no, it is not equivalent to denial of service.
a smart lunch lady would have redirected all the penny pushers to a seperate counter where they would have to count all the pennies and hand them over Then the lunch lady would count the pennies herself to check. Then they would receive their lunch, thereby not disrupting the normal flow of all the other students. And thus only the penny pushers would not have enough time to eat lunch.
Agreed, and I thought of this yesterday when I first heard the story. She sho8uld have said "ok, you can pay with pennies, but only after others who have real money are done."

Actually, on second thoughts, no the detention is unwarranted. The students did nothing against any rules, and nothing illegal. The problem here in fact IS the lunch lady or register person. They should have said "I'm not taking this, come back when you have real money" and if the kid said they had nothing else and would starve, shove them to another lineup. Giving them a detention after the fact is stupid, I'm on board with that.
 

piasabird

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
17,168
60
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Pennies are legal tender. However, it is often customary to make people using pennies roll them up in paper rolls. All they had to do is refuse to accept bulk pennies and tell the students they can waste their own time rolling them up. In this way they could have handled the situation like adults. I do not know who is the biggest spoiled brat; the students or the principal and school board. So if there is a bunch of media asking the school board and the principal asking questions, then maybe they deserve the scrutiny.

I think it is even better that a lot of students are bringing their lunches in protest. This shows that they have a voice and a boycott may be a better protest, because it is a monetary protest against the school. However, the bottom line may be that there are too many students because the school is too large and there is no possible way to feed that many students at one time. This is still not the student's fault.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,346
4,059
126
Originally posted by: palehorse74
Originally posted by: Moonbeam
The real issue, of course, is that a half hour is not enough time for lunch.
Tell that to my boss! :Q

The kids should have been gathered into an auditorium and a moderated discussion of the events should have taken place. Failure to use the incredible protest as some form of civics lesson should itself be punishable -- whoever decided to give the students detentions should be replaced and demoted.

I expect much greater from our schools.

damnit.
I will if you will also admit you actually take alot longer.

--------------------------------

Authoritarianism is a disease. It arises out of self hate and the inevitable projection of mistrust of the self onto others. To be free is to open the door to memory, to suffer, and to scream. To be free is to open the door that leads through hell to joy and we can't have that. Keep the armor plate up at all times. You're a smart guy. Think about it.
 

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