BRHS Champions of Change

Class needed to teach social awareness

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 3:15pm

“Way to [sic] many people ‘feel gay’ nowadays.” This is one of the replies to a student survey I sent out. This and many other negative replies to my survey show the issue that is prevalent in our school and society. Other students write that we aren’t allowed to bully like we used to so kids never grow out of their “weird phases.” Other replies to the survey detail them being called the f-slur on the bus, or not being able to use the bathroom of their preference.

My name is Grace Campbell and this topic is important to me because I want to make sure that everyone regardless of their gender, race/ethnicity, or sexuality feels safe and protected at school. I’m currently a high school junior and have witnessed many attacks on LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, and women during my time in high school. In a survey of students, where 75 people answered, 37.3% of students claim that Boothbay Region High School doesn’t have an issue with discrimination whereas 63.7% of people believe there is an issue. Additionally, 15 students claim to have been discriminated against up to two times last year; two students say they have been discriminated against up to four times, and three students claim that they have been discriminated against more than that in the last year. Many people also brush off discrimination, saying things like “There’s a racist joke now and then, but no one’s serious.” Or “no, no, no, don’t care enough.” Students largely brush off inappropriate language towards others as “jokes” or not serious enough to warrant anything.

What I’m proposing is a specific seminar or class that could teach students about social awareness. Boothbay is a relatively sheltered community with a majority white, straight, cisgender population. Minority students have expressed extreme discomfort in school, saying that students don’t respect non-binary pronouns, or say that gay people are pedophiles. Slurs are thrown around in classes and trans students are excluded from the spaces of their gender. Teachers say that they address a lot of racism, sexism, and homophobia in their classes but are unsure if the discriminatory behavior stopped there.

A specific class could foster a more accepting and comfortable environment for all students. This class would have to be administered correctly, though. Many students have expressed worry over a seminar like this. When asked if students think this seminar would help, 40% said "no" whereas 50.7% of students said "yes" or "maybe." Some students expressed their positive sentiments, but also that it may make potential bullying worse. When surveyed, 83.5% of teachers say that they think an OUT Maine seminar would help them learn about how to help students with different sexualities, genders, and races. Perhaps getting an OUT Maine representative who is trained to teach equality would be overall very helpful to students at Boothbay. I’m suggesting that this is a required class for all BRHS students so that everyone can be educated. Perhaps it could be administered by OUT Maine a few times a year during CORE. CORE isn’t a study hall but is instead an educational period to help students progress toward college so it would be a good time to host this seminar because all students in the school are free to learn.

Students largely think if it were executed correctly, a class like this could be helpful. Many students have expressed that they don’t know much about these issues. One student wrote, “idk [I don’t know] I’m a cis white guy.” And others have expressed a desire to learn: “One time I assumed someone's sexual preference at school…not on purpose…I want to learn.”