Recent Controversies Cause NHS to Reflect


Ida Pountney

A group photo of the National Honor Society (NHS) Board. NHS may be going through some changes in the future.

Elliott Austin, Staff Writer

The South High School National Honor Society (NHS) has worked in the same manner for as long as we can remember, but now due to upheavals over the last couple of months, change could be coming

On December 7th, a student was caught pulling a gun on school premises. This caused an uproar, as students were upset with the way administration handled the situation. One group that was angry with the incident was the NHS board, which wanted to plan a protest. A few days after the situation, a student listening session was held, in which some NHS members were present. After the session, a couple of students not affiliated with NHS were approached by NHS members, who asked them to attend a future meeting to plan the desired protest. According to these students, the NHS members cited “needing more minorities,” as the reason they were asked to attend, as the NHS board is largely white women. 

At the meeting, the invited students said it felt “overwhelmingly underproductive,” and “tokenizing.” They said that the plans were pretty half-baked, with little to no demands or purpose. “They should be finding out how to make POC feel comfortable in the space and getting them more involved instead of choosing a few people to represent,” one of the students said. They said that they felt like they were being forced into a white space and didn’t get much of a chance to speak during the meeting.

The following Tuesday, December 14th, a second meeting was held. One of the students wrote a letter about their thoughts on the walkout/sit-in and how they felt at the meeting. This student didn’t attend the meeting, but an NHS member read it at the meeting. The letter stated, “I am not looking for sympathy/apologies.” In response to this, the NHS board acknowledged the issues and promised to make changes. They scrapped any ideas for a walkout/sit-in and transitioned to a discussion about what NHS does well for the student body at South. 

That Wednesday, a general assembly was held, which included every NHS member, not just the board. The letter was read again and they spoke at length about the issues it brought up. They discussed what NHS does well and what they do that is less than helpful. Claims were made by the board to accept responsibility for any harm done. That day, an NHS member and one of the critics of the walkout/sit-in situation, started drafting a proposal to the NHS board. The letter outlined things that NHS could do to improve, especially in inclusivity. “If the NHS could theoretically do anything positively impactful, it should not be barred by a GPA and other entry requirements. And if there are impactful things that could be done to our school, they should not be created to replace the NHS but rather be created on their own in order to help out the school because as many of us the rebuilding of youth organizations know that it tends to retain the same problems that existed before the dissolution,” the opening of the proposal read. 

He goes on to say that ultimately NHS should be dissolved, but continue to exist for the remainder of the ‘21-’22 school year, so seniors can take full advantage of what NHS offers. He said that NHS doesn’t do anything that could be done by other organizations and that it’s events are “for white students by white students,” and the events require time and money to participate in. “They are not accessible to the entirety of the student body, nor do they reflect the majority of the student body’s priorities.” He outlined 5 steps for NHS to take if they go ahead with dissolving. The NHS board held meetings discussing these issues and what they should do.

Then they hit a roadblock: on February 4th, administration informed the board that they aren’t allowed to dissolve NHS. “We are allowed to quit (which all of us agreed is quite irresponsible and not going to happen), but we can’t disband,” said Tona Ratigan Green, President of NHS. They are determined to make changes, especially to make it a much more inclusive space. Last week they sent a survey to NHS members asking for feedback, with a message stating: “We are currently bringing NHS here at South under review. There are many issues and unfair systems within the NHS both nationally and at South that we want to strive to fix and take the necessary steps to make better.” They plan to send surveys to the rest of the student body and teachers later on. 

When NHS was founded, it was purposely exclusive, and that legacy stays strong, and changing a system like that takes time. South High Senior and Community Officer of NHS Ida Pountney said “It doesn’t matter what the collective group of nine people [the NHS board] think, it’s what the 2,000+ people [students and teachers] at the school, and what the community thinks.” A big thing that NHS has been working on recently is creating a mental health room in the school. Based on a survey they sent out, about 80% of responses said they would like that, all that’s left is to get the final OK from administration.

The last few months have been tumultuous for the South High National Honor Society, they have committed to change. Though how NHS will end up is still up in the air, they are heading in a more community service-oriented direction, which is much needed for an organization that seems to have lain dormant for the last couple of years.