Senior privileges: leaving school early, going off-campus for lunch, special parking. These are things high school students look forward to the moment they enter the building for the first time. The last official class to have any senior privileges at Malden High was the class of 2017. Of course, that was four years ago and things have changed. 

For instance, everyone has lived through a pandemic and students essentially got a year off from the typical rules of the building. For the 2020-2021 school year, nothing except for the mask policy put in place by the state had to be strictly enforced. This year, while still trying to reintroduce students back into a full-time work environment, Principal Christopher Mastrangelo hopes to keep things as laid back as possible and even re-introduce some senior privileges.  

Jenkins House principal Jayson Payeur explained that senior privileges were initially taken away because “in past years many students, besides seniors, were leaving the building” and the administration had concerns for safety. As of the first day of this school year, September 1st, 2021, seniors, as well as juniors were granted the ability to come in late to school and leave early when they have a direct study for their first period or last period of that day. Payeur hopes that the seniors will follow the rules set in place, like signing in and out when they enter and leave the school late or early.  

Payeur also mentioned that “seniors seem to be doing the right thing,” and he is hopeful that this trend will continue. He added that the staff has done a good job in communicating their concerns to house principals when a student is not following the rules properly.

Students, on the other hand, are not so fond of these senior privileges. A recent survey posted on the Class of 2022 Instagram account revealed 33.3% percent of students who answered were unsure if senior privileges were a thing being taken advantage of, and the other 66.7% percent said these privileges were not being taken advantage of. Senior Aiden Thompson added on to his response stating, “we barely have senior privileges as is, so what even is being taken advantage of?”   

Students used to be able to leave the building to have lunch nearby. Photo by Carlos Aragon.

A privilege that was taken away from seniors was the ability to leave the campus, without getting in a car, and go to the local shops and food places during their lunch period. Thompson spoke out about this, and stated that he personally finds it “dumb” because the lunchrooms are already “crowded as is.” He questioned that with “Covid still around, wouldn’t it make more sense for kids to leave the school so there are not as many kids in the cafe all at one time?” Thompson concluded that a privilege he would like to have as a senior would be to leave campus for lunch but to also “be respected in the school” by the teachers and the staff. 

Nathan Murillo, another senior at Malden High, mentioned knowing that senior privileges are “something our school used to have more of,” but that “now we only have one privilege,” referring to the ability to leave early and come in late. Murillo stated that the ability to come in late has been really beneficial to him because he is “able to get a little more much-needed sleep in the morning.” He elaborated on this statement, adding that his “30 extra minutes of sleep really is God sent,” and that he wishes “the school implemented more things that benefit the students.” In contrast to Murillo’s view on leaving early and coming in late, senior Ariana Peguero said that she believes it is “only good for people who decided to not have a full schedule.” Thompson added on to this point, stating that the privilege is “nice but it is really nothing crazy.” 

So what were senior privileges like before they were taken away? Class of 2016 alumna of Malden High School, and first-year history teacher at MHS, Haley Mallett, recounted the senior privileges she had when she was in school. With Dana Brown as the principal (2003-2017), Mallett recalled senior privileges being an established and understood system.

Back then, privileges were not given to every senior but instead given to those who had earned them. To earn these privileges, Mallett noted, the student needed to be in “good conduct with the school and have decent grades.” Students who had privileges were given a stamp in their agenda books that “acted as a pass” for them when they were using it. Mallett also believes that the privileges “were not a permanent thing,” and could be taken away if the student no longer had good grades or was no longer in good conduct. 

Mallett also talked about an “AP study,” given to AP students, where “students used the time how they saw fit.” She noted that back then, the seniors “got more freedom,” and her favorite privilege from that time was “being able to leave campus to get food.” 

As for people taking advantage of these privileges, Mallett believes there are “always issues with things like this,” such as students who did not have privileges “[deciding] they had them” and leaving the campus when they were not supposed to, but she also recalled that “for the most part if you had the privileges you would come back,” so there was never anything “too concerning.”  Mallett left off stating that she believes senior privileges are “a good thing to have,” but thinks “students need to respect the rules” in order to have them. 

Another Malden High alumna from the Class of 2016, art teacher Kristina Gilbert, expressed that Principal Brown “felt it was important to incentivize those who were doing their work,” as well as those “who were going above and beyond academically.” She also elaborated that the privileges “gave students who may not have been on that path a model and a goal to work towards.”

She emphasized that “the house principals and principal held the power to take away these privileges at any time should they deem it necessary.” Recalling her senior year, Gilbert mentioned that “some of the more problematic students, they never saw the senior privileges a day in their life. . .they refused to conduct themselves in a professional or respectful manner during their time at MHS.”

She highlighted a positive to the privileges, mentioning that the seniors “loved them, being confined to a building for years with no real crossover into the ‘real world’ was awful.” Gilbert added that the privileges they earned gave them a little taste of what college life might be like. She noted that personally for her, she “loved being able to leave early if I had a study block at the end of the day.” With her busy schedule playing soccer all four years at MHS, the 50-minute break at the end of her day to go home and eat before practice was “hugely beneficial.”

Gilbert went on to add that “as with any privilege or resource there will always be those few that try and ruin it for the rest and sadly in this case it seems they have succeeded.” Thinking back, she noted that it was mainly “underclassmen who tried to trick the system,” and that for the most part “the seniors all knew the procedures and that they had to get permission to leave, but underclassmen didn’t and then got caught.” 

Gilbert expressed that she is “sad these privileges are gone, but in these past couple years during Covid, I don’t think it’s smart to bring them back quite yet.” She further explained that the seniors this year spent an entire year becoming very “lax about their learning.” She brought up her own teaching experiences, noting that students in her classes “try and watch full-on movies or makeup tutorials during class as I’m giving instructions. These are not behaviors we can reward.” Gilbert believes that a year or two to get students back on track and focus on their futures again is needed before senior privileges can be back in full swing.

As the year progresses, whether or not more privileges will be granted to the seniors is still a mystery. For now, seniors are only able to come in late during days where they have a direct study first period, as long as they check into their house office by 9:10 am. They are also able to leave campus early if their last period is a direct study, meaning they can sign out in their house offices at 12:45 pm. If a student has a teacher absent for those classes, first or last period, this privilege does not apply to them, they would still need to report to their assigned room by the time those periods began to be marked present and in class.  

Corrections: Aiden Thompson's name was originally misspelled, Nathan Murillo's name was also originally misspelled and the date of the start of school was incorrectly listed as September 2nd instead of September 1st.

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