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Gum Ban Bursts Students' Bubble : Regulations: Roosevelt Middle School gets tough, even with adults, after costly cleanup. Students get chewed out for the first violation, but habitual offenders face suspension.

September 02, 1993|TOMMY LI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GLENDALE — The grown-ups of Roosevelt Middle School are tired of scraping sticky goo off walls and classroom chairs.

When classes start Tuesday at the 1,345-student school, Roosevelt officials for the first time will put the wrap on gum chewing not only among students, but also among teachers, staff and administrators.

That's right. No more large bubbles, or bubbles within bubbles. No more loud popping noises. No more well-chewed wads left to decorate the undersides of desks.

"We don't see gum as a real essential," Roosevelt Principal Judy White said. "We all decided mutually to get rid of gum. Right now, we all agree that adults are not going to chew gum (either).

"I expect 100% cooperation from the students."

Students might cooperate, but that doesn't mean they're happy about it.

"I don't like that," said Danny Smith, a 14-year-old who will enter ninth grade at the school in September. "If they (students) want to chew gum, they should be allowed to chew it as long as they throw it away in the trash can.

"I'm pretty sure that most of the kids are not going to listen to (the policy)."

Roosevelt Middle School officials had not considered banning gum until the district's maintenance crew used a steam-washing machine to remove the sticky substance from the campus quad area this summer.

"Everybody thought, 'This looks nice,' and the second thought was, 'Let's not put anything (more) on it,' " White said.

Assistant Principal Jerry Watson said that gum chewing not only messes up the campus but also creates an annoyance and distraction in classrooms. And he noted that the cleanup cost $2,666.50.

"If we say that there is to be no gum chewed, then that money could go toward something more productive," Watson said.

Watson acknowledges that gum chewing on campus is a minor issue compared with larger problems schools face countywide, such as weapons and violence on campus. But he thinks that the former could affect the latter.

"When you're on this campus, our job on this campus is to educate you," said the assistant principal, who came up with a dress code last year banning gang-related attire such as caps and baggy pants. "If we teach our kids to respect property, automatically they're going to learn that lives are to be respected.

"If we can get our kids to see that these 'minor issues' like gum on campus and respecting property, etc., are important to them . . . then it will deter them from thinking of the larger issues," he said. "The real radical behavior is suppressed."

Mary Thompson, an English as a Second Language specialist at Roosevelt, agreed but suggested that administrators clearly explain the reasons for the ban to students.

"I think it's a great idea," Thompson said. "I know that when I was in the classroom, it can be an irritation, especially if it's being cracked, if the student is chewing it obnoxiously.

"I would hope that the rule will be explained to students in such a way that it would be shown that the principle behind the rule is consideration for others."

Students who violate the rule will first meet with Watson and sign a contract acknowledging their understanding of the gum ban. A second offense will result in detention or after-school cleanup on campus. A third offense could lead to suspension, he said.

School board President Jane Whitaker supports Roosevelt's ban on gum and says she has yet to receive any calls from opponents.

Roosevelt joins the district's three other middle schools, which already have written bans along with all of the district's elementary schools. But the high schools have no formal policies on gum.

This fall, Hoover High will also join the other two high schools in its ban on selling gum.

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