HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Jessica Rabon says her daughter Kenzie came home from school with the news that her principal had told her she had to eat her lunch in 15 minutes if she wanted to go outside for recess. 

“[Kenzie] said ‘well, the principal and assistant principal say that if we don’t learn how to eat in 15 minutes, we won’t be allowed to go outside,’” Jessica Rabon said.

Kenzie, a sixth-grader at Conway Middle School, looks forward to the time after lunch when she gets to go outside and take a break, but her mom says she is not getting enough time to finish eating. 

PowerSchool, Horry County Schools parent portal, lists the students’ lunch period from 12:12 p.m. to 12:40 p.m., but that is not what students are getting. Instead, Kenzie’s school is splitting that time in two. Half of the sixth graders eat lunch during the first 15 minutes, and the other half eat during the second 15 minutes. 

The 15-minute lunch period is from “bell-to-bell,” which means the 15 minutes starts as the bell rings when students are still in their classrooms. Walking to the cafeteria and standing in the lunch line must also be done in that time slot. 

“They only get about 10 minutes when you think about their walk time,” Jessica Rabon said.

Outraged by the circumstances, Jessica Rabon took to Facebook. Her post quickly accumulated at last 150 comments and 30 shares.

“I went to Facebook and I tagged Conway Middle, really thinking that was gonna [get them],” Jessica Rabon said. “I thought, ‘let me tag Conway Middle. I’m gonna show them.’” 

She said for as long as the students are in school, their break should be more than 15 rushed minutes. 

“These children do not get a long enough break throughout their eight-hour school day,” Jessica Rabon said. “They’re giving her a 15-minute lunch break, and then she might get to go outside for 10 minutes.”

Horry County Schools released the following statement to News13:

“In regard to lunchtime at Conway Middle School, every lunch is 30 minutes. Each grade level operates on a split lunch to stagger the serving periods to minimize wait time.  One group goes outside for recess while the other eats lunch in the cafeteria. Students eat in the cafeteria for 15 minutes and have recess/social time daily. 

“The school follows the requirement of adequate time to eat, which includes the time students walk to the cafeteria and are seated until they leave. Since the start of the school year, students have received the adequate time required.

“Conway Middle School is happy to work with all parents and students as they continue to practice routines that will make their daily operations safe, orderly, and enjoyable for all students.”

The South Carolina Board of Education states that students have to have a 15- to 20-minute lunch break starting from the time they take their seats. 

Jessica hopes that bringing the issue to light will bring about change at the school. 

“If you don’t give [students] the break that they deserve, their mental health, their emotional health, like, it’s so important at this age to nurture that,” Jessica Rabon said. “You’re never gonna get their peak performance.”