A school is meant to be a safe, comfortable environment for students to learn and prepare themselves for the bright future that lies ahead. However, many students believe that we have yet to completely achieve that here at Leigh. We want nothing more than for everyone to navigate high school as safe-Leigh as possible. So, what are the issues at play and how are we to deal with them?
During a survey of students at Leigh, students voiced interesting opinions about safety at our school. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the safest and 1 being the least safe, the 35 students surveyed reported an average score of 6.5. While that may not sound terrible, we should be striving for 10s, which only a single student gave on the survey. We as a school should aim to do better and make safety a priority. But XYZ school is worse, you say? Hasn’t it got a terrible drug problem, weekly fistfights, and discrimination of all sorts? Just because the rumor mill tells us that other high schools may be less safe than ours doesn’t mean we should settle for our current level of safety. The majority of students agree that we need to start holding Leigh High School to a higher standard to ensure that the school’s mission of creating “a safe, caring learning environment that prepares students for success in their post-high school lives” is accomplished. This is a team effort and requires us students to hold ourselves, each other, and the administration accountable.
One recent area of concern in terms of school safety has been the COVID pandemic. Because school is a place where hundreds of students freely mix with each other, there’s a high risk for the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Even though most students have been vaccinated, this isn’t a requirement to attend school, and the vaccine is not 100% effective, particularly against new variants. Numerous students reported feeling unsafe because others don’t wear their masks correctly or consistently, and they feel that the mask rule isn’t enforced properly. “The quad [at lunchtime] is like a corona-fest. There’s tons of people there with no masks.” a sophomore observed. In the classroom, not only students, but teachers, have been observed removing their masks or wearing them under the nose. Students generally agree that the school should be enforcing mask rules, and teachers should be setting a good example in this regard.
A notable thing that affects safety is demographics. In the survey, students were requested to state their gender, race(s), and whether or not they are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. While the disparity was not very large, white students reported feeling safer than any other race. While those who identify as LGBTQ+ reported only slightly lower safety scores than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts, they did voice pressing concerns about the hatred they often face at school. “There’s a lot of homophobia and transphobia in Leigh, and it feels like no one gets punished for it.” said one nonbinary student. The surprisingly small difference in average safety ratings could be easily attributed to the fact that members of the community have faced adversity for so long that they are accustomed to it, hence why they don’t report lower safety scores. The solution? Students recommend that the school make it clear to students that hateful words or actions towards others will not be tolerated, as well as actually discipline people who ignore this rule.
While the survey’s focus was on school itself, students were also asked how they felt about events such as dances and football games. On average, safety at dances was rated 6.2 on average. However, at football games, the average rating was just 4. Students cited the altercation involving a Leigh student and a Westmont student that took place at a football game as their reason for giving such a low score. Of particular concern is the fact that the school did not address this properly, vaguely referring to what the general public believes was a stabbing as a mere “incident”. A statement was released on ParentSquare saying “Contrary to some versions [of the story], there were not multiple students needing medical attention.” What might this tell you? There were not multiple students that needed medical attention, but perhaps there was one. The statement never confirmed that there was a stabbing, but didn’t deny it either. There are multiple eyewitness accounts alleging one student was stabbed, as well as footage showing a close look at the severity of the altercation, circulating amongst the Leigh community. One video shows a crowd of students first shoving each other, then dispersing to reveal a violent tussle between the two chief belligerents.
While the unfortunate event occurred at Westmont, many believe that Leigh should have been more specific when informing students and parents about it, as it was an event with many members of the Leigh community present, and such an occurrence could just as easily happen at our school. Students voiced the opinion that the school essentially covered up a dangerous incident rather than properly informing students and their families about it. If it was a stabbing, the public should have been informed, and if it wasn’t a stabbing, the school should have cleared this up to prevent panic because this is the single most widely-held belief about the incident. Why deny the rumor about multiple people needing medical attention but not deny a far more widespread one? While withholding some information, such as the names of students involved, is a good and necessary thing, people have the right to be fully informed about what goes on in their community and have their concerns addressed.
Students also reported feeling unsafe due to the condition of the front gates. “What if a school shooter comes in?” worried one distraught freshman. Leigh’s front gates are left unlocked and often ajar at lunch, with no one monitoring who goes in and out. In addition, the gates are in such bad condition that when appearing to be closed, they can still be opened upwards like a doggy door. One student also said, “The district got rid of the police on campus so the thought of there being no reinforcement in event of a fight or shooting is unsettling.” Students demand that the front gates should be replaced with more functional ones, and that adequate security personnel should be present during school hours.
In conclusion, some of the most pressing issues at Leigh in terms of safety include COVID safety, the safety and inclusion of LGBTQ+ students, informing the community about dangers, and security of the campus in general. Students are pushing for rules to be publicized and enforced consistently to deter people from breaking them and preserve a healthy educational ecosystem. My advice is to always speak out when you see something that concerns you, band together with others to more effectively fight for change, and always be well informed about issues in the community. Above all, be kind, considerate, accepting, and helpful. We students are a team and can make this school a safe and welcoming place where all of us can succeed. Thank you.