After weighing five random students and their backpacks, four of these five backpacks weighed over 25 pounds and all five students’ backpacks weighed more than 10 percent of their personal body weight. According to the American Chiropractic Association, this situation is dangerous to students’ health.
This situation also concerns Michelle Rabideau, a physician that specializes in family medicine, who suggested to DHS administrators that something needed to change in regards to students having to carry backpacks around school every day.
“I probably see an average of one a week with back pain, neck pain or headaches – but I find more if I ask at routine physicals,” Rabideau said. “Mr. Kit Moran stated that the interval between classes is sufficient for students to use their lockers, because some students figure out how to do it.
But that’s not enough for Rabideau. She said that back pain in young adults is a serious problem because their bodies are finished maturing.
“Younger students are still growing,” she said. “Early back pain will impact them the most. Not all will have long-term consequences, but absolutely overloaded backpacks contribute to back pain, poor posture—usually stooped forward at the shoulders—neck pain and headaches.
Principal Kit Moran, however, doesn’t see backpack weight as a big problem in the school. He said students have ample time to get to lockers and pick up new books and drop off old books. However, he is frustrated with the size and weight of textbooks.
“Do kids need books for school?” he asked. “Yes. I have no idea why the books have to be so heavy,” Moran said. “To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the textbook companies. They probably make a lot of money, and it’s an easy market for people to make money for years off of colleges and high schools. I don’t know if books need to be as heavy as they are. If we could get lighter books, we would.”
But when it comes to heavy backpacks, Moran makes the argument that students are able to use their lockers between classes but choose to socialize instead.
“If you want to spend time socializing in the passing time between classes with your friends, which is a key part of being an adolescent in America today, then you have to decide whether you want to run to the locker and get your book or you can carry your book at all times,” he said. “All of those, to me, are individual decisions that are not the end of the world.”
Senior Megan Lynch, who has had major back problems since her freshmen year, disagrees. Lynch has scoliosis and has had back surgeries in 2011, 2012 and 2013 to try to help. While she doesn’t think backpack weight caused her back issues, she knows it has made them worse. Lynch’s backpack weighs 30 pounds, and she isn’t necessarily buying Moran’s argument that she could easily use her locker if she chose to do so.
“The large, heavy backpack definitely doesn’t help,” Lynch said. “I didn’t start developing these back problems until my freshmen year of high school, which coincidentally is when I began to carry around big books. It’s only gotten progressively worse in high school. My locker is inconvenient. Classes are all over the school. I can’t just have one locker.”
With his typical four to five minute walk into the school, senior Jon Jon Haley shivers and sulks as he knows the worst part of his day is happening right now.
According to Haley, the parking lot is a disaster in many ways.
“It’s so awful,” he said. “The medians don’t need to be there. The trees are all dead anyway so they don’t need to be there. People walk between the cars anyway, so the walkways don’t even need to be there. My typical walk is 4-5 minutes, and I had to start buying gloves because the walk was so cold. I’ve lost two pairs in school which has sent me back at least $15.”
Like Haley, sophomore Cam Kantola is forced to take long, cold walks into school from the parking lot. Kantola is a new driver and is terrified of the walk he’s forced to take into school and doesn’t like the design of the parking lot.
“It’d be better if the parking lot went around the school rather than just straight out,” he said. “My typical walk is five minutes, and it’s very cold and makes me feel really sad. I’m afraid of getting frostbite.”
Principal Kit Moran says that he knows our parking lot is a hassle especially for students, but he also doesn’t think there are many better lots than ours and blames the harsh winter for constant complaints about it.
“I don’t know that our parking lot is worse than any others,” Moran said. “It’s become a big issue this year because of the cold and icy weather, but then again every parking lot is an issue with all the snow and cold this year. I also know that every generation of kids doesn’t want to walk any further than they have to. I was not principal at the time the building was designed and sure would have looked out for you (students).”
Police liaison deputy Jeremy Hilobuk is someone who consistently deals with issues in the parking lot between students parking in the visitor’s section of the lot or students trying to park on mounds of snow to avoid a longer walk. Like Moran, he believes there’s nothing the school can do about the parking lot. He’s understanding of student complaints, but knows the school’s not going to spend the money to change it.
“The way that it’s designed, we’re stuck with it,” Hilobuk said. “There’s enough parking spots out there. It’s just if you get here too late, you won’t get a prime spot. There’s no solution. Nobody shuttles you to the front door. That’s the same at other schools and colleges. I’m sympathetic about it, but we also have to be realistic about it.”
Walking in the halls
Students face threats in everyday hallway situations such as others walking on the wrong side of the hall. With an abundance of students consistently walking on the left side of the hallway, students walking correctly forced to use the four Ds of dodgeball: Dip, dive, duck, dodge.
Senior Sam Gravel has to deal with students on the wrong side of the hallway every day, and it frustrates him to no end.
“It’s really annoying seeing students walking on the wrong side of the hallway,” he said. “I’ve never done it, but I always think about shoving people into the lockers out of my way that are walking right at me.
In addition, Gravel is frustrated by those who open stairwell doors from the wrong side. In this situation, pedestrians open the door on their left while an on-comer tries to open that same door (on their right side).
“I’ve been hit multiple times by the wrong door being opened, and it made me really upset and angry,” he said.
One of Gravel’s biggest concerns in this situation is that students walking on the wrong side of the hallway could result in the same habits on the roads while driving.
“Some of these freshmen and sophomores, the beginning drivers, could very well be affected by that, and it’s a very scary thought,” he said.
But students are going to have to deal with this one on their own. Principal Kit Moran said the school has not considered trying to regulate hallway flow, saying that administrators have never even considered putting arrows symbolizing the correct way to walk down the hallway.
Senior Alyssa Baker is another student who is consistently bothered by students walking on the wrong side of the halls during the day. She’s had to consistently deal with students, espescially underclassmen walking right at her in the halls.
“It’s probably the most annoying thing when I’m trying to walk on the right side of the hallway, and a group of underclassmen try to walk in my way,” Baker said. “I also hate when people are taking their slow, sweet time in the hall. I feel like administration should do more and enforce hallway laws to stop inefficiency.”
Substitute teachers play a large role in complaints that high schoolers have and Dexter High School is no different. With 3-5 substitute teachers per day, students are constantly given that substitute teacher experience that many don’t enjoy at all.
One frequent substitute teacher, Ira Mark has subbed in high schools since 2006 and said in the last few years, about 70 percent of his jobs are at Dexter High School. According to Mark, he’s a different kind of substitute teacher because he knows exactly what high school students are like.
“Students will notice vulnerability very easily,” Mark said. “And when you go into a classroom where you don’t know anybody, and students notice you may have a soft spot or you’re just intimidated, they go for the jugular. It’ll be chaos.”
Mark said this knowledge of high school students’ tendencies stems from his own days in high school.
“When I started subbing, I knew how bad students could be, because I was myself,” he said. “I caused as many problems as I could as a student. So there’s probably not one thing students can do or say that I had not done myself. But I’m not going to go into a classroom and be intimidated. If that environment and style is what’s necessary to keep people in line, then so be it.”
Sophomore Riley Gore has experience, as Mr. Mark as a substitute and knows what he’s all about.
“You can’t mess with Mr. Mark like you maybe could with other substitutes,” Gore said. “He’s tough, and he isn’t bothered by anything. He makes you do work and that’s what substitutes are supposed to do and he really throws down the hammer.”
Principal Kit Moran said that Mark makes great connections with kids and that’s what makes him a quality substitute teacher for DHS.
Mark doesn’t get caught up in students trying to manipulate him. Even if the students don’t like him, he says he does not care because he’s there to fill his role.
He said, “My role is to carry out the plan the teacher leaves for me and fulfill their expectations, and that’s always what I stick to.”