As you rush through the halls of this hallowed institute of education between classes, all you can see is a wall-to-wall ocean of discontented faces. Weary eyes scream silently that their owners would rather be somewhere else. However, there is a plethora of scientific evidence that high school is more than just unpleasant. It may also be hazardous to your health.

A common complaint of students is having too much homework. Teachers get bored with you whining about how hard it is or how long it will take you. Next time one tries to overload you with work, try something along these lines. "Staring at a computer screen gives me a headache, and over time, it may diminish my eyesight. Repetitive hand and wrist movements like typing for hours could give me carpal tunnel syndrome. The slight pain and tingling in my hands will increase until I lose all feeling in them if I don't get treatment."

Another problem with homework is that it detracts from your spare time, which could and should be spent engaging in physical activity. These days, more and more young people are not getting enough exercise. Being overweight or obese can lead not only to heart problems, asthma, and elevated blood pressure, but also to self-esteem issues and clinical depression. Since most of you are unable – or unwilling - to squeeze phys. ed. into your crowded schedules, you should be allowed time to exercise outside of school hours.

All through the semester, you face stress from trying to hold down a part-time job and maybe even maintain a social life. As if this isn't enough, each of your teachers probably believes that their subject is the most important one you will ever learn and assigns you two hours of homework a night. It can often do more harm than good, especially around exam time. The stress created by working so hard can cause headaches, chest pains, stomach problems, elevated blood pressure, and sleep difficulties; all detrimental to the learning experience.

In a school, as everywhere else, what you see is not always what you get. For instance, you cannot see the chemical contamination of the science classrooms, but that doesn't mean it is not present. Toxic chemicals and
dangerous bacteria from labs are invisible, but everywhere. If you are taking a tech class, you are likely breathing more sawdust than is good for your health. The safety measures you should be taking to protect yourself are reviewed only once a year. Fecal bacteria are ever-present in the washrooms; and one is never really sure about how safe it is to eat in the cafeteria.

Lastly, there are the cumbersome backpacks you are forced to carry. It is common to see students walking with hunched backs, stumbling, or even collapsing under the weight of these bags. Okay, not really, but math and science textbooks do get very heavy, especially if you have to walk to and from school. This has negative effects on your spine and back, possibly even stunting your growth. Fortunately, some teachers are beginning give students their textbooks on CDs, so they are not forced to bring the hard copy home.

These are just a few of the many health problems that high school can cause. From heavy backpacks to the lack of exercise to stress, your body is being negatively influenced by being here. However, the benefit to your mind may negate these problems. After all, what is more valuable than a good education?

A/N: Well, first they told me I had to change the title of this article. After much deliberation, I couldn't think of anything, so a friend came up with "School: risky business?" A dumber headline I've never heard of, but anyway.

Next, I was forwarded this e-mail: "She needs to change to more respectful tone - the custodians work to hard to keep a really nice, clean environment here. Also, it must be clearly stated that none of the students are at risk here as the school more than surpasses health and safety standards. (this calls for some fairly major rewriting - can/will she do it?)"

So, I deleted the third-last paragraph and added a frikkin disclaimer at the end. The paper will come out Thursday. )