Students react to new school policies
On March 21, 2022, a fight broke out at ARHS and one student landed in the hospital. A letter Principal Talib Sadiq sent home to parents was republished in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, in which he noted that student violence and disturbances had increased during the pandemic.
“We are being told that most of these conflicts start with some ‘disrespectful’ social media posts, and we have been shown screenshots of outrageous conversations between students and videos of the fights that often ensue,” wrote Principal Sadiq.
In response, on April 4 to 5, students attended 30-minute assemblies by grade where they learned about new rules that would limit phone use, hallway wandering during class, and crowding in bathrooms. A slideshow was presented by Principal Sadiq and assistant principals Samantha Camera and Miki Gromacki. ARHS faculty and staff had implemented the new policies by the end of that week.
I spoke with students to ask about their ideas about the level of safety in ARHS’s bathrooms, hallways, and classrooms and their reactions to the policy. Many said that even before the crackdown they felt relatively safe but acknowledged problem behaviors in bathrooms.
Senior Joseph Barboza said he had noticed kids “vaping and stuff” before the new policies were unfurled. “I just let them do their thing. I also feel safe in the hallways and I often take walks so I can breathe in between classes,” he said.
Senior Kathryn Carvel felt relatively at ease overall as did sophomore Ryder Rietkerk. “I always felt pretty safe, but I was never subject to bullying or harassment,” Rietkerk said. “I have witnessed it, though, and could imagine why some people could have fear.”
One complaint was the number of students camping out in bathrooms before.“I think it’s kind of awkward to walk into a bathroom when you have to use it and see a bunch of kids on their phones,” said freshman Caroline Garman.
One anonymous sophomore noted that they typically feel “uncomfortable in public bathrooms, regardless of the location as a trans person” and that the bathrooms at ARHS were no exception before.
Classroom environments at ARHS were reported to be well-regulated. While one student mentioned hearing slurs occasionally used by students in one class, the rest described feeling “lucky with my teachers,” feeling that other students are “encouraging and kind,” and thinking a fight occurring in a classroom “would never happen.” As a result of these observations, students were generally surprised by others filming a fight.
“In my honest opinion, filming fights is almost worst than the actual fight itself,” said sophomore Shae Thomas-Paquin. “I mean, you’re telling me you want a copy of that event to save for later? That’s messed up.” Thomas Paquin noted that it feels like the rules changed for all, though, due to the bad behavior of a few.
Some students were in support of the policies and others were opposed. Sophomore Ethan Vulcain-Sowkey was okay with students keeping phones in their bags and out of view during class. “I understand it. Teachers want you to pay attention,” he said.
But being able to take a break to catch one’s breath was something students said they would miss now that bathroom breaks are expected to be rare, last under 5 minutes, and only one student can leave the classroom at a time; not only that but monitors sign students in and out of two bathrooms.
“Sometimes I’m panicking or I get anxious and I need to step out of the room for a few minutes,” said Garman, “if I don’t have my phone to ask a friend or parent for help, my mental health is just going to get worse.”
“Accountability is important, and changes do need to be made,” said Thomas-Paquin. “ I just think not consulting any students wasn’t a great plan when making a policy.”
Some upperclassmen also feel they’ve earned more respect and freedom. “As an 18-year-old, I should be trusted to have phone privileges and rights,” said senior Kathryn Carvel.
Carvel was in attendance at a discussion held after the senior presentation on April 5. Some seniors wrote a letter to the administration after the conversation asking for more independence.
However, now that the policies have been in place for a few weeks, tensions have relaxed.
The amount of students in the hallways during class time has definitely decreased. “It’s been a lot more peaceful,” said senior Ruby Cain. “The rules are less extreme than they were advertised. It feels appropriate.“