Soren Eden and Dillan Wirsching: Monroe schools must be safer

As students, we’ve faced and witnessed harassment and worse. The district must provide more training.

By Soren Eden and Dillan Wirsching / Herald Forum

Every student should feel safe in our schools. But we don’t. At our Monroe schools, we have experienced and witnessed a lot of stereotyping, discrimination, judging, harassment and horrendous behavior. We need our school administration to make it stop.

Together, we have had too many experiences with homophobic, transphobic and ableist people and it has had a deep impact. We have had people sexually harass us, pull hair, punch, throw slurs at us about prostitution, and tell us we should die. One student said, “I’m going to slap the autism out of your younger brother.” Another student said, “You’re a f*g and you’re going to be a pedophile when you’re older.”

At an elementary school, a random student punched another kid for wearing a skirt, causing a nosebleed. The kid said, “This is how it works when you’re like me. If I can’t be what I am, I can’t be anything.” Thinking about suicide is an experience too many LGBTQ+ students like us have.

And as a neurodivergent person — someone differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical — Dillan has faced problems with harassment, with having to remind teachers to follow their individual education plan (IEP), and even having to sit at a table with bullies. Teachers don’t seem to be trained in how to meet the needs of neurodivergent students and often parents have to meet with school leaders to get things done.

We can’t even imagine how the Black students and other students of color are feeling. We hear racial slurs being used daily. It’s terrible. And to respond to these problems the school brings in police officers. The other day there were four police patrol cars. We cannot speak for a person of color but if they don’t feel safe at school to start with how does it feel to see police all over? Between generational trauma and what’s happened in recent years, many people feel unsafe around police.

We know we’ve been through a lot but others have gone through so much more. No one should go through this. The Monroe School District needs to do better.

Our schools should definitely prioritize the safety of students over anything else. They need to take student reports of harassment and bullying seriously and listen to students and what we say. We have heard so many problems about reporting incidents to school staff as “trusted adults,” but they don’t do anything. The school board, teachers and administrators hear us but don’t listen to us.

Take what happened earlier this month. Teachers have been asking for 10 years or more for training in cultural issues and dealing with discrimination, but the district has done nothing. Then when our beloved principal calls an assembly and tries his best (with no training from the district) to address the incidents, he lists out the words we shouldn’t say, which was, itself, offensive and triggering. However, he had the best intentions and has always been the person willing to listen to us, support us, and make sure students feel safe. We don’t condone what he did, and there are different ways he could have gone about what he wanted to do, but the superintendent suspended him when it was the superintendent who sent him into that situation without training.

The Monroe School District administration needs to do something. They need to care more and not sweep things under the rug. We need staff trained to understand different cultures and to respond to harassment. We need all students, whether they’re popular or on the football team or dress well, to have the same responsibility to be respectful. We need harassers to be disciplined, not just those of us who defend ourselves from them.

Our schools need to be inclusive, productive and safe, free from harassment, bullying, intimidation and hate. Every person deserves a safe learning environment and a healthy education.

The Monroe Dchool District needs to get its act together so that can happen for everybody.

Soren Eden and Dillan Wirsching are students at Monroe High School.

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