A UK school in Lincolnshire recently stipulated a ban on large bags for students in the sixth form (equivalent to grades 11-12) because of health and safety reasons.
Instead of breaking the rules, a 17-year-old student decided to conduct a creative protest by carrying his books and supplies in conspicuous containers—a microwave among them.
On the same day Ford brought his microwave to school, Oct. 12, he was called to the headmaster’s office. Because he refused to hand over his phone, he was dealt a two-day suspension.
The entire incident appeared to have instilled confidence in the teen.
“The bags policy is something that I feel really passionate about and, rather than knock my confidence, it’s done the opposite because I’d never had any strong feelings about anything before now,” Ford told local news Spalding Today.
His mother said she was proud of him.
— LADbible (@ladbible) October 22, 2018
“I think Jacob’s protest has been very peaceful and I believe he should have his say,” she said, according to LadBible.
“At the end of the day, I believe in freedom of speech and so I’m very proud of him for standing up for something he believes in. Microwave or no microwave.”
But the school’s headmaster, Steven Wilkinson, disagreed.
“The facts that have been presented are far from the full picture,” he told Spalding Today.
“What disappoints me most is the fact that, rather than working with us, the parent concerned has encouraged and is now seeking to glorify her son’s behaviour.”
Recently, Spalding Grammar School issued multiple reminders to its students about its longstanding ban on large bags, following earlier events where students and a member of staff had been hit by swinging backpacks in the school corridors.
The school later loosened the rule to allow handbags for girls, and messenger bags or laptop bags for boys, to be carried in between classrooms.
Days after the school reiterated the ban, a petition began online but was closed within a few days after it gained 463 signatures.
“Students have been forbidden to carry bags such as backpacks to take books and provisions to lessons, which would enable them to get the most out of their educational experience,” the petition read.
“Being in the sixth form increases the amount of work drastically compared to lower years and therefore we are required to carry more items.
“By not permitting backpacks students are unable to carry revision materials to and from school with ease and therefore grades may dramatically decrease.”
Document of Defence
Following the petition’s shutdown, Ford wrote a 3,300-word document he dubbed as the “document of defence,” which was submitted to the headmaster and other school staff.
In the document, he called the school’s recent move “ridiculous” and that a compromise could be reached.
He acknowledged that a longstanding rule had existed in excess of 25 years stipulating that large bags, such as backpacks and duffle bags, were not allowed to be carried to classes. But he also said that the older grades, namely those in sixth form, could be seen using large bags on a regular basis.
“As times have evolved and perhaps more aptly, rules have slipped, bags have slowly become part of everyday sixth form life [sic],” he wrote in the document, as seen in the comment section of Spalding Today.
The document continued:
“I originally thought the whole changing rules or enforcing of the old rules was basically pointless. The reasons for them changing is for one reason and one reason only which has been hammered into all of our brains over the course of the several assemblies that we’ve had.
“Health and safety.
“Or more specifically, the year sevens and one member of staff. These people have been struck in the face or knocked backwards by our bags swinging around in the corridor. Once again, I do not doubt this ever happening. But is the best solution really to outright ban backpacks? Surely a compromise can be made.”
Ford then began carrying his books and supplies in conspicuous containers, among them a large wicker basket, a part of a lawnmower, a saucepan, and sandwich bags. This caused him to be isolated from other students by the teachers, according to Spalding Today.
“On Thursday [Oct. 11], I was called into the headmaster’s office to discuss my document and was told that I had undermined my position by writing a serious report, only to follow it up by taking ridiculous items to school,” Ford told Spalding Today.
“I was told that I had a choice to make, either to have a serious discussion about the issue or to continue my rebellious streak and force the head to take me out of circulation.”
The following day, Ford brought his books and supplies in a microwave.
That day, when called in to see the headmaster, Ford refused to hand in his phone, which he had been using at school to inform his family about how the teachers were treating him. Although he was suspended for the move, his mother said he was justified to hold on to his phone.
“I told my son not to hand over his phone because we are told that, by law, our children have to be in school and so I want to know where he is,” she told Spalding Today.
While Ford is the one making headlines, others have also chimed in on the school’s bag ban.
“My son attends this school & I was completely unaware of this absurd rule,” read a comment by mother Clair Thacker on the online petition.
“Bearing in mind most sixth formers either walk to & from school or get public transport, surely the staff would rather the work was kept safe & students have everything they need with them on a daily basis?
“Sort it out & put your students first, a bit of common sense would be a breath of fresh air at this school!” she said.