Winterfest Rally parking lot sting nets numerous off-campus pass violators

Bailey Kirkeby, News Editor

Over 60 Bear Creek students found themselves caught in a lunchtime sting on Jan. 25 after administrators checked the student parking lot at lunch for students without an off-campus pass.

Although some students were leaving to get lunch, many were grabbing needed materials from their cars or going home to change outfits before the school’s Winterfest rally, which was scheduled for later in the day.

Bear Creek Vice Principal Sera Baysinger says that on the day of the rally, the school did not have its standard four campus security officers. Consequently, she and Bear Creek Principal Hillary Harrell went to the student parking lot themselves to verify each student’s off-campus pass before they returned to the campus.

Each student’s name was recorded, and administration issued punishments depending on a variety of factors, such as whether the student had even applied for an off-campus pass.

“We tried to take every case individually and tried to come up with consequences that made sense for the situations,” Baysinger said.

Some students who were punished for leaving the campus gates were involved in the Winterfest rally.

“I had a very valid reason to have left the gates [to the parking lot] because I had my basketball bag in my car, and since I am in the rally for basketball, I needed my equipment,” junior Zachary Standridge said. “I got my bag and went immediately back to campus only to be stopped by the principals checking for second quarter off-campus passes.”

Parent Oscar Fry, whose son Luke was chosen as a sophomore representative for the Winterfest court this year, says that his son was provided an early release pass to get out of school to prepare for the rally.

“He just got his license, so he would drive home, change and head back for the rally preparations,” Fry said. “I asked him why he wouldn’t take [his tuxedo] to school to change, but he reminded me of his two bad experiences in the restrooms and felt it was safer/cleaner to change at home.”

Consequently, as Luke returned to campus sporting his tuxedo and Winterfest sash, administrators recorded his name and eventually gave him Behavioral Intervention (BI) as a punishment.

“I understand that the administration has rules to keep their student population safe and out of dangerous situations, but Luke clearly had no direction about how he was to get changed into his [tuxedo],” Fry said. “He appreciated his senior friend who was in charge for helping him clear up the issue with the administration.”

Administrators reversed their punishment for Luke and excused him from BI after meeting with his parents.

Baysinger says that administration did not punish students who were permitted to leave campus by Student Government teacher Jessica Anderson — even if they did not have the appropriate pass.

“The expectation was that any student who left campus had an off-campus pass that had been sanctioned by the office and that they had gotten permission from their parents,” Anderson said. “If a student is not following school rules, my checking their pass wasn’t going to make a difference.”

Standridge was not given permission to go off campus by Anderson and received one day of BI. However, he says he does not feel that his actions should have been punished.

“In my opinion, just going to the parking lot shouldn’t be a big deal if you don’t leave it, especially since I am a junior with straight A’s and was going back to campus right after,” Standridge said.

Although Anderson permitted students to leave campus without the proper passes, she says that this off-campus pass debacle sparked conversation about an important topic.

“I’m thinking big picture here,” Anderson said. “[This situation] was the jumping off point for talking about kids leaving class without passes or with the wrong passes.”