Two Dryden High School students—Heidi Nydam and Jackson Crocker—spoke in front of the Board of Education on Nov. 4 to share an idea of improving school policy regarding oppressive behaviors and actions towards marginalized groups of individuals.
Nydam and Crocker specifically talked about improving ways for teachers and faculty to confront such behaviors and actions in school.
“Whether it was indifferent, purposeful or hurtful, there’s a lot of sexism and racism and homophobia … and not a lot of people do anything about it,” Nydam said. “It was very hard hard for a teacher to go and talk to a kid directly, and they would be like, ‘Oh, I was just making a joke.’”
Nydam said sometimes the case is someone purposefully saying something something hurtful to someone else, while other times it is someone saying something unintentionally hurtful while having the ignorance of not realizing the impact of their words.
“They might see it as a simple joke, but later the kid may feel down on themselves because of what that kid said,” Crocker said.
Nydam and Crocker said one possible way of improving this issue would be to have teachers to catalog oppressive behaviors and actions.
“Instead of letting it slide, they could give the kid a warning system,” Nydam said. “It has to be addressed every time that it happens, and I’m not saying necessarily that it needs to be a write-up at certain times, but the teacher or whoever sees it, whether it be an administrator or any staff, needs to do something about it—have a conversation with the kid then and there.”
Crocker said a spreadsheet could be created for teachers and faculty to log in any instances involving students to monitor such behavior and actions.
“We really want teachers to pull a kid aside and say, ‘This isn’t okay. Next time something is going to happen,” he said.
Board member Beverly Dodici agreed that teachers and faculty should be more responsive in those types of situations.
“In some cultures, [these] things are funny, but in school we have to feel safe, everyone should feel safe,” Dodici said. “Just knowing where it’s appropriate to say things and where it’s not.”
Board member Lawrence Lyon asked Nydam and Crocker whether or not they think some teachers are not fully aware of the significance of such oppressive behaviors and actions, to which Nydam said some teachers disagree on certain aspects of society that are deemed racist and white supremist.
“The Confederate Flag is something that is divisive,” she said. “There’s some that think that it’s totally acceptable, and others don’t … of course my opinion isn’t necessarily right, but maybe that should be something that should be uniform, like you’re either allowed to wear it to school or not.”
Both students agreed that there should be more clarity as to what is deemed oppressive behavior so that teachers and faculties are fully aware.
Board member Ronald Szymanski said Nydam and Crocker should think about conducting a presentation on this topic for the executive committee of TST BOCES’s school board associates sometime in the future.
“Since I have these two here and [Superintendent] Joshua [Bacigalupi], I would like to ask if maybe we look for presentations for TST BOCES,” Szymanski said. “I was wondering if they could speak to our service day, because it’s something unique at our school district. Other schools do have other events like this. … These are other school board members that you would present to.”