MABTON - Students at Mabton High School wanted their voice to be heard and yesterday spent their lunch hour protesting a recently enacted ban at the school, a ban of outside beverage containers.
The protest initially began in front of the school, but School Resource Officer Mike Britton told the students and media to leave the premises. The students moved the protest to a nearby church, where they held up water bottles in protest to the ban.
Water bottles and any other container used for beverages are included in the ban, which has students upset.
"We feel we are being punished," said student Dominique Martinez.
Principal Jay Tyus said he and the teaching staff at the high school last Friday decided to ban outside containers of any kind. He said it is for the health and safety of the students. Outside containers, he said, includes beverages, cough syrup or any container that might hold a harmful substance.
"We decided to monitor beverage containers better by prohibiting them in the building...children should not be exposed to prohibited substances," he said.
The students say he is referring to alcoholic beverages. They said the recent ban was implemented because one student recently brought to school a water bottle containing tequila.
Martinez said that student was disciplined and suspended from school.
"Why should we be punished for one individual's actions?" she said.
Tyus said the ban does not include milk sold at lunch, but there has been in place a policy that beverages are not to be brought into a classroom.
That statement was made in response to a claim by student Kristian Carrasco that he was forced to throw his milk away after the ban went into effect.
Tyus said there are several water fountains located within the school and students have free access to those fountains.
The students disagree, stating several of the fountains are inoperable, the water has a bad smell and educators complain students are disruptive when they request an opportunity to get a drink.
Several of the students said they believe bottled water in sealed containers should be exempted from the ban.
"Water is life," said one student.
Crysta Reynolds, another of the students protesting the ban, said the new policy is frustrating for students. She said they arrived at school to find a trash can located outside the entrance.
"We have to throw away any beverages. If we don't, we face possible suspension," she said, adding the vending machines on campus have also been turned off.
Martinez said students are asked to comply with the policy and are provided an opportunity to do so when they enter the school, if they haven't already thrown out their beverages.
Tyus said, "Non-compliance is not taken lightly, but every student is provided the opportunity to do the right thing."
As to the students' suggestion of an exemption to the rule, he said, "We're willing to discuss all solutions."
Tyus also said the water from the fountains is the same as the tap water at Mabton homes. "Mabton water is Mabton water," he said.
Reynolds said the students feel as if they have not had the opportunity to speak with the administration about the matter. The policy was decided upon and the students immediately were required to comply without being able to voice concerns.
When asked if any of the students attended the Mabton School Board meeting this past Monday, she admitted they hadn't.
Tyus said the administration is also upset the policy had to be enacted, however they felt it was necessary.
He said the issue, however, is about safety.
"We're responsible for your babies and we're going to take care of them the best we can," said Tyus.