RM’s open lunch policy should stay despite concerns


Graphic by Christiana Vucea

RM’s open lunch policy is unique due to the school’s central location in the Rockville area.

Gabrielle Orringer, Opinions Writer

Open lunch is a time-honored tradition at Richard Montgomery High School. Every day, hundreds of students leave campus during lunchtime to hang out with friends, enjoy some fresh air, relax, and get some delicious food. Even during fifth period, many students are still sipping on their Starbucks lattes and bubble teas. However, as of late, the actions of a few pupils may have jeopardized open lunch for all pupils.

Recently, some Richard Montgomery High School students shoplifted from the CVS in Ritchie Center. This resulted in CVS limiting the number of high schoolers allowed at a time inside. Seeing a line of high schoolers waiting to be admitted into CVS has now become a common occurrence.

While shoplifting is obviously wrong and illegal, it should not be the burden of all others to face consequences for their peers’ actions. “Even if open lunch didn’t exist, I feel like RM students who use open lunch to shoplift from CVS would still be shoplifting, outside of school,” said freshman Cindy Jin. While the ability to go out for lunch perhaps gives anyone who wants to another opportunity to shoplift, students who do so during lunchtime could easily do it after school, as well, which means that open lunch is not necessarily the problem.

In fact, shoplifting is ordinary for teens. According to a survey of 23,000 high schoolers, conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, about one in five teens admits to shoplifting. “Kids are growing, they’re developing, they’re always obviously gonna have these rebellious thoughts,” said freshman Katie Hu. “The [shoplifters] are like 5% of the population, everyone else just wants to get boba and stuff.” Teen shoplifting is clearly an issue, but it is not new, strange, or abnormal. Stopping open lunch won’t solve this problem and will just harm many who have not done anything wrong.

Rather than banning open lunch altogether, it is possible that RM administrators can alleviate the situation in different ways. Jin said, “Security guards or other administrators [could be] positioned in front of the school or near the Ritchie Center, just to make sure students aren’t doing anything suspicious.” There are many alternative solutions that would remedy the shoplifting problem without taking away open lunch from others; an increased security presence throughout the local RM community is one of them.

Additionally, abolishing the open lunch policy at RM would take away the many benefits that come with it: students can be social, eat healthier food than what is offered in the cafeteria, be exposed to new cuisines, and so much more. Freshman Charlotte Cornman said, “It’s really nice to have the freedom to be able to go wherever I want.” Just because a few teens are doing something teens have been doing for decades doesn’t take away from the positives of open lunch. It is also not fair to stop the majority of students, who have never shoplifted before, from reaping the significant benefits of open lunch. Also, open lunch is deeply ingrained within RM culture and is a staple of student life. Freshman Grace Li said, “[Open lunch is] just a really good opportunity to go out and I can’t imagine RM without my weekly lunch boba visits.” 

Many stores such as Ding Tea typically have lines coming out of their storefront during lunch. This highlights that open lunch is not just beneficial for students; it is also good for local businesses, including restaurants, bakeries, and more stores. Abolishing the open lunch policy would be detrimental to these businesses that often rely on the flow of teenagers to support their operations.

Many other Montgomery County high schools only offer open lunch to students who own cars or are upperclassmen. Having open lunch for all who attend makes Richard Montgomery unique and special. Open lunch is an enriching opportunity that many find formative as they begin to test the limits of their autonomy by leaving school grounds to get delicious food. There are clear benefits to maintaining the open lunch policy that far outweigh the few negatives. At the end of the day, the actions of a few should not have lasting consequences for a far larger student body.