Parenting

High School Entrepreneur Suspended for Using WhatsApp to Take Snack Orders

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A high school student was recently suspended after he was caught selling illicit snacks to his fellow students during school hours in violation of school policy. Some are praising the student for his entrepreneurial spirit while others are condemning him for flaunting the school’s regulations.

The problems began last year when the 17-year-old, whose name has not been released because he’s a minor, “started taking orders for snacks and fizzy drinks —which he bought at a local discount store,” TheLocal It reported.

According to Atlas Obscura, the young entrepreneur from Turin, Italy, would take orders for drinks and snacks from students using WhatsApp and then deliver the requested items to his classmates. Because he purchased the food and drinks at discount stores and charged for his services, he was able to turn a profit with his venture.  Unfortunately, he ran afoul of the school’s strict policy that guarantees a monopoly on school cafeteria food. He was slapped with a ten-day suspension.

When he tried to start up his “black market” business again this school year, the student was again slapped with a suspension—this time for 15 days.

The story has made headlines across the country with many saying the enterprising young student should be commended for his entrepreneurial spirit.

“Perhaps the small illegal businessman of today will become the large-scale legal businessman of tomorrow,” the school’s headteacher, Stefano Fava, told TorinoToday. “However, the school needs to teach pupils to respect the law and our rules.”

In addition to a handful of job offers from startups and marketing companies, the young business owner received a scholarship from the Einaudi Foundation, a socio-economic institute which usually reserves its scholarships for post-graduate students. The organization said the boy’s initiative should be “encouraged, not persecuted.”

Not everyone agrees, however. Around 500 students from the Pininfarina technical school in Turin protested against the Einaudi award. They waved banners proclaiming “illegality is the new high school diploma” and “scholarships for us too!”

Piedmont’s regional councillor for education, Gianna Pentenero, said: “It’s understandable that the decision to give a scholarship to the student suspended for abusive snack-selling has provoked a certain upset among his peers.”

Abusive snack-selling? Abusive snack-selling is when someone intentionally sells peanut butter cookies to that kid with the peanut allergy or laces the Twinkies with marijuana. Taking orders for snacks and selling them to students at a price both parties have agreed to is in no way abusive—except to those wishing to protect the abusive school cafeteria monopoly.

“I think it’s a mistake to give a message that disrespect for the rules will be interpreted as innovative entrepreneurial skill,” Pentenero said.

Fair enough. The student did violate the rules and should serve his time. According to the school, his suspension will be spent doing volunteer work sometime during the next school year. Perhaps the school can assign him the project of coming up with some reasonable new rules that would allow for the use of disruptive technology to allow for food delivery at school so students can enjoy choice and competition when it comes to their food options. Rather than quashing the entrepreneurial spirits of students, why not find ways to promote and encourage more of it by removing barriers and providing a framework for experimentation? This student has provided a great jumping off point for the school. Let’s hope they don’t turn it into a giant bureaucratic buzzkill.