"Welcome to the real world, kiddies."
"Are you kidding me? These kids walked out when they're the ones who ditch class?"
"In my day no absences were allowed."
These are just a few of the things I read on The New Mexican's online comment section, all in response to the Capital High School student walkout last month.
The comments came as a surprise. People automatically assumed we just ditched class and that we were fighting over a simple dance.
The walkout was about us feeling cheated by the school's administration -- prom was just the final straw. We are tired of communicating and not being heard.
We feel like the administration is making no efforts to hear our needs, especially when we go to the office and have to make appointments to talk to someone because our main administrator is not there. This lack of communication is the main reason behind the dispute over prom.
After administrators held an assembly in January to inform students on the attendance and tardy policy, there was confusion about how many were acceptable. To be honest, I just don't remember what the acceptable number was. Following that assembly, one teacher told a bunch of seniors -- including me -- that the limit was 10 unexcused absences (10 unexcused absences equals a no credit for that class), while another told us that 10 tardies was the limit.
According to the administration, however, students who missed five whole days -- a total of 35 class absences -- and/or had a total of
10 tardies could not attend prom.
The absence rule is justified in my eyes because missing 35 classes or more is outrageous. Tardies, however, are inevitable, especially when tardies are linked to personal problems that are sometimes unavoidable.
I personally was not able to attend prom because I had 12 tardies, nine of which were in my first-period class. Of those nine, I would say four were due to my negligence of time. The other tardies were related to finishing college and scholarship applications, homework or getting some extra sleep so that I could function throughout the day.
Some of these tardies were about trying to have a social life with friends and making high school memories. These are my personal reasons, but a lot of my classmates are dealing with juggling school and work schedules because they help support their families.
These students live in the real world. And they are also still trying to be teenagers.
Two days before our prom, Capital's administration told students that we could sign a contract that would allow us to go to prom.
I asked: "What are the stipulations?"
Their answer: "You must guarantee you will never be absent or tardy for the rest of the year, and if you are you can't participate in any of the end-of-year senior activities."
My response: "Are you serious? Absences are one thing ... but I can't guarantee I won't be tardy, because I can't see into the future and know that something will not come up and force me to be a few minutes late."
I'm glad I didn't risk my senior week for a prom that had fewer than 50 people attend.
Capital's administrators have their hearts in the right place and the utmost intentions, but they often implement drastic measures.
If people think the students were wrong for walking 50 feet outside the main building, then so be it. All I ask is that people don't assume we are bad students for having our voices heard.
For younger students, I urge them to peacefully stand up for what they believe in and make sure their voices are heard.
After all, all Rosa Parks had to do was sit down in a bus to make her voice be heard and to make history.
Luis Burrola is a senior at Capital High School.
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Thank you for your patience.