On one hand, it was a prank. Students in Readington Middle Children's Prison were upset over the shortness of their lunch period. To give voice to their plight, several students thought of a very clever way to dramatize the problem. They paid for their lunch with pennies. According to EdgefieldDaily.com:
"Got pennies!" It's plastered on their shirts and these eighth graders wear it proudly because on Thursday they pulled a prank at the Readington Middle School, paying for their lunches entirely in pennies. "At first it started out as a joke, then everyone else started saying we're protesting against like how short our lunch is," student Alyssa Concannon said. In fact, the penny prank has earned 29 students two days of detention. "There was no rule in the rulebook about it," student Sarah Henschel said. "It was just unfair. It's U.S. currency."The New York City news station WCBS-TV expounds a bit more about the sordid tale here.
I've always been a supporter of peaceful student protest, and am very impressed by the inherent cleverness of this one. Were I the principal of the school, I'd have to find a way to reward the young minds behind this stunt. "50 points for Griffindor!"
The event that seems to have caused the punishments was basically the laziness and lack of wit in the persons of the cafeteria workers. The complaint was that the counting of the pennies caused some students to miss lunch, because of the slowness of the lunch line--the lunch counter workers had to count the pennies(!).
The lowly penny has indeed been getting a bad rap in recent years. The US mint even devalued the penny by starting to make them from copper-washed zinc instead of a real copper alloy, back in 1980. How many of us actually pay for our cash purchases to the penny, these days? Every day we empty our trouser pockets to find between ten and thirty pennies along with the other change. What to do with them? Put 'em in a jar.
Eventually, the jar gets full. Then what? The bank doesn't want them. Laziness seems to hit bank tellers, as well. I used to actually roll up my accumulated change and take it to the bank periodically. They no longer accept it, or will charge a 7 or 8 percent fee to accept it. More often, bank tellers direct you to a change machine, into which you can dump your coins and get a cash voucher, minus a 7 to 8 percent fee, which can then be deposited (after waiting in the interminable bank line yet again).
In my youth, a penny would buy a piece of Bazooka, or a bit of sugary liquid in a wax "Coke" bottle. Today, people simply throw them away. A handful of pennies won't buy anything. One has to wonder why they're still made.
Back to the point. Pennies are still around and theoretically still have value. They're still legal tender. Since the New Jersey children's prison accepts cash to pay for lunch at the cafeteria, one has to wonder on what grounds the staff imposed punishment for the use of pennies. No one disputes the students' assertion that there are no rules prohibiting pennies. If not, then what?
It's a fine method the New Jersey Children's Prison system has for teaching youngsters: making up the rules as they go along. Very typical of the same kind of idiots that impose "zero tolerance" programs to prohibit things that prison staffs find might cause them to actually have to (shudder) think!
Returning to all fours.