Students protest extended school days with vandalism, walkouts
Some Farmington students are not as excited as school district
officials would like about adding 10 extra minutes to the school day.
In the past couple of weeks, students have pulled a couple of stunts
that clearly show they are not in support of the daily time extension.
Recently, some students vandalized the home of Farmington High School
principal Monica Kittock-Sargent, leaving behind a message referring
specifically to what can be done with 10 minutes. On Monday, FHS
students and staff arrived to find the message, "What we can do with
10 minutes," written backward on the upper lunchroom windows, so the
words could be read clearly from the inside. The message was
accompanied by a blow-up doll, hanging from the outside of the
Meanwhile, at Farmington Middle School West, a handful of eighth
grade students tried to stage a walkout in protest last week. The
protest failed for lack of support by most students.
The efforts of a few are not likely to change the position of school
officials. Superintendent Brad Meeks stands behind the recent
decision to extend the school day because, in his opinion, it is the
best way to make up time lost to last month's unexpected time off for
a snow day.
He said there a general lack of direction from the state of Minnesota
on how snow days should be handled. The state requires that students
receive a certain amount of instructional time in order to graduate
or advance to the next grade level. Like all other districts, School
District 192 plans its school year so it meets the state's
Given that Farmington has not had a snow day in several years, a
couple of flex days had been planned into the schedule. However,
because this year's snow day was so late in the year, the only option
left was to schedule a full day of school on June 2. That would mean
adding an additional day to the calendar, though, as June 1 is
currently the last day of school.
That option would not work well, Meeks said, because it would
interfere with graduation practice. He also felt adding an additional
day would less popular than simply adding 10 minutes to the remaining
"We felt adding time to the school day would be less complicated," he
said, "and all the students would benefit from it. Otherwise, there
would be a higher than usual absence rate."
Based on reactions, though, Meeks said he would entertain the idea of
adding another day if the same situation happened in the future.
"We're still at the mercy of when the snow storms hit, but we still
have to use some judgment on how to make up that time. In the future,
my anticipation is to stick to the additional day and that will be
it. Whoever shows up, shows up."
Meeks has received letters from elementary school students who have
voiced their thoughts on the school calendar, in general.
The letters, he said, were part of a writing assignment, but the
point in the letters was still taken. Those points, coming in that
form, are what school officials would like to see when it comes to
students voicing their opinions. Acts of vandalism, Meeks said, are
far less effective.
Vandalizing school property comes with repercussions. If the student
or students who are responsible for the vandalism this week are
identified, each individual could be suspended.
School liaison officer Ted Dau said the student or students could
also be brought up on charges of disorderly conduct and/or
There is a good chance, too, that Dau and other school officials will
be able to identify who did the damage to the high school. The school
has security cameras outside that record the school building. It will
take some time to run through the surveillance tapes, he said, but it
is possible the persons responsible will be identified.
Meeks hopes there will be no more negative activity through the end
of the school year, not just because of any potential damage to
school property, but for student safety. He said whomever wrote the
words on the upper windows would have had to be up on a ladder at
night, and that is a concern.
"To put yourself at risk, climbing up on a building at night is not a
wise move," Meeks said. "Ten minutes is not a huge social injustice
that's worth the destructive behavior we're seeing.
"There's a public forum at the school board meetings. The public
officials and administrators are very accessible. But resorting to
breaking the law to make your point is not the way to do it. It's not
about the instructional component anymore, it's about the damage
you're doing to a public building and the risk to yourself."