I was terrified to go to school when I was in high school. I felt unsafe there due to conditions outside of my control. Often they came back to teachers neglecting to watch their students or teachers acting in such a way that created a hostile environment. Due to my experiences, I suggest that public high schools begin having students evaluate their teachers at the end of each semester (or year, depending on what the scheduling is). To defend such a stance, I will use the rest of this article to tell you about my story and what I went through to make me so scared of going to school.
The first situation that made school feel like an unsafe environment came about my sophomore year. I was in a class that primarily dealt with animals. It was like Heaven for me. It was there that I met Joe. His name is the only one that I will be using here because I don't feel the need to protect him for his actions. Joe was in the special needs class at my high school, but he was taking the animal class as an elective. Having a brother with Down syndrome makes me more compassionate towards those who are mentally challenged and therefore led me to want to be Joe's friend. I was kind to him...that is...until the day he assaulted me. Our teacher never paid attention to the class. She would teach for a half hour, retreat into her office, and shut the door while she spent the rest of the class staring at her computer screen. She never watched her students, and therefore she never noticed when Joe assaulted three of her students. What he would do is he would act like he wanted to play with whatever animal we were holding. He was very forceful about it and would back us into a wall or a table and then he groped us. At first I tried to deny what had happened. I let myself believe that he was just trying to take the animal out of my hands. However, after telling one of my fellow classmates what had happened, she admitted that she too had been assaulted by Joe in the same manner. We then found out that another student had been assaulted and we could see that he was about to do the same to another girl in our class. We decided to report him to protect our friend.
After reporting Joe, our teacher asked us why we never told her. The reason was simple: She didn't make herself approachable, nor was she ever accessible to tell. From there, we had to write statements to the police describing what had happened. I was shaking with anger while my friend walked with me to the bathroom to calm down. When we came back, we saw two cops ushering Joe out of the building. You'd think that he would've been punished for his actions, right? He knew what he was doing. He should've been punished. But my high school didn't do a thing except move him to a different class. I still had to see him every day.
That same year I had a teacher who both infuriated me and terrified me. My negative experiences with him began when he started mistreating my Autistic friend. The teacher would call him names, tell him he was stupid and a spaz, and he would encourage the students to bully this kid by laughing at their constant jabs. I reported it many times, but nothing happened. Now I was a complete foil to my friend. Where he would get super riled up, I would sit quietly awaiting instruction, all the while praying that they would show the guy some mercy. The teacher then began comparing us to each other, but the issues didn't stop there. He would say that I was so well behaved and then handed me a bag of M&Ms. In turn he would look at my friend and say that he would never get any because he was such a bad kid. I shared with him to prove a point. But then I began to get this really eerie vibe from the teacher that never went away. He started hovering over my desk constantly. He would always single me out as an example when it was flattering. The way he even spoke to me sent shivers down my spine. It was this creepy voice that I can't quite explain but was reserved for me specifically. He even went so far as to stop my then-boyfriend in the hallway to bombard him with questions about our relationship. Upon finding out that there were two grades between us, he made the inappropriate remark that my high school boyfriend was "robbing the cradle." All the while that I was in that class, I remember thinking about how I would protect myself if he ever jeopardized my safety. I was scared the entire time, braced for confrontation if it were to arise.
Sadly, though I was only in his class for a semester, he continued his antics up until I graduated. He would stop in the hallway and stare at me for a few seconds that felt more like minutes to me until finally he would say hello. One day he even walked into my history class and just stared at me while, in that creepy voice of his, he said to my teacher, "You be good to her; she's a good girl." I still live in fear that I may run into that man somewhere. The thought is so antagonizing and petrifying to me.
The last situation that I will let you guys in on is a bit more troubling for me to write. You see, I don't want to share what happened with this teacher because I don't think that she's bad at her job. I just think she had a rough semester. With that being said, I have never felt more alone than I did in that class. The students would go insane. Like, running around the room squirting water guns at each other insane. I learned nothing that entire semester because she finally just gave up because of how unruly the students were.
Upon giving up, she also started to forget who her students even were (there were 9 of us) and she wouldn't even notice if we weren't there. One day this teacher told me to go to guidance for some graduation stuff. I did what I was supposed to do there but when I came back, the entire class was missing. This was two years after the last two situations and so I was already super nervous about being alone in the school. I had to track my class down while two guys I didn't know followed me down an otherwise abandoned hallway. There were 9 students and to this day I can't come to find a reasonable explanation to justify her never noticing my absence. I was terrified. I went to her in tears and said, "Please don't do that to me again. I was so scared."
I'm not mad at her. I just don't understand why she neglected to count her students as they left. It was a school that was larger than most colleges and so the safety there was more based on accountability. I honestly still love this teacher very much, but the example still goes to show that even the best teachers aren't always protecting their students.
I think high school students need to be able to evaluate their teachers. The safety of the student is nothing to take lightly. We need to make sure that those who are responsible for the safety and well-being of another are doing their job to the best of their honest abilities. Students, don't be afraid to speak out.