District and admin response to unrest at South is proof that the school has failed us


Khayaal Desai-Hunt

We cannot just push recent events under the rug and just try to get back to “normal” because clearly normal isn’t working. This is less of a time to repair and more of a time to reflect and actually make changes. “Students should be at the forefront of the process. They should be there at every step of the process… Because it’s our education, it’s not their education,” said senior Mary Ghebremeskal.

Khayaal Desai-Hunt, Features Editor

The purpose of a school is to educate students. Students can’t have an education if we aren’t safe in the very place that we are supposed to learn. All students have a right to be able to go to school and be safe. If that is not the case, then something is fundamentally wrong and requires some immediate change.

Students and staff alike were thrown back into the school year without even an acknowledgement of the delayed social and emotional development and trauma that students have faced over the past two years. For freshman and sophomores, it is the first time they have been in person at high school for a whole year. “They just weren’t fully prepared for what school is supposed to be and I don’t think that there were a lot of resources for that,” said senior Ava Grathwol. Perhaps if schools hadn’t been so focused on pushing students to return to normal, and instead there had been more effort in to address the stress, trauma, and fallout from the past two years, some of the recent incidents at South could have been prevented. 

One such incident happened on November 15th. After a series of fights throughout the day, the school was put into a 30 minute Code Red in an attempt to regain control of the building. A Code Red means that all doors are locked and no one is permitted in or out of classrooms. In the following days the school was put in “Tiger Pause,” the equivalent of Code Yellow. 

The lack of communication about what was happening during the Code Red caused panic and increased fear and anxiety. There was no announcement as to the exact reason for the Code Red until the next day. It furthered the wedge between students, administration, and staff, an already tenuous relationship after multiple changes in leadership in just a few months. 

Less than a month later, another major incident happened on December 7th. A student brought a gun into the school. Shortly after staff alerted administration, the student attempted to leave. The student did leave the building and was taken into custody by police. There was no lockdown procedure of any sort initiated that day and there was no announcement until after school hours.

What students and staff needed was clarity on what was happening. “Having that transparency [between admin, staff, students] is the first step into handling those situations better because with that lack of communication people were starting to go to sources that weren’t reliable,” said Grathwol. In the moment, fear is pervasive because no one knows what is actually going on. Therefore, students turn to social media and their friends for any possible information. 

The students involved in the fights on November 15th were suspended. However, suspending students doesn’t actually address the reasons why students are fighting and it is not going to prevent it again in the future. “If we want to fix the problems we must look where the problem is coming from and help the student,” said senior Sebastian Arce.

Arce also described his experience on December 7th, “Like the incident today, they are saying somebody brought a weapon into the school and I had to hear about it because my step dad told me about it. How did he know about it and I’m sitting here at school, in the building, and nobody has said anything.”

If the school was more focused on fixing the root causes of the fights maybe it would provide a better long-term solution, rather than just temporary punitive measures. 

Due to the events at South, the district needs to listen to teachers. The district also needs to understand that students are not going to give up on this. I am tired of just being “listened to” with no follow through happening, I want to see change happening. 

We cannot push this under the rug and just try to get back to “normal” because clearly normal isn’t working. So I would say this is in some ways less of a time to repair and perhaps more of a time to reflect and actually make changes. Students want to know the concrete ways in which all of this information and suggestions will be used and transformed into actionable plans.

Students actually have ideas about how this could happen if the district and administration would be willing to work with them. Arce suggested installing metal detectors by the entrance to the school in order to stop weapons from being brought into the building. “It’s like we are waiting for the worst to happen and that’s my biggest fear. I don’t want to be in here when that breaks out.” 

Grathwol brought up the idea of having more mental health breaks that are part of the schedule, as well as having student-led workshops that build relationships and provide the time and resources for people to process events. New Principal Luseni seems to be listening to students, having attended the student-led listening session, the recent PUSH meeting, and having recently redefined a “Tiger Pause” to only one hour a day after it received negative feedback. However, students still need to be a part of the discussion as well as the process itself. Since the school has failed to protect us, I think we should have a say in what changes we make.

“Students should be at the forefront of the process. They should be there at every step of the process. We should be partners, if nothing else, we should be partners on these things. Because it’s our education, it’s not their education,” said senior Mary Ghebremeskal. 

It’s our education and it’s our lives; do better.