As Riverside students and teachers return to the building for the 2022-23 school year, students are discussing some seemingly new rules about campus security and students’ driver’s licenses.
Throughout the week, the administration is holding grade-level meetings to distribute information to the school and explain the new rules.
They announced new restrictions on student access to the building; doors on the side of the building by the football field will be locked, and, in the morning, students may only enter through the front of the building beginning at 8:45 am.
During lunch time, students with lunch-leave passes have to leave campus during the first 15 minute of lunch, and can’t bring food back to campus when they return. Additionally, while students can’t be in front of the building during lunch or eat lunch in the parking lot, they can re-enter through the front entrance when returning from off campus lunch.
The issue of driver’s licenses being taken away wasn’t directly addressed during the senior meeting, but students’ questions about the rule were answered after the presentation.
The license rule is an enforcement of a 1998 state law which says that students under 18 who don’t “make adequate academic progress”, or who drop out of school, will have their driving permit or license revoked. It defines making adequate academic progress as passing 70% of maximum courses, which, for Riverside translates to passing at least 3 out of 4 classes per semester.
There was a Durham Public Schools waiver of the state law last year because of the pandemic, but that waiver has been removed for this school year. Parents also have the ability to submit a hardship request to preserve their child’s driving eligibility.
Regarding the new rules about entering the building, Daryl Bradshaw, a new assistant principal at Riverside, said the restrictions are a safety precaution.
“If we have our students coming in from the side doors, then leaving them open, what’s stopping an intruder from coming into those side doors the same exact way?” he said. ”Because there is not a fence that fences in our campus, we are the only defense between our students and the public… If we’re not intentional about keeping them in one place, it’s really hard to keep them safe.”
He added that a lack of cameras and surveillance in places other than the front and back of the building make it difficult to identify a student or situation in those areas.
Emily Matheson, a visual arts teacher at Riverside, said she sees the new rules on entering the building as a more purposeful focus on safety than in recent years.
“After the pandemic, like last year, they kind of loosened the reins some,” Matheson said. “And now they are really… just enforcing them more.”
While she had been informed in detail about changes to rules about entering the building, Matheson said the administration had not yet provided details about the license rule.
Concerning the driver’s license rules, Bradshaw said it’s about holding students accountable.
“With a partnership with pretty much the county of Durham we have seniors that have the ability to have their licenses revoked if they’re not passing their classes,” he said. “If you have a driver’s license to drive to school and you’re in school and you’re failing, then that tells us that you’re using your driver’s license to come to school and do something outside of learning… Driving is a privilege.”
Bradshaw added that teachers will communicate with administrators, who will communicate with the DMV.
While many students haven’t heard about the new rules yet, some already disapprove. “I don’t really see how they can do that,” said Jasper, a senior. “You can be punished, but not to the extent of having your license taken away.”
A previous version of this story was published on September 5 at 8:20 pm