Southmoreland students defend school’s reputation
About 50 Southmoreland High School students came to the board’s meeting this week and brought with them a message — their experience at the school is not a negative one.
“The things being said about life at Southmoreland High School are not our reality,” said Taylor Sipos, one of the two student representatives to the board. “They do not represent the experience that we have had at Southmoreland High School, and they certainly do not represent the behavior of the students in the building.
“We are all very concerned that people in the community have been given a false impression about the students, faculty and administration at the high school,” he continued. “It’s unfortunate that the statements of just a few biased people were able to apply such a negative connotation to our school district. These comments in no way accurately represent the students of Southmoreland and we feel as though they have given the entirety of the student body a bad name.”
At the Nov. 6 meeting, student Destiny Nelson said there was drug use, foul language, fights and sexual activity at the school. She added that the “chaos” was causing students to want to perhaps transition to cyberschooling or homeschooling to avoid a “disruptive, endangering environment.”
Nelson identified herself as the sister of Isaac Nelson, whose mother Lydia has said he had to have his jaw repaired as a result of an incident at the high school in which he was assaulted by a classmate.
The students at Thursday’s meeting wanted to dispute such claims.
“The idea that our hallways are filled with sex, drugs and violence is absurd,” said Sage Guynn, the other student representative to the board. “That’s not saying it doesn’t happen at all, I mean you have to be naive to think those things don’t happen outside of school among students in some small degree and it’s not an issue that is unique to Southmoreland…..There are universal problems that exist within all schools, but to make the claim that these things happen within the hallways of Southmoreland is just absurd and even a little repugnant. I’ve been walking these hallways for four years and I can definitely say it just doesn’t happen.”
Other students who addressed the board Thursday were seniors Anna Sowinski and Nicholas Shawley.
Sowinski said her day is a “great” one.
“With the great education that my peers and I are receiving I would never want to attend any other district, being homeschooled or even participate in online schooling,” Sowinski said. “The students and staff throughout the district are truly one big family. We all want what’s best for each other. Never have I met more willing people than our teachers.”
Shawley, the senior class president, added he and his classmates were there to defend their school.
“At Southmoreland, every student has the opportunity to receive the best possible education,” Shawley said. “Even though negativity has been spoken about our school, we must also speak about the positivity. If you look around our school, you will see young leaders taking charge, students who excel academically inside and outside of this school…I see more students at our school taking charge, rather than just showing up for school.”
Zach Cavalier, a high school teacher, echoed the sentiments of the students. Cavalier added he is a 1998 graduate of Southmoreland High School.
“Every day I go to work happy and every day I come home from work happy and it’s hard for me to hear things that maybe are painted in a negative light about the place I work,” Cavalier said. “To imply the school climate is anything other than positive is a disservice to all the people who work so hard to make our school a great place, but more importantly it’s a disservice to the overwhelming majority of our students.”
Sowinski said measures are taken at the school to ensure a safe environment and challenged school directors to take action if they felt there was anything taking place at the school that did not meet their standards.
“Complaining about problems doesn’t resolve them,” she said, while asking board members to come to the school to interact with students. “Southmoreland needs to work together as a whole and stick up for each other. We are not a perfect school and we will never be a perfect school, but with the help of everyone involved in this school district maybe we can be closer to perfection…I know my peers and I will one day be proud to say we are graduates of Southmoreland.”
Paul Paterra is a staff editor at Trib Total Media.