Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What's In Your Locker?

by Pam Ripling

Do you have lockers at your school? Not talking gym lockers. These are hallway lockers, with steel hinged doors and combination locks acting as temporary storage units for your books, snacks, quick face fixes and whatever else you bring to school but don’t want to lug around.

When I wrote LOCKER SHOCK!, a story about a middle school kid who finds something really terrible in his school locker, our local schools still had hundreds of these storage units on campus. But not long after the book came out, the lockers were removed. Yeah, just ripped out and thrown away! Students were issued a set of “home” textbooks, matching the ones that stayed in the classroom, so that they wouldn’t have to load up their back-breaking backpacks every day.

If you still have them at your school, you might be wondering why our district took them away. Well, it seems that it was costing a lot of money, because a lot of the lockers were damaged every year. Beaten, kicked, scratched, gummed up and soiled. They were infested with cockroaches, too, when kids left behind apple cores, Twinkies and near-empty soda cans.

Also, the school was spending money on “drug-sniffing dogs”—can you imagine? And worst of all… some districts actually found that lockers had become depositories for weapons. The cost of dealing with all these problems far outweighed the cost of the second set of textbooks for each student.

I loved having a locker. My dad built me a little shelf for mine, so I’d have two levels of storage. I had my mirror, and some stickers that actually made me smile when I stopped in between classes. I could stash notebooks, workbooks and my lunch there. Today, kids must drag all that stuff around with them.

What do you think about the locker issue? Should schools keep them, and find other ways to keep lockers safer and cleaner?

Pam Ripling is the author of middle-grade mystery, LOCKER SHOCK! Buy it at Quake, Fictionwise or Amazon today! E-book version now available for your Kindle! Visit Pam at


Gayle Carline said...

My son, 16, has never seen a hallway locker, at middle school or high school. He has two sets of books, like you described.

I have semi-fond memories of my high school locker. I went to high school shortly after the Jurassic Era. Believe it or not, I shared it with my BFF - we didn't have enough lockers for everyone. What I didn't like was being on the 1st floor and having to run up to get another book on the 2nd floor then back down to the 1st floor for class. I guess I should've planned better!

G. Carline

Natalie Hatch said...

Pam we've never had lockers here in tropical queensland. So kids have to lug textbooks, books, lunch, pencil cases, PE clothes etc all around in their backpacks. Some days my daughters bags are heavier than others.

Regan Black said...

I loved having a locker - and shared it with a friend (or two) each year. While I get the issues that mean my kids don't know that experience, I think they've missed out. I mean, how else was 'the guy' supposed to find you between classes to ask you out? =)


J.R. Turner said...

How timely! My daughter just came home last night and proudly announced that she no longer has to share a locker with another girl. She has it all to herself.

As a mom, I like the idea of no lockers--because then the kids can't say they forgot their books and can't do their homework. I als have to go every spring and collect all the hats and gloves they've forgotten to bring home all the time.

Sounds like a great idea, to go locker-free, but I doubt that will happen here for a while. We're not as "with it" as most places, being a small town in the MidWest. Change comes really slow here.

Very interesting topic!!


lissa said...

There are lockers at my daughter's high school but very few students use them. They are on one hallway on the top floor and they cost $5 to rent for the year. It is uncool to have a locker when it used to be very cool to have one, especially one that was decorated inside and near the 'coolest of the cool' kids.


Bookfool said...

Well, hmm. That's a little more complicated, these days. I loved having a locker, too. My son's junior high gave them 3 minutes to get from classroom to classroom in a room with 3 floors, so he only was able to go to his locker (on the basement floor) if and when he had a class on that floor. They also pretty much made them "hold it" all day, to keep from having trouble in the bathrooms.

IOW, it's more like prison than school -- and sometimes a locker is pointless.

In high school, they don't have enough lockers for everyone at our school, so that leads to the question of two sets of books . . . for my son, that would be terrific. Because he didn't have a locker for two years, he's in physical therapy for the damage about 50 pounds of books inflicted on his shoulder.

Iris said...

My school has lockers but they don't work... We have a two floor main building with a Technologies "out-building" and a trailer pack called the Freshmen Academy. Our lockers cost $5 and we are NOT allowed to share/decorate them at all. We don't get to pick our lockers and they don't match lockers to schedules or even homerooms. For example, my locker is at the back of Floor #2 and I cannot access it between any two classes in the 8 minutes we have between bells and not be tardy. Also, we are not allowed to access hallways with lockers during lunch. (Insert editorial: Hello? What then is the point of giving us lockers??? Stupid admin...)

Freshmen have it worse and better. The trailers are a ways away from the main building, so they have to book it between their cores (English, Math and History) to their electives (Science, Foreign Language, P.E., etc.) each day. They get a home set of textbooks for their cores, but not for the rest of the stuff. They have even less time to try and get to a locker; if they get duped into buying one, they just wasted $5 dollars they could have spent on P.E. uniforms.

I kinda have it easy. Band kids have a wall of instrument lockers. These too are $5, but they can be decorated; shared; and, for the most part, left unlocked. However, we hardly have enough lockers for the approx. 200 band students. I share with a percussion buddy of mine- but we are stuck with the smallest sized locker (flute). Trying to fit 2 sets of textbooks, 2 sets of binders, 2 music folders, my flute, his mallet bag, and (during marching season) snacks/clothes for practice in a deep but narrow rectangle of space has required both ingenuity and business negotiation skills...

At one point, my buddy tried to store 2 pairs of shoes and some jeans in the back of the locker. None of it was for practice and the "closet" existed for 2 months before I threatened to give it to Goodwill. Soon enough, I could once again cram my English and Spanish books/binders + my history notebook back into the locker at the end of the day.

On the topic of policing the contents. I am all for sporadic searches (we pay for the opportunity, not the security). However, drug dogs are a bit too far, especially with the budget my school has forced upon the fine arts department...

Oh well, now I'm ranting.

Chris V. said...

The locker was like your home away from home in high school. The best part was birthdays -the tradition, eons ago at Schurz HS in Chicago, was a friend made you a giant card that got put on your locker and you got this super giant stuffed animal to lug around. ha! Bad thing for kids to carry all those books now. Solution? Give them laptops or ereaders and texts in ebooks!

Mary Cunningham said...

Hate to tell you how many years it's been since I had a school locker! But, I still remember the sound of a whole row slamming together as the bell rings.

Didn't have to share one, though!

Ollie said...

Ah, Lockers.

In the Dark Ages we had desks with lift-up lids in our form rooms, and all our stuff went in those.
Of course we only had access to them during morning and afternoon registration.
Surprisingly there was hardly any pilfering.

I didn't get a locker until the 5th year when our form room was a science lab - hence no desks.

My son has a corridor locker which he shares with 2 other boys and uses it as an excuse to leave stuff behind, but then again if he had two sets of books he'd only lose both.

My daughter has consistently been allocated lockers inside classrooms which you cannot access at any time of the day in the same manner as at Iris' school, so she humps huge quantities of books around.

Perhaps it is just their way of integrating P.E. into the rest of the curriculum.