An Open Letter To My High School Who Punished Students For Protesting

An Open Letter To My High School Who Punished Students For Protesting

Was not missing 17 minutes of class worth invalidating the voices of a generation?
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PREFACE: This article is intended as an open letter, addressed to the high school I attended and graduated from: The Academy of the New Church Secondary Schools (ANC) in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. However, this letter applies to all schools nationwide which made the decision to punish any students who wanted to make their voices heard by participating in the mass walkout protest today, on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Please keep in mind that I do love the school I attended and the town which I have lived in and hold dear. This article is simply to express my disappointment for this action, which is not unique to ANC, and to ask the question as to why this decision was made. This is me, a college student, trying to make my voice heard because my sister and her classmates were unable to do so along with the thousands of other students that walked out of school today in the hopes of a safer future where school shootings don't appear on the front page every other week.

Dear ANC,

Our nation's students have lost their sense of general security that we all believed was inherent in our school system. Growing up after Columbine, a school shooter was a possibility, but not a real, tangible threat. It was unthinkable. Survivors of school shootings have mentioned how you never believe it will happen until it happens to you.

But things have changed.

Nowadays, students who survive these horrific, life-altering incidents are shouting and tweeting "#NEVERAGAIN." Before researching the statistics behind this sudden explosion in media coverage, I was afraid and uncertain as to why things seemed so bad. The truth of it is that the frequency with which these shootings occur, while still absolutely gut-wrenching, is not as sensational as the media is making it out to be. For a rundown of this, check out this USA Today piece which gives a quick rundown of the statistics (Note: It is an opinion piece, but mentions the statistics that people tend to miss in this area): https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/19/...

Regardless of the fact that we may not be having a massacre every week as many have been led to believe with misrepresented statistics, the trends and the recent shootings are more than worrisome. Not only that, but they are backed up by the ludicrous statistics behind gun violence in the United States. While I don't want to stray too much into a gun control argument within this letter, I will include these articles with some of the numbers that expose the uniquely American problem with firearms: https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-... and https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/02/...

While I believe that we must make changes in federal legislation to help combat this violence, I understand and respect the Constitution of the United States and its Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." I am not suggesting we ban all guns, and that is difficult to fathom with the number of firearms in this country anyways, but I do think we need to tighten our laws. State laws vary widely when it comes to carrying rights and background checks.

The gun control debate is a divisive and complex issue, more so in this country than anywhere else, thanks to America's gun culture. We won our freedom with these weapons, so it made sense to keep those means of holding onto that freedom. In global history, an unarmed population has been at risk for oppression (see Mao's China), but there are plenty of countries with strict gun laws and relatively peaceful oversight (see modern day Japan or England). There is no simple solution, but we must work together to find a solution.

Another Constitutional Amendment which our society hinges on is the very first: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Freedom of speech/religion/press/assembly/petition are some of the rights that make America a free nation whose citizens can speak up when they see problems in the fabric of our society.

Arriving back at the core purpose of this open letter, I want to state how deeply saddened I am by the fact that ANC, along with other schools around the country, made the choice to punish students for exercising their rights. While schools may have the actual ability to do so, I only argue that this was a morally wrong decision. These children, entering soon into adulthood as citizens in our country, are directly being told that their fears and their voices, which they share with countless other children, are invalid. They were told on the morning of this event that they needed to fill out a permitted absence form or else they would face the typical consequence of cutting class (which is an hour-long detention at ANC). Seven of the students did take part in the protest in spite of this punishment, and they were reprimanded with only a thirty-minute detention and a suggestion to write to a congressman instead. While I appreciate that this was a minor punishment, it was still a punishment in a situation when I hoped the teachers would be fully supportive (and I know that many of the faculty members did express some sort of support).

I will compare this event with the recent Super Bowl Parade in Philadelphia for the victorious Philadelphia Eagles. ANC requested that same form far in advance, and this covered the entire day. This protest was scheduled to be seventeen minutes long, which is less than half of a normal class period. Not only that, but four of those seventeen minutes would have been between class periods, which is free time for the students.

There seemed to be some confusion surrounding this protest on the part of the faculty, as a flyer posted on a bulletin board even called it a "Women's March" and there was only a day-of notice about the form. This is troubling, because I am also confused at the fact that almost all of the students apparently had knowledge of the protest and yet some of the faculty showed the opposite in their mishandling of the situation. If any of the faculty did not know about this and are reading this, I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

To reiterate, this article is not to bash ANC itself. What happened at ANC pales in comparison to some of the other cases being reported from other schools. Examples have already sprung up of teachers setting up and sitting at tables to block the school doors so that students were unable to walkout, or starting a tornado drill when the walkout was set to begin so that students were forced to stay inside. I respect the entire faculty and staff of ANC and I am hopeful that this was not done in spite but rather in confusion and unpreparedness. This letter only uses ANC as a central target in order to question all of the schools who took a similar stance.

ANC is a religious-based private school which says its students receive a "morally grounded" education, and that its students are "leaders, thinkers, and hard workers [who] go on to study at some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, and are known for their thoughtfulness, their diligence, and their bright attitudes in all they do" (taken from their website: http://www.ancss.org/one-school/). However, when the school said it would punish students for making their voices heard because they are scared for their lives and have been inspired by other brave students who want to effect change, it went against the school's foundations, as well as those of our country. This group of students is thoughtful and diligent and bright, and I have seen this firsthand in my sister and her friends and classmates whom I've had the privilege to meet. With this protest, they were taking action to work on being those leaders, those thinkers and those hard workers who only want a better, safer future for their children one day.

"Never again" has to start with somebody, and the students of today are taking on the responsibility of being those somebodies. So, please explain to me why their voices and efforts were suppressed because they would have missed seventeen (thirteen, in this case) minutes of class time?

Sincerely,

Spencer Cowley, a concerned alumnus

#NEVERAGAIN

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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The 10 Most Important Things You Need To Know About Relationships

Without communication, there is no relationship; without respect, there is no love; and without trust, there is no reason to continue.
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When you see an old couple holding hands or sharing romantic kisses while sitting on a park bench, doesn't that spark warm feelings of love and happiness in your heart? Doesn't it make you think about how they maintained their relationship for so many years when couples you know have trouble making it past six months? And of course, some people are not made for each other and so their relationship just simply doesn't work. But then there are couples who give up the minute an obstacle comes along, which makes you think their relationship wasn't truly important to them in the first place. What everyone has to understand in order to preserve a strong, happy, and prosperous relationship is that love is colorful, and the same kind of love doesn't exist for everyone. Being in a loving relationship that continues to thrive, I'm going to share some of the few things that I believe should exist between two lovers who want to sustain their prosperous relationship.

1. Communication

Communicating with your partner is essential. I'm sure you've heard it before, but communication is key. If something is bothering you or what your partner wants to do isn't what you're interested in, say something! Neither you nor your partner are mind readers, so how are they supposed to know how you feel if you keep your feelings bottled up inside? Not speaking up and communicating your ideas, feelings, desires, and wants is unhealthy because one day you might blow up and say some things you'll either regret or feel sorry for saying. Communicate to find a middle ground in your relationship because it's unfair for one person to constantly accommodate the other. Relationships cannot grow without communication, so don't be afraid to speak your mind and embrace your thoughts.

2. Trust and Honesty

A relationship cannot continue without trust and honesty. By being honest with your partner, they have no reason to doubt you or not trust you. Trust is vital in a strong and successful relationship because you don't want to think twice about what your partner says or does. Almost anything can be acceptable in a relationship as long as you're honest with your partner. Being in a relationship doesn't mean that everything else in your life has to change. You can still see your friends, go out, and be your own person, but be honest with your partner with whatever you do because by hiding something from them, you might be giving them the perfect reason not to trust you.

3. Forgiveness

No relationship is perfect. That's because none of us are perfect. People make mistakes in everyday life in the same way that people make mistakes in relationships. Of course, there are some things that are unforgivable, such as cheating on your partner (at least in my eyes), because it means that your relationship didn't mean much to you anyway. But, most things can be forgiven. Forgiveness is extremely important and necessary in a relationship because we have to accept and be reminded that we aren't perfect. So if I bailed on you because something important came up or you had a bad day at work and said some things to me that should have been directed at someone else out of anger, it's okay. Sometimes all it takes is a simple I'm sorry and I forgive you.

4. Respect and Appreciation

Without respect and appreciation, there is no love. How can you disrespect the one you love and care for? Exactly: it's hard to find an answer. Respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Respect your partner by choosing your words carefully, honoring boundaries, being willing to compromise, showing consideration, and protecting your partner. Make sure you're being respected by knowing your worth, acting honorably, setting and upholding boundaries, being a man or woman of your word, and showing respect for yourself. Appreciate your partner for who they are, the things they do for you, the support they give you, and the growth that they contribute in building your own identity.

5. Emotional Support

Real men don't cry is a load of bullshit. I have been blessed to be surrounded by a few strong and courageous men in my life who I've seen shed a tear or cry when losing a loved one or simply out of pure happiness. We all have emotions and though we try to hold them in check, those emotions sometimes boil over. In relationships, it's important to show emotional support for your partner, regardless if they are a man or a woman. So when your partner is going through a tough time or is struggling for whatever the reason might be, stray away from the pathetic Be A Man go-to phrase and be their shoulder to lean on. If your partner knows that you're emotionally there for them, they might have an easier time opening up to you in the future.

6. Humor

Sharing laughs and smiles with the one you love is extremely important. After all, being in a relationship is sharing your life with someone you care for, cherish, and have fun with. Being able to joke around and laugh with one another is extremely healthy for your well-being and the relationship. It's not just about fun and games, but it's also no fun to be so serious and stern about everything. Keep your relationship alive with some humor, adventure, and daily laughs to see the smile of your loved one!

7. The Magic of Small Things

The small things in life are actually not that small. There are times where the smallest deed can make someone the happiest and that's usually because the small things are the most thoughtful ones. Preparing breakfast when your partner is too tired or surprising them with an iced caramel latte on their way home from work can be enough to make their day. The small things really do count and they are remembered more than you might think. There's something magical in knowing that your partner feels appreciated and happy that they have the privilege of calling you mine. And the small things can do just that.

8. Sharing Interests

Having things in common with the one you love and sharing interests with your partner is perfect because neither one of you need to accommodate the other! There will be days where both you and your partner will not want to do the same things and a middle ground will have to be met, but sharing interests makes it easier when looking for fun things to do and finding things to talk about! Having a few similar interests like bike riding or playing football allows you and your partner to have your "thing," the thing that brings you two together. Liking similar things is also a perfect conversation starter, but also talking about your dislikes and things that you don't agree on can spark an intense and even more enticing conversation!

9. Celebrate Achievements

The happiness you feel because of your own achievements should be the same feeling you get when your partner accomplishes something they've been striving for, no matter how little it may be. Whether it be winning the Noble Peace Prize, having a 4.0 GPA, or hitting a new record at the gym, no achievement should go unnoticed. Being proud of your partner's achievements can strengthen your relationship and bring the both of you closer together.

10. Love and Affection

Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life. This might strike you at first, but what's the point of being successful, rich, happy or really anything else if you have nobody to share it with? Love is one of life's greatest gifts. It brings people together and allows them to build a life that some can only dream of. But sometimes love is not enough to maintain a prosperous and healthy relationship. That's because relationships aren't easy, people are so different from one another, and relationships take much effort and patience. But in the end, if you don't have love in a relationship, you really don't have anything. Take the time to show your partner some affection, to make alone time a priority. The kisses, hugs, and even sex is something that in the end does make a relationship healthy. But without love, all of that means nothing.

Every relationship struggles, but only strong relationships get through it. Take the time to focus on these ten things that are important in keeping the love alive and feelings between you and your partner strong. And most importantly, remember that no one falls in love by choice; it's by chance, and no one falls out of love by chance--it's by choice.

Cover Image Credit: Marika Cygert

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8 Types Of People Fetuses Grow Into That 'Pro-Lifers' Don't Give 2.5 Shits About

It is easy to fight for the life of someone who isn't born, and then forget that you wanted them to be alive when you decide to hate their existence.

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For those in support of the #AbortionBans happening all over the United States, please remember that the unborn will not always be a fetus — he or she may grow up to be just another person whose existence you don't support.

The fetus may grow up to be transgender — they may wear clothes you deem "not for them" and identify in a way you don't agree with, and their life will mean nothing to you when you call them a mentally unstable perv for trying to use the bathroom.

The fetus may grow up to be gay — they may find happiness and love in the arms of someone of the same gender, and their life will mean nothing to you when you call them "vile" and shield your children's eyes when they kiss their partner.

The fetus may grow up and go to school — to get shot by someone carrying a gun they should have never been able to acquire, and their life will mean nothing to you when your right to bear arms is on the line.

The fetus may be black — they may wear baggy pants and "look like a thug", and their life will mean nothing to you when you defend the police officer who had no reason to shoot.

The fetus may grow up to be a criminal — he might live on death row for a heinous crime, and his life will mean nothing to you when you fight for the use of lethal injection to end it.

The fetus may end up poor — living off of a minimum wage job and food stamps to survive, and their life will mean nothing to you when they ask for assistance and you call them a "freeloader" and refuse.

The fetus may end up addicted to drugs — an experimentation gone wrong that has led to a lifetime of getting high and their life will mean nothing to you when you see a report that they OD'd and you make a fuss about the availability of Narcan.

The fetus may one day need an abortion — from trauma or simply not being ready, and her life will mean nothing to you as you wave "murderer" and "God hates you" signs as she walks into the office for the procedure.

* * *

Do not tell me that you are pro-life when all of the above people could lose their lives in any way OUTSIDE of abortion and you wouldn't give 2.5 shits.

You fight for the baby to be born, but if he or she is gay or trans, you will berate them for who they are or not support them for who they love.

You fight for the baby to be born, but if he or she is poor or addicted, you will refuse the help they desperately need or consider their death a betterment of society.

You fight for the baby to be born, but when the used-to-be-classroom-of-fetuses is shot, you care more about your access to firearms than their lives.

It is easy to pretend you care about someone before they are even born, and easy to forget their birth was something you fought for when they are anything other than what you consider an ideal person.

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