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Franklin STRONG Neighborly

The front of Franklin High School in the morning on the school day of October 11th. Photo by Abby Chapman.

All upperclassmen at Franklin High School know of our notorious ‘Franklin STRONG’ branding (since we’ve seen it posted everywhere for two years.) “At Franklin we Strive to be Thoughtful, Respectful, Organized, Neighborly, Generous.” The Franklin STRONG brand was created when we moved to Marshall. The Climate Team was consulted to help rebrand and started by ‘identifying the core values of our school.’ Eventually, they all came up with the acronym we see posted up in the halls every day. These are values Franklin represents, and they are good to keep in mind so we can conduct ourselves well. It is who we are.

“These are the values that our students, our staff, [and] our administrators came up with and defined and said that ‘these are the expectations of how we will live in this small community,’” said Vice Principal Christopher Frazier, who is in charge of Franklin STRONG branding and enforcement. As a neighbor to Franklin, I would like to re-emphasize the ‘N’ — Neighborly.

Many students here are neighborly, but of course there are some who aren’t. I have lived in my current home since I was in elementary school at Atkinson and every day I’d walk by Franklin. I’d see the students and the campus. There were a lot of issues back then for me. The fact that as a little kid I was terrified of older kids wasn’t helped by the trash in Clinton Park and the graffiti on the playground. Six years later, the campus has changed and students have come and gone and I believe that we can be different.

This is just my experience. Franklin student Acme McConnell (12) is also a neighbor to the Franklin High School campus, and he hasn’t had many bad experiences with it in the past, “for the most part.”

“There’s (never) any trash on my yard or anything,” McConnell explained. However, his freshman year he did experience people (thinking they were Franklin students) smoking in front of his house.

“I think we sometimes take our community for granted,” said Frazier. He sometimes gets calls with complaints about littering and issues with students from the neighborhood. He also believes that although most of the students are neighborly, there are always outliers and that there’s room for improvement.

After the past two years of Franklin being at Marshall, I haven’t had an active high school nearby for a while. Understandably, it was slightly calming to not have to worry about what would happen to the neighborhood, but I am also happy to have the real Franklin back. It is no longer 2010, and this generation of teenagers is different from the one back then. As a neighbor, I ask students to keep Franklin STRONG in mind when at school. We can set a good example for the future of Franklin.

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Phone Policy

Many students own smartphones that allow access to social media and the internet at their fingertips. The new phone policy aims to decrease the distraction that phones cause in the classroom. Photo by Anna Mare.

There has been a lot of change in the Franklin community lately, with the return to the new building bringing about changes in school rules and policies. While students and staff have acclimated to the new environment mostly with acceptance and flexibility, one change has been controversial among the student body: cell phones. The school-wide phone policy states that, “cell phones and electronic devices are required to be off and away during all class periods, unless a teacher permits their use for instructional purposes only,” and outlines specific guidelines for teachers to follow if a student does not abide by these rules. This new policy, while highly scrutinized by students, is necessary for a more welcoming and productive learning environment.

When the policy was first introduced, many students expressed confusion about this seemingly abrupt decision. However, it can be traced all the way back to last school year, when teams of teachers were created to help make the move back to Franklin smoother. One of those groups, the School Climate Team, wanted to address the rising concerns about phone use and create a policy that teachers could fall back on.

“There was a collective call that the school needed to have a policy that would better support our teachers … so that they could better instruct our students,” said Vice Principal Chris Frazier. He also noted that they had looked at what other nearby school districts were doing to deal with phones in classrooms to better their understanding of what would be effective.

The general lack of acceptance of this policy most likely comes from a lack of understanding. There is a common misconception that humans can multitask, but the human brain actually cannot focus on two things at once. When students were constantly bringing out their phones during instructional periods, it was taking their attention away from what was being taught, which did not allow for the proper processing of educational material. Some teachers also used to permit students to listen to music while doing individual work. A study referenced on the Harvard Business Review Blog states that listening to music while working decreased productivity by up to 40%. The new policy, technically does not permit listening to music, unless students have special accommodation laid out in their Individualized Education Plan. This allows for a more productive learning environment. “I think the levels of engagement have increased,” said Frazier.

Despite its necessity, the policy does have some flaws that make students question how effective it really is. According to a study conducted in 2010 by the University of Michigan, in schools that did not allow phone use in the classroom, 65% of students either received or sent text messages during instructional periods, and in schools that completely banned phone use, the usage was still as high as 58%, so it seems that even with strict policies in place, students aren’t really altering their usage habits.

Franklin student Laura Skinner (11) was particularly shocked by the policy, and said that teachers and staff “seem to think that having phones at all would be the end of the world.” She explained that she uses her phone quite often for school work in her classes, so by making usage more restricted, she hasn’t been able to use it as a tool as much as she would like.

One thing Skinner also noted was that there should have been more student input. Frazier said that they discussed phone policy at a Student Senate meeting at the end of last year, but admitted that was the extent of student input, and said that the policy would have gone into place regardless of resistance from students. This decision was appropriate; student voices do not always need to dictate policy, especially in situations where their opinions are going to be biased. Despite this, Skinner thinks student voice still should have been more involved. “Regardless [of] if they were going to change their minds or not, as teenagers, we like to at least feel like we have some kind of input in things,” she said.

Hopefully as the school year progresses, students will begin to accustom themselves to the new policy and realize its benefits. This change in the school climate will create more self-accountability and thoughtfulness surrounding phone use which is something that is long overdue in our school. Although some faults in the policy have been pointed out, Frazier made its goal very clear: “we want our students to be successful.”

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Consequences Too Harsh for Teen Who Started Fire

The Eagle Creek Fire
(Copyright The Oregonian, reprinted with permission)

Picture yourself as a 15-year-old from Vancouver, Washington hanging out with your friends on Labor Day weekend. Someone gets the bright idea to buy a firework and film someone throwing it over a cliff. The girls in your group giggle and encourage you to do it. You assume the firework will light up and fizzle out, but instead, it creates one of the biggest forest fires in the history of the country.

As a passerby, this action might appear to be done out of malice and rebellion, but if we don’t take into consideration how heavily adolescents are influenced by their peers, then we fail to get a complete perspective of what happened.

The fire started in Eagle Creek on September 2, 2017 before spreading throughout the Columbia Gorge and reaching over 36,000 acres. About 400 homes were evacuated, and much-loved hiking trails and views were utterly destroyed. Many have demanded that the boy who started it face adult consequences in the form of imprisonment. However, they speak from a space of loss and anger, when in reality, sentencing a teenager to the same punishment as what an adult would face is not ethical. One would not send a 10-year-old to prison for creating a forest fire; a 15-year-old is still a child. Teenagers are still learning how to make decisions, and although they should be more mature than 10-year-olds, the frontal lobe of their brain that controls decision making isn’t fully developed.

Under Oregon’s Measure 11, arson of the first and second degree is a crime punishable with seven-and-a-half years in prison. While it’s unlikely that the boy would be charged or convicted of either of these, he could be charged with reckless burning resulting in up to five years in prison and a heavy fine, or he could be charged with criminal mischief that could result in community service and a fine. Jill Powers, a former civil defense attorney, said that at the beginning of a case, the opposing lawyer charges the defendant with as much as possible. As the case continues, the charges are whittled down to what can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tessa Woodyard moved to Portland from Corbett, Oregon at the beginning of August. Corbett was in the line of fire (literally), and yet Woodyard still says, “I don’t think that he deserves to go to jail.” Instead of being charged with arson, the 15-year-old boy should be charged with criminal mischief. To convict someone of arson, there needs to be proof of aggravating factors which means that the person’s intention was to hurt someone or something. With the Eagle Creek fire, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Although this boy deserves to receive punishment, he doesn’t deserve to have his whole future ruined by facing five or more years in prison. If he were convicted with arson, he would be 20 or older when released from prison and would lose many opportunities that have been offered to his peers—such as work experience and getting into a good college to lay the foundation for his future career—for a fire he most likely didn’t mean to create.
Unless this teenager’s intent was to set the scenic Columbia Gorge on fire, destroy picturesque views, threaten the safety of Labor Day weekend hikers and campers, and demolish hundreds of homes, then he does not deserve time in prison. Teenagers are inclined to make bad decisions and not taking that into consideration when punishing them for their actions is unfairly harsh.

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Recall of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Spurs Outrage

Dreamers and supporters gather in downtown Portland on September 5, 2017 to protest the recall of DACA. Photo by Elizabeth Kirsch

The Trump Administration recalled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on September 5. DACA was launched in 2012, during the Obama era. This program allows people brought into the U.S. undocumented as children to obtain renewable deportation reprieves and work permits. This is the most extreme move towards immigration reform in Trump’s presidential campaign, and it will affect over 800,000 immigrants enrolled in the program. The action taken towards DACA disrupts the lives of children and families who belong in the only country they’ve known.

Immigration Law attorney Eduardo Herrera sees this action as a step towards complete immigration reform. Over 11,000 people in Oregon (known as Dreamers) are enrolled in the program.

Many questions were left unanswered after people gathered at the Portland State University campus to share their outrage at the Trump Administration’s recall of DACA. Ellen Rosenblum, the Oregon Attorney General, left Dreamers hopeful after announcing a potential lawsuit. “When you threaten a lawsuit, I think you ought to make good on your threat,” Rosenblum said.

Luckily, those already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. “If you’ve lost your DACA, you are not necessarily at risk of deportation,” Herrera explained. If their permits expire before March 5, 2018, they were eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they applied by October 5, 2017. However, this only happens if Congress fails to pass a bill that would protect DACA recipients. Trump gave Congress six months to create their own legislative alternative should it choose to. Given this change is not a sudden phase out, but a gradual process, a “window of opportunity” explained Trump, is opened for Congress to act, either by the continuation of temporary protection, or a new path to legalization, but according to Herrera neither of those options is likely.

The decision to slowly fade out DACA betrays the trust of undocumented people living in the country; members of the Republican Party labeling immigrants as ‘criminals’ isn’t helping either. Students and school officials are issuing statements across the country rightfully speaking out about DACA. These “Dreamers” are children who were brought into the U.S. at a young age by their parents—this is the only country they know. They need and deserve the best education we can give them. Portland Public Schools titled a statement, posted on the PPS district website: “We support our DACA students.” PPS said in their statement, “this is cause for deep concern at Portland Public Schools.”

Oregon’s lone Republican congressman Greg Walden is known for his considerable reach in Washington and the White House. He issued a public statement, saying, “Congress should create a legal immigration system that works.” He added, “America’s legal immigration system is broken today and it needs congressional action to fix.”

Walden’s argument is continuously used as an excuse to strip people of their rights, but discontinuing DACA causes disruption in the lives of children and families that have every right to be in this country as permanent citizens.

This current immigration program is flawed. The system was, and is still continuing to fail many Dreamers. “ICE officers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seek out any and all cases with the intention of deportation,” Herrera said. Many undocumented immigrants in the United States work in manual labor jobs, paid on low wages, but there’s another group that gains a lot less attention: entrepreneurs who have set up businesses, and create jobs. There are upwards of 20,000 undocumented immigrants earning wages higher than $100,000 a year as entrepreneurs, and their place in the country challenges the stereotype that undocumented immigrants aren’t benefit the U.S. economy. In our current capitalist society, the government is in favor of high labor jobs and low wage pay, making undocumented immigrants a target for low-income living. Based on a study conducted by Gallup News, a U.S. worker on average works 46.7 hours weekly with hourly wages—the minimum hourly wage nationwide is $7.25.

Dreamers need to feel safe and learn in a welcoming environment. Meanwhile, our Republican-led Congress believes that President Barack Obama did not have the authority to establish DACA, though they somehow believe Trump has the authority to dismantle it. By ending DACA, Trump fulfilled his campaign promise. Trump continues to acknowledge that politicians on both sides want a solution, other than “blanket” deportations of young people who have been educated in the U.S. and have clean records. The termination of DACA is an inhumane action because discontinuing DACA causes disruption in the lives of children and families that have the right to be in this country.

By singling out those 800,000 Dreamers, we harm a people who continue to support and serve our country with honor. And they are here to stay.

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Tender Loving Empire Goes Too Far

Tender Loving Empire on Hawthorne. Photo by Annika Mayne

Tender Loving Empire (TLE), Portland’s local chain of handmade goods, is well known as a cute, aesthetically pleasing shop for Instagram-worthy pictures of neon lights and vinyl records. Customers can purchase a leather-handled mason jar for $30, a $90 dyed cotton necklace, or a $12 pin proclaiming “yas kween,” among a myriad of other items that will help exhibit just how hip your money can make you. TLE is also a record label, with eighteen artists signed to their name and nearly ten past artists.

This brings me to The Domestics, a local Portland band who was recently signed to TLE until late August. The band, consisting of songwriter Leo London and frontman Michael Finn, was planning to release its newest album, Little Darkness, on September 1. Enter Jed Overly, the sync-licensing and operations coordinator at TLE, who handled most of The Domestics’ album release. On May 13, the day after Trump sent out his tweets threatening Comey with tapes, Overly called London and Finn in to discuss a viral marketing idea. TLE had purchased the url trumpcomeytapes.com, which contained digital breadcrumbs of Little Darkness album art, and a Russian flag that led to a Mixcloud sample of a song. In addition, Overly created fake Comey/Trump cassette tapes that contained Trump audio and songs off of the album.

At this point, The Domestics were onboard with the idea. “We knew people would fairly immediately know it was not an actual highly classified tape of the President and former FBI director, but the hope is it would be weird and timely enough to cause them to dig a little deeper and eventually be led back to our new record, which is exactly what happened,” the band statedon their Facebook page. The ‘tapes’ were sent out to multiple contacts, many of which were affiliated with the right-wingers in attempt to ‘troll’ them. However, Overly had labeled the packages with KKK and Westboro Baptist Church return addresses, which was not part of the original plan. Considering many of the tape’s sixty-three recipients were Jewish, it struck a sense of concern and fear for their safety, represented in their emails to The Domestics. In an apology, Overly remarked, “I literally had no idea that all of these people were Jewish.” The Domestics quickly sent out a frantic Facebook post stating they had nothing to do with the return addresses and no one was intentionally targeted.

On August 23, TLE released an official apology, stating that they had decided to mutually split The Domestics from their record label. Overly also released a personal apology, stating, “As a Jewish African-American, I can clearly say that the Trump-Comey Tapes were not targeted at people of the Jewish faith or any faith or race for that matter. It was never my intention to alarm or frighten people. Our sole objective was to pique interest in The Domestics. No one at The Domestics, Silver Morning Management, or TLE knew about the chosen return addresses. I had made a last minute decision to change return addresses and thought it was obvious that this was a gag, and I could not have been more wrong.”

So what is wrong with putting well-known hate groups on the return addresses of packages as a marketing scheme? Quite a bit, actually. Using groups that have historically associated themselves with and supported racism, sexism, bigotry, violence, homophobia, and transphobia as a way to make money and gain publicity not only aligns you with them, but also represents the growing culture obligated to doing whatever it takes to get what one wants. And in this case, that was money. There are a lot of ways to make a profit, but using white supremacy to promote your work should not be permissible. Silence is not an effective way to destroy a hate group, but neither is pretending to be one. Overly did not foresee the repercussions of his actions, and understandably most would not, but the message remains: being a part of the problem does not solve it.

Overly released a heartfelt apology, and forever blaming someone for their mistake is not often the right choice. Nonetheless, TLE’s decision to keep Overly on their team is puzzling. Second chances should be given, but such a quick act of forgiveness exhibits itself as condoning the behavior, not condemning it. When contacted for an interview, TLE declined, and Overly requested reference to the public statements.

We all make mistakes, but publicizing violent hate groups is a pretty big one. Going forward, a public business, or anyone for that matter, should reconsider how they plan on creating a profit—it should not be difficult to succeed without the use of such stunts. So if you continue to shop at TLE, just keep in mind you’re giving your money to a company that decided profiting on white supremacy was acceptable.

 

If you’d like to see trumpcomeytapes.com, the password is 9117.

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Franklin Should Not Cut the Jazz Band

The 52nd avenue entrance to the new Franklin building is home to the performing arts center. Unfortunately, a Jazz band will not get to take advantage of the wonderful new facility. Photo by Portland Public Schools.

I owe my music career to PPS. Often people think of professional musicians coming from special performing arts schools, or home schooling, or some sort of special educational arrangement that fosters musical talent. This was not the case with me. My career was started by joining a before-school jazz band in the sixth grade. Though I had been given a foundation in classical piano, I had no experience whatsoever with jazz. If Mt.Tabor Middle School had not allowed the SUN school program to teach a tiny jazz band twice a week at seven in the morning, I would be a completely different person. That band sparked my interest in jazz, leading me to pursue it and eventually turn it into a career. With first place and second place awards in four different national competitions, and regular gigs around the city of Portland, I plan on applying to music school and becoming a professional jazz pianist. I owe it all to the music programs of PPS. This is why it is so distressing to me that our own jazz band here at Franklin is being cut next year.

A number of students and alumni share my concerns. Devina Boughton graduated from Franklin in 2016 and currently attends Berklee School of Music, one of the most prestigious music schools in the country, and majors in jazz studies. “For that facet of music education to be lost is really a blow . . we need to make sure that jazz is accessible for everyone to try out, at a basic level to an advanced level.” Boughton was also introduced to jazz through PPS, and though Franklin’s jazz band was small and horribly underfunded, it was still important to her. “The jazz program may not have been really great, but the fact that it was there provided an outlet . . . even when Riley (the drummer) had to use a cardboard box as a bass drum.”

Jesse Fuller (10) has also found the jazz program to be very valuable. “For me, in the last two years, it’s really been an outlet to kind of learn and delve into jazz in a way that I hadn’t really had an opportunity to before . . . to have a kind of self-led exploration of jazz was a great break from everything else in the day.”

Other students agree, including Theo Bennett (10). “I want to do jazz when I’m older, and it really sucks to have an outlet be taken away . . . It makes me pretty sad . . . My mom’s a teacher and she’s worked in some of the poorest districts, and they’ve had way better band programs than Franklin’s had for years.” It’s true that other schools with poor arts funding still manage to keep their jazz programs thriving. Franklin will be one of the very few high schools in Portland with no jazz program next year. This actively handicaps young jazz musicians at Franklin, since almost all local opportunities in jazz music cannot be accessed independently. Only with a school jazz band can a student attend competitions like the West Salem Jazz Festival and other exciting opportunities. This inability to compete will affect students’ chances at getting into music school. I myself have been prevented from enjoying opportunities that kids from other schools get to have, because I go to Franklin. Other schools like Grant High School and Beaumont Middle School are competing at the national level. So why aren’t we? Why are we getting cut instead?

According to band director Mike McClaren, there are a number of reasons. “(Franklin) jazz lacks a feeder structure whereas choir can have a beginning choir and then an auditioned choir to keep growing and advancing, band can have beginning and advancing levels, strings can have beginning and advanced, there is no beginning level for jazz. So, we run into the same problem: we have students with a lot of experience and students with no experience and no way to bridge the gap. Also, whereas band and choir have feeder programs in our middle schools and K-8’s, the jazz students at Mt. Tabor, typically speaking, are also Japanese immersion, and so their high school track takes them to Grant. So, when we graduate Seniors from Franklin’s jazz program, they are not replaced by Freshmen. It’s a no-growth model. And in light of budget cuts, and necessity to keep the music department growing and active, it made sense to focus on programs that are sustainable right now.” McClaren went on to explain how the administration’s inability to hire more than one teacher to manage the the music programs contributed to the shortcomings of the music department overall. “When I was a student, music programs were growing. There was a band teacher, there was a choir teacher, there was a strings teacher . . there were opportunities . . . this hyper-focus on common core, academics . . . what have we lost in the middle? We’ve lost the arts.”

Over the past few decades, Franklin music teachers have not had any sort of past experience with jazz. When a new teacher comes, it’s up to the students to guide the teacher in the ways jazz differs from classical and pop music. Boughton believes that this is one of the main causes of the program’s demise. “We should have separate teachers teaching choir and strings and teaching jazz and symphonic  . . . and at the high school level, it shouldn’t be a place that’s purely foundational, we should have more advanced happenings. We shouldn’t be struggling for things to not be cut.”

This lack of support for music at the elementary and middle school level suggests a district-wide issue. Mt. Tabor is the only middle school that feeds into Franklin with a jazz program. Bridger, a K-8 that feeds into Franklin, has only a choir to sustain nine years of music education for its students. Bridger is also one of the most underfunded schools in the district, and is heavily populated by children of immigrant communities. The convergence of poor funding and immigrant status may be a coincidence, but it also could be a result of classism embedded in the funding processes of the PPS administration.

Franklin Principal Juanita Valder made the ultimate decision to end the jazz program. Faced with budget cuts and a retiring band director, Valder had to make decisions on what could stay and what could go in the music department. “In the case of cuts, then we go with what we call ‘core first’ which means that we’re mandated to have a particular series of classes so that we’re identical to to every other school in the system. . .When it comes down to how many sections we offer and how many opportunities we give, then it becomes a little more gray in how those decisions are made,” she said. “In the case of jazz per se, it was a little different in the sense that we had to meet a requirement by the district (that all schools have to have) instrumental music and vocal music. I couldn’t afford to get a half time choir teacher and keep all the band sections; I didn’t really have enough band sections to have a full time teacher.  . . to hire a teacher we needed somebody who could do strings, who could do band, and who could do choir, and jazz became kind of a genre more than a skill base. So that genre becomes a specialty that we just couldn’t offer.” Arts funding was decreased, so Valder chose to cut jazz because it isn’t technically required by the district and it was struggling more than the other music classes.

If there wasn’t enough band sections to get a full time band teacher,  perhaps we could have made a beginning and advanced jazz band, which would have solved the problem McClaren discussed about how it was impossible to teach all skill levels in one class. In addition, the widely held belief that jazz music is a “specialty” and not an essential must be dispelled. We are not in Europe, so why are three different kinds of European music automatically prioritized over American music? Perhaps it is the fact that jazz was first an African American art form before it was claimed by the dominant culture and hailed as the Great American Art Form. The systems put in place in many school district administrations continue to disrespect and de-prioritize jazz. The immediate response to budget cuts in the music departments of all schools seem to be to preserve European music and destroy African American music.When a school gets arts funding, it tends to begin with strengthening a band program dominated by European music. Jazz is treated as an afterthought. The fact that instrumental music and choir are required, but non-European music is not a requirement, shows how the white dominant culture continues to control the ways in which our youth are educated.

Nearly every day, a teacher or administration member asks me if I am excited for the new performing arts center at the renovated Franklin campus. Every time, it feels like a slap in the face. No, I am not excited. What do they expect me to play in it? I would trade that shiny new building for a jazz band in a heartbeat. I’m a jazz musician; that’s who I am, but apparently that’s not something Franklin will let me be. I want to have Quaker pride, but right now I’m finding it very hard to take pride in a school with one of the worst music programs in the city. I can only hope that PPS and Franklin start to value jazz music and the arts as a whole, and start respecting it as much as they respect the myriad of academic and sports programs they pour money and effort into year after year. Students have already begun preparing a “jazz music club” that will attempt to replace an actual class for the time being. Students and parents must raise awareness about this district-wide problem. We must get jazz into every middle school so that every high school can have enough jazz students. We must demand better funding for the arts, and we must demand that the administration give us back our band. This is for the musicians of the future. I feel personally responsible for making sure they will have the resources I had. This is bigger than all of us. Jazz must not go extinct.

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Why “Thirteen Reasons Why” is Problematic

13 Reasons Why, a Netflix original series, debuted on March 31, and along with it came a lot of controversy. The show is based off of the book with the same title, written by Jay Asher. It details a year in the life of high school junior Hannah Baker. More specifically, it explores the thirteen reasons why she decides to kill herself, hence the title of the series. Through the thirteen episodes, viewers watch Hannah get bullied, stalked, raped, and finally commit suicide. Below are eight reasons why we, as two teenage girls, believe that Thirteen Reasons Why is harmful, triggering, and should not be celebrated.

Triggering for suicide

The show appeals to a largely adolescent audience, which happens to be the age group in which mental illnesses like anxiety and depression begin to develop. Because Thirteen Reasons Why includes a very graphic scene depicting a suicide, it can be very triggering for viewers who have have attempted suicide, know someone who has attempted suicide, or have had suicidal thoughts. While many claim that the very real depiction of Hannah’s death is what makes the show powerful, the explicit scene is too triggering for those battling real mental health issues. It is essential that shows and books about suicide exist, but they don’t need to be as triggering as 13 Reasons Why. There is a fine line between romanticizing suicide, brushing over it as a quick and painless act, and depicting it too graphically. Emily Moser is a manager for YouthLine, a non profit organization where teens can talk with teens to combat mental illness among adolescents. “The suicide scene in 13 Reasons Why is violent, it’s graphic—I mean, it’s sort of a how-to,” she said.  It could be perceived as sending the message that suicide is an okay route to take and it causes viewers to return to dark and traumatizing memories that could potentially be dangerous and life threatening. Moser has seen the effects of the show on youth and believes that there need to be more trigger warnings. Although the last few episodes featured content warnings, Moser thinks that didn’t suffice. “I feel like there should have been that type of warning at the beginning of every episode, with resource information, and at the very least, the national suicide hotline number,” she explained.

Triggering for rape

Rape is a very prominent issue in society, and while it needs to be discussed, Thirteen Reasons Why brought the subject to light in a potentially damaging and harmful way. The show depicts rape through two very graphic scenes, both set at high school parties. Viewers watch Bryce, a popular senior and recurring character, rape two high school girls, Hannah being one of them.  Survivors of sexual assault could find these scenes to be very triggering and harmful due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and flashbacks. The highest leading cause for PTSD is sexual assault, and by including these graphic portrayals of such a horrifying act the show disregards the harmful effect they could have on viewers.

Paints suicide as a revenge tactic

Because the show follows the format of the thirteen tapes, each one explaining how a different person contributed to Hannah’s suicide, it paints the idea in viewers minds that suicide is an effective revenge tactic, or a suitable way to express anger.  Doing this makes Hannah’s death seem justified—it allows viewers to think that if someone wrongs them, they can get back at them by killing themselves. This is a toxic notion that doesn’t hold much truth. Promoting the idea that someone can resolve their issues with another person through suicide is a dangerous message to send. A vengeful mindset can be contagious, and because of the pain that Hannah caused with her suicide, viewers could get the idea that their suicide would have the same effect.

Doesn’t address underlying mental illnesses

Hannah Baker’s suicide is attributed completely to external events—never once is an underlying mental health issue addressed. Hannah did go through a lot of trauma during the year outlined in the story, but her suicide appears to be completely chalked up to external issues. It is reasonable to assume that Hannah was depressed, and possibly had other underlying mental issues. The show boasts that it makes great strides to bring awareness to mental health. However, it never addresses the actual challenges a person with anxiety or depression might face.

Promotes the idea that reaching out doesn’t work

In the last episode of season one, it was revealed that Hannah tried to reach out to her school’s guidance counselor, Mr. Porter, the day that she committed suicide. He didn’t take her pleas for help seriously, and when she reported that she was raped, he claimed that he couldn’t help her unless she gave him the name of the person who assaulted her. Hesitant to further her social isolation by giving the name of the popular senior who raped her, Hannah refused.

Mr. Porter’s handling of the situation was not only irresponsible, it was illegal. School guidance counselors, teachers, and administration are all mandatory reporters, meaning that if a student tells them that they are engaging in self harm or thinking of suicide, the school employee is required to report it in order to get the student help. Mr. Porter wasn’t just ignorant, he didn’t do his job. Even the most indolent of high school guidance counselors would be unlikely to ignore Hannah’s blatant pleas for help. This depiction of ignorance could potentially lead suicidal viewers to the conclusion that reaching out for help is a fruitless act. Moser emphasized the importance of persistence when one is looking for help. Even if the first person one speaks to isn’t helpful, that doesn’t mean the second or third won’t be. “[The show] doesn’t give young people the opportunity to realize that there are options other than suicide,” Moser said. In the show, Hannah left the interaction defeated—it was the last straw before she made the final decision to end her life. Had the creators of the show made Mr. Porter into a more helpful character, it might have encouraged viewers to seek help from their own school guidance counselors and authority figures.

Sensationalizes suicide

There is no denying that it would be extremely difficult to make a show about suicide without some aspect of sensationalism. By turning the book into a show to be streamed on Netflix, it was almost inevitable. Considering the sensitive subject matter, however, this doesn’t excuse it. 13 Reasons Why was Netflix’s most popular show for a portion of April. It has been watched by viewers of all ages, and especially by those most at risk for suicide—teenagers. The show had a responsibility to depict suicide accurately and sensitively, and it did neither. The creators of the show have claimed that the show was made to help raise awareness around suicide, but it comes across as more of a teen drama with a tragic end—nothing more than bingeable entertainment. Beyond that, despite the fact that Hannah died in episode 13, the show has been renewed for a second season. By then, the tapes will be finished; Hannah gone. Hannah’s suicide was just used as a means for entertainment, a cliffhanger that leads into the next plotline of the show.

Promotes the idea that true love can stop suicide

The eleventh episode of the show is Clay’s tape—the part he played in her suicide. While the other twelve people on the tapes were included for fairly valid reasons, Clay should not have been involved. He was kind to Hannah throughout the entire show. Her reasoning behind including him on the tapes was that he hadn’t been bold enough in their interactions (throughout the show they had each shyly harbored crushes on one another). At one point, Clay and Hannah had begun to hook up, and she told him to leave, which he did. She explained on the tape that she wished he hadn’t. This is sending the message that girls don’t actually always mean “stop,” when they say it—a dangerous idea to be pushing on impressionable teens.

Clay became convinced that had he not been afraid to love Hannah, he would have saved her life. The notion that the love of one person can prevent someone from suicide is unrealistic and unhealthy. At the end of season one, Clay shared this fear with Mr. Porter, who disputed it, but with the audience just having seen Mr. Porter mishandle Hannah’s situation so blatantly, it is hard to take anything he said seriously.

Glorifies suicide

Before Hannah killed herself she was a fairly unpopular member of her high school—she often went unnoticed, and when she was noticed, it wasn’t in a positive light. The pilot opens with a scene of Hannah’s decorated locker, and the student body performing (somewhat artificial, in some cases) displays of grief. For teens who feel silenced or unnoticed by their peers, this could come across as a perk of committing suicide: people will acknowledge them and feel bad for all the wrongs they caused. When engaging in this this pattern of thought it is important to remember that suicide is final. One can’t look back and see the turmoil they caused by killing themselves. They are gone forever.

13 Reasons Why did not portray accurate information for viewers struggling with mental health issues. If you are feeling suicidal, there are many resources available to you. Despite the mixed messages the show portrays, ending your life is never the answer. Visit Oregonyouthline.org for more information, or call the suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) if you are in need of help.

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No Place for Conversion Therapy

Photo by Mabel Miller.

On June 26, 2015, gay marriage was legalized in all 50 states, and because of the ruling, discussions on homophobia were suppressed under the misguided concept that prejudice against LGBT people was over. On November 7, 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected President, with Mike Pence as his Vice President, and America once again saw the presence of homophobia in its mainstream politics and culture. After a statement released in Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign resurfaced, one particular practice has worked its way into conversation: conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy, also referred to as “reparative therapy,” is a set of practices intended to change someone’s sexual orientation, sometimes stemming from the religious standpoint that homosexuality is immoral or unnatural. Despite the refutation that the practice has any basis in science by major organizations such as the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association, conversion therapists continue to argue that their pseudo-psychological tactics can be successful in turning previously-identified gay/bi people straight. In 45 states, minors can be subjected to this treatment without their consent. Tactics used by conversion therapists can include electro-shock therapy, and there are allegations from ex-clients of physical and sexual abuse. While this is obviously very damaging, there’s also no evidence that it’s an effective practice, as the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry has stated, “there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality.”

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective.” In a 2009 study conducted by the APA, the risks of conversion therapy include depression and suicidality, along with substance abuse, hopelessness, and other emotional trauma.

Conversion therapy survivors have confirmed this, with some writing in a statement on conversiontherapysurvivors.org: “Many of us sacrificed loving same-sex relationships, risked opposite-sex marriages, and/or remained alone in hopelessness. These toxic messages led many of us down a path of self-destructive behaviors, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and in some cases, attempted suicide.” Survivors have called for action, asking “for what a mindful and accountable society should demand”: a ban on conversion therapy.

However, it is important to note that the tactics used by conversion/reparative therapists vary. David Pickup, a licensed family therapist who also works as a reparative therapist, explained that his practice would never include methods that would encourage shaming someone for their sexual attraction; he added that he does not condone camps, aversion therapy, or electroshock techniques—describing them as “inauthentic” means. He makes sure his clients want to change their attraction with a full assessment, instead of pressuring them into therapy which could lead to emotional damage.

As to his clients who are minors, he added, “it injures them not to allow them to get authentic reparative therapy.” Reparative therapy is based on the concept that experiencing same-gender attraction comes from a place of childhood trauma, and with this belief, he sees it as more harmful to deny minors the opportunity to experience reparative therapy. He explained that in his experience, and “anecdotally,” reparative therapy has been beneficial to men who feel confused about their feelings of attraction.

While it seems cruel to deny treatment for unwanted feelings, homosexuality has not been considered a disorder by the DSM since 1973. It’s also important to note that not all reparative therapists use abusive tactics, but to dismiss therapy that does as inauthentic and therefore irrelevant also dismisses the experience of ex-clients who feel damaged by the practice. The very idea that attraction to the same gender can be cured because it isn’t inborn contributes to a culture of homophobia, and even if tactics do not include “shaming,” the homophobia that is so ingrained in our society will inherently continue to shame LGBT people for their sexual orientation and gender. There is a fundamental sexualization of LGBT people’s experiences by reducing same gender attraction to mere sexual urges. The concept of conversion therapy, and any attempts to change someone’s attraction, is based on the idea that being gay/bi is about sex, instead of a combination of sexuality and love; these ideas not only add to the justification of homophobia, but also demonize all LGBT people under the same assumptions of those who use the Bible to persecute the community.

The practice of conversion therapy has no place in a progressive society, and with the fight for equality based on sexual orientation, we can no longer ignore it. As an anonymous survivor of conversion therapy told The Huffington Post, “we were no longer people at the end of the program.” Allowing it to exist is dehumanizing, and as a nation, we need to do more than stand against it: we need to take action. If you’re interested in this cause, organizations that support LGBT youth include The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), The Trevor Project, and The Point Foundation.

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Franklin Should Be Quakers No More

Benji, the current mascot of the Franklin Quakers. Photo by Mabel Miller.

Recently, a proposition was made by a Franklin parent that our mascot, the “Quaker,” should be changed because it could be seen as being religiously offensive. The Franklin fight song has the line, “Fight Quakers, fight, fight, fight!” which isn’t in line with the Quakers’ nonviolent practices. While people opposed to changing the mascot have argued that it isn’t offensive, there’s another issue at play: Benjamin Franklin was never a Quaker. There seems to be no expectation for mascots in any league to be historically accurate, so it isn’t surprising that out of the nine Portland Interscholastic League (PIL) teams, only three of them have mascots with a legitimate connection to their school. However, a mascot exists to represent the school— as well as the teams that play for it— so shouldn’t there be some ounce of historical accuracy in this representation?

Portia Hall, a history teacher at Franklin explained, “A mascot is designed to have a rallying cry so that people can get excited about their school. It doesn’t actually have to reflect the school, but as a history teacher, I’d like it if it was historically accurate.”

As Hall explained, most PIL mascots aren’t valid representations of schools’ names. For example, Benjamin Franklin wasn’t even born in Pennsylvania, where the Quakers lived. He did spend most of his life there and is widely associated with it, but he was from Massachusetts and was not a Quaker. The Wilson “Trojan” mascot doesn’t make sense either, since Woodrow Wilson was a US president, and the Trojans are people from the ancient Greek city of Troy. Grover Cleveland was not a “Warrior,” and the Lincoln “Cardinals” have no relation to our 16th president Abraham Lincoln at all.

As the Benson “Techmen” show, not all of the PIL mascots are inaccurate. Simon Benson founded Benson Polytechnic as a school of trades, and since it offers technical education, the “Techmen” makes sense. The Roosevelt “Rough Riders” demonstrate how educational mascots have the potential to be. The “Roosevelt Rough Riders” was a nickname for the first U.S. Volunteer Cavalry organized by Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American war.

Alumni in particular are against changing any of the mascots because of their personal memories; people who feel a connection to schools’ communities view the change as an attack on the community as a whole. However, if the PIL schools took the time to have a civil conversation, thoughtful changes could be beneficial to the schools and could shape what they want to represent.

“It’s an opportunity to learn about history,” Hall said. Having a historically accurate mascot offers a teachable moment; it doesn’t have to be for technicality or out of obligation; it offers an opportunity for students and families to learn more about their schools and the history behind them.

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Sex Education Should Be Taught Sooner

The wrapper of a condom, one of the many forms of contraception that should be taught about in school. Photo by Mabel Miller

Public schools in Oregon are required to teach sex education twice and to varying “age appropriate” levels between seventh and twelfth grade (once in middle school and once in high school), but many schools wait until nearly the end of that range.

According to the American Psychological Association, concepts of sexual and gender identity start as early as 10-14 years old. Knowing this it should come as no surprise that teenagers experiment with sex. In fact, by graduation, 41% of US high schoolers reported having sex in a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Because puberty can bring an understanding and interest in sex, sexual education should be taught as early as possible in high schools.

The issue of stunted sexual education was apparent here, at Franklin, as well. The way the health curriculum is set up at Franklin, students are unable to take sexual health until their junior year. Given that, based on a CDC survey in 2013, 20% of high school freshmen report being sexually active. This leaves a vast number of students having sex with their only guaranteed source of sex education being the usually brief discussions in middle school.

Luckily, this shortcoming did not go unnoticed. The Franklin health department has decided to change the curriculum to address issues like sexual health earlier. They plan on switching what is currently covered junior year with what is taught freshman year (nutritional health). “We felt that some of these issues needed to be tackled sooner,” Ms. Feuz, a health and physical education teacher, said. “The sex ed., the depression, the mental disorders, the drugs and alcohol, because typically it is the freshman year that they are exposed to these.” Though these changes are definitely a step in the right direction, they will not be fully put into place for about another two school years. This is to ensure that students that started with nutritional health their freshman year are taught the rest of the health curriculum their junior year.

The new timing of sex education at Franklin will allow every student to have the knowledge and resources to make smart choices about their health, but national progress on this issue is still very limited. Only 24 states require sex education to be taught in public schools. Continuing to push for sex education in schools through a vote or a voice is essential to change this.