Permanent Recess

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Most students stream out of classrooms and head directly for the cafeteria, while others, supposedly only seniors, head for the parking lots. They argue about where to eat lunch and talk about plans for Thanksgiving.

Security guards sit in their golf carts near the exits, scanning the crowd for unfamiliar faces and waving goodbye to the students they know. If a guard is unsure whether a student has permission to leave, he or she is supposed to ask for the student's ID card and check for a name against the list of students who can leave.

Today, the guard tells most students, "Have a nice holiday." She asks only a handful of students, "Are you a senior? Do you always go through my lot?" The students answer "yes" to both questions, and keep walking toward their cars.

Some students will go to great lengths to get off campus without getting caught. Those who spoke to New Times say they have friends stationed with getaway cars near the school exits, or they jam rocks in doors that lock from the outside so that they can sneak back in.

One sophomore at Horizon admits to creating a fake pass in order to get by guards standing at the parking lots. Because the student uses the pass on a regular basis, the guards don't even bother to look at it anymore.

Since Bryan's accident in 1996, Horizon is stricter about its lunchtime policies and the punishments meted out for leaving without permission. Seniors are still the only students allowed to leave during lunch, but now, like North Canyon, they must have a signed waiver from their parents.

If students are caught leaving without permission, they are supposed to be written up. They then serve four after-school "Campus Beautification" detentions picking up trash. After their first offense, they are suspended from school for a day.

In addition, Horizon has brought fast food to campus as an incentive for kids to stay on campus. Restaurants such as Sonic, Arby's and Baja Fresh now have tables set up outside the cafeteria.

How effective are the changes?

"I know a lot of people who sneak off who aren't seniors," says one Horizon senior who didn't want to be named. "The security guards like them, so they let them leave. Sometimes kids even buy the guards food in exchange to get off. Other kids sneak off when the guards aren't around. There are some kids who get caught sneaking off or coming back on and get in trouble. But there are definitely a lot who get off."

Scott Reilly, a 16-year-old sophomore at Horizon, says students escape campus for different reasons. "Some leave because they want food, others leave because they want to smoke. A lot of kids leave because you just can't sit at school and eat for an hour."

Reilly does agree that the punishments persuade some students to stay on campus. "If you get caught, it's not a joke, because you have to do a lot of crap. Campus beautification is not easy. It sucks staying after school picking up trash."

But kids will find an escape route if they really want to leave campus, he adds.

Clark Thomas, assistant principal of Horizon, says the school has "tightened up security" because of the North Canyon accident. Between the first day of school and November 20, 85 students were given referrals for trying to leave during lunch, he says.

But if 85 students were caught, how many actually made it past security?

Jim Root, head of Horizon's security, guesses that only an average of one student a day gets past security. That's hard to believe, though, when Root explains the obstacles security guards face: "Bottom line is this: If you've got 150 kids coming at you, how many can you tell I want to see your ID card'? They'll just walk right by you and blow you off. You just can't physically stop them all."

Root says a lot of students get caught going off campus across the football field. "By the time we see them and get to them, they're already to the wash and gone. So we just wait for them the next day. You catch some today, some tomorrow, some next week."

Chelsea Federio, a 17-year-old senior at Horizon, leaves school every day at the beginning of fifth hour to eat lunch and then returns for her sixth-hour class. "The first week of school, the security guards were pretty strict with checking IDs and checking to see if my name was on a list," she says. "Now they know me, so I just walk right by."

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Tatum Ostaff