Hundreds of Valley high school students walked out of the classroom on Thursday to protest a new closed campus lunchtime policy.

Before this school year, all juniors and seniors at Sunrise Mountain and Centennial high schools were allowed to leave for lunch. But not anymore.

This Sunrise student said it’s about freedom. “Because we want to go off campus. We don’t want to stay here. We just want to get out of school.”

Hundreds of Valley high school students walked out of the classroom on Thursday to protest a new closed campus lunchtime policy.

Before this school year, all juniors and seniors at Sunrise Mountain and Centennial high schools were allowed to leave for lunch. But not anymore.

This Sunrise student said it’s about freedom. “Because we want to go off campus. We don’t want to stay here. We just want to get out of school.”

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Students Walk Out in Protest of New Policy

Hundreds of Valley high school students walked out of the classroom on Thursday to protest a new closed campus lunchtime policy.

Before this school year, all juniors and seniors at Sunrise Mountain and Centennial high schools were allowed to leave for lunch. But not anymore.

This Sunrise student said it’s about freedom. “Because we want to go off campus. We don’t want to stay here. We just want to get out of school.”

Peoria School District officials said they’re trying to keep students like Sierra Bernier safe. “It’s just a break from school, I don’t like to be on campus for lunch. When it’s my lunch break, I like to spend it how I want to and it’s nice to just take a break and see who I want to see and go where I want to.”

“Don’t punish us,” said another student. “We have 40 minutes of bad food everyday.”

The new rule, which is a revision to an existing closed-campus policy, goes into effect next year. The previous rule allowed juniors and seniors with a “C” average to leave campus at lunchtime if they have parent permission.

Students at Sunrise Mountain High School began circulating a flier this week urging their classmates to leave class at 8:15 a.m. Thursday. The flier included a permission slip for parents to sign so that the students’ absences would be excused.

Teens at Centennial and Ironwood high schools planned walkouts as well.

Students from Sunrise Mountain and Centennial told CBS 5 that they see the policy as an effort by the school district to control their lives and replace their parents.

“Dear Parents: The school board just took away your right to decide whether or not your child can leave campus for lunch. Do you want to raise your kid, or would you like the school board doing your job?” said the letter attached to the Sunrise Mountain permission slip.

“This is just the first step to them taking control of our lives,” the flier said. “We have to stop letting them step all over us and stand up for ourselves, now!”

The students said they want the lunchtime policy to allow juniors and seniors to leave campus.

District Superintendent Dr. Jack Erb sent a letter home to parents about the walkout. Erb said students who wished to protest the new policy were urged to stay in class and express their views “in a constructive way that does not disrupt their education or the education of their peers.”

Students with parental permission to leave class were urged to stay on campus and gather in the gym.