Local News

Knightdale High suspends 'smart lunch' after fights

Posted September 18, 2009 3:41 p.m. EDT
Updated September 18, 2009 6:32 p.m. EDT

— Knightdale High School has suspended a lunch program indefinitely after several fights in the cafeteria led to the arrest of three students Wednesday.

This year, Knightdale High started a "smart lunch" program, which is used by roughly half of the high schools in the Wake County Public School System.

Administrators said that the goal of a smart lunch is to provide extra time for academic help for all students, including those who can't come early or stay late.

Instead of having staggered lunch periods, the entire school has one, longer lunch. Students can get extra tutoring, remedial help or do schoolwork on their own.

"The faculty and staff like it, because it affords them an opportunity during the day to met with students that they need to meet with," said Dr. Jim Hedrick, principal of Green Hope High School in Cary, which also holds smart lunches.

After the fights at Knightdale High, though, critics say the program's flexibility is its flaw.

"I think the smart lunch is what really is making this happen, because you got 50 minutes, and people, they have nothing better to do than fight," student Chandler Womble said.

Knightdale Police Chief Shawn Brown said officers responded to several incidents in the past week. Then, on Wednesday, several fights involving six to 12 people total broke out. About 40 police officers were called out to quell the fighting.

It was unclear exactly how many of Knightdale's 1,900 students were in the cafeteria during the fights Wednesday, because students are allowed to leave campus during lunch.

School administrators acknowledged that switching to a smart lunch can cause some issues, but stressed that it has helped students at other schools.

"In the beginning of the transition to a smart lunch, there could be some wrinkles in the process," school system spokesman Greg Thomas said.

Hedrick said that test scores at Green Hope High jumped after the smart lunch was implemented.

"It's been successful in pretty much all the schools," Thomas said. "It can work."