Our Backs Deserve An Apology

Landon Chatelier

More stories from Landon Chatelier


Featuring quotes from students, discontent with the current seating situation at Huntington Beach High School.

The chairs at Huntington Beach High School (HBHS) are not good chairs. They are stiff, hard, and unsupportive. Every day, students struggle to be comfortable in their constricting desks. On paper, the standard desk seems fine, but considering that students sit in class for approximately an hour and a half at a time, problems start to show. 

Students are unable to unjust their seats in most classes. Not every student can sit comfortably at a one-size-fits-all desk. There’s one desk position, one seat height, and infinite body types.

 “[The chairs are] not suited for tall people, and [they] don’t have enough back support,” says Aren Wallihan, a senior at HBHS.

Desks can be way too low for some students, either making them look down or bend their backs uncomfortably when working. Even somebody of average height won’t be comfortable. If somebody tall sits at a desk, chances are they won’t get much support at all. It may be okay for the short run, but over the span of forty-five minutes, or even ninety minutes, it can get tiring and even painful for people of all shapes and sizes. Many students even find it more comfortable to sit in unconventional ways.

“They are too hard, not flexible, and short, [plus the chairs] cannot be removed from the desk so they are hard to get in and out of,” says Catelin Pugh, a sophomore at HBHS.

Another student, Ella Acciacca, voiced her opposition to the standard HBHS desk chair combo.

“I have a lot of back issues and these chairs have wrecked my back beyond comparison,” she said. “[They] can’t be adjusted up or down.”

The desks attached to the chairs are a problem too. The small desks provided to students barely have enough room to hold a laptop and a notebook without them overlapping. When multiple people try to work together at a desk, it can be hard for them to manage two laptops in the same workspace. Keep in mind that the school Chromebooks are relatively small laptops. Even so, two people trying to write at a desk? Not happening.

There are a whole lot of problems with the HBHS chairs, but thankfully, there is a good solution, and it’s very simple.  Coupled with a desk big enough for 2, is the holy grail of school seating technology: The Gray Spinny Chair.

These things are great. They have wheels to let them slide around the room, a large range of height adjustment, and they are very comfortable. The whole seat is made of one piece of plastic, and the back support is very flexible to conform to your back however you like. Because these chairs are usually at a full desk instead of an airplane dinner tray, there’s enough room for all of the supplies a student might need. Students can have as much or as little space as they would like between them and the desk, and since they roll, they don’t have to do gymnastics to get out of their seats.

Now, these chairs are truly great and could be a huge innovation for students, but it would come along with some caveats. The most obvious problem is the expense. Replacing hundreds of chairs throughout the school would cost a lot of money. And where would the funds even come from? Donations? Taxes? Money laundering? There’s no way to know if people would even be willing to pay for them at all.

And what if students don’t want to change seating? In my survey, 31% of students said they were comfortable throughout the day. Despite that, in another survey, 70% of students said that they would benefit from new seats.

Furthermore, teachers may not want to change the way their class works too. There are a few classes around the school that have adopted the grey spinny chair and larger desks, so finding a layout that ensures students are focused and comfortable can be hard. Some classes are smaller than others too and don’t have the room for a new format. Some classrooms only have enough space for a grid of desks, but that doesn’t mean that the students need to be uncomfortable. Besides, the new desks do not take up much more space and can still be put into a space-efficient grid. It would still be a good improvement compared to the chairs of the past.

Over the past thirty years, major shifts in the workplace, recreational, and home design have occurred…everywhere except schools. This is very true, even in our more “modern” school today. We still sit at solid desks, usually in a grid with little to no movement throughout the class period. This doesn’t mean we need to be walking around the class at all times, but there’s still a need for movement; the block periods worth 90 minutes don’t make it any better. Sitting in one uncomfortable space for that long can’t be good for students. Even if it isn’t bad physically, it is still a mental challenge for students across campus.

Students’ comfort heavily adds or subtracts from their experience in school and can truly make or break a class. Concentrating while feeling physica; discomfort is extremely difficult and can easily distract students from their work. Distracted students distract students who often go on to distract more students.

It is so common for students to be uncomfortable in school, and I must ask, why? Improper seating is just a distraction, not to mention a hassle. The amount of pain that occurs in a school day is simply unnecessary. So, should change happen? Yes, the process would be long and complicated, but for the comfort, happiness, health, and mental wellness of students, it is necessary.