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The Whiteboard Jungle: Students’ reactions to Hoover High melee include advice to adults

Much has been said about the fight that occurred during lunch at Hoover on Oct. 3, the worst of its kind in my 30 years of working there.

While tensions have quieted down, the environment still feels unsettled.

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Something I have practiced as an educator is giving students a safe forum in class to express what is on their minds by giving speeches or writing their thoughts.

Teenagers often feel adults don’t listen to them, so it is important to value their views especially when something traumatic happens at their school.

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With that in mind, I am giving my space over to them so that their voices are heard and, just maybe, their suggestions considered.

This is how my English students interpreted what transpired.

Nearly every student mentioned a lack of communication contributed to the panic on campus, especially “when police cars and helicopters started to arrive.” Many felt administrators should have taken preventive measures if they knew about the tensions between certain groups.

“They put us in a stressful situation in which we were told nothing: no information, no update, nothing. If I were someone in charge, the first thing I’d do is tell the entire school what is going on. I wouldn’t want to leave them in the dark and let them assume things on their own. That way, rumors wouldn’t spread. We have the right to understand the reason why our education was put to a stop.”

Some questioned the wisdom of putting the school on lockdown.

“Students were crying because they were unsure of what was happening and teachers couldn’t comfort them because they also didn’t know what was happening.”

“I was terrified that there was a school shooter.”

In the aftermath, some students felt district officials were trying not to bring up the event, “acting like nothing ever happened … treating us like we’re not competent enough to deserve a voice about what occurred.”

Students were frustrated by the lack of real information, forcing them to watch the news or listen to rumors.

“Besides the ‘we had a good day at Hoover’ emails, students were left in the dark about the situation. We had to sift through rumors and try to piece together what went down.”

Some students blamed parents.

“Because children learn from their parents … if the parents discriminate towards a certain race, the child will grow up and learn that way.”

Parents should help out by getting more involved in the school, one wrote, “which would lead to an increase in student pride.”

Some students blamed themselves.

“It is on the students to have a massive hand in keeping school safe by not using inappropriate language or racial slurs.”

“Violence is never the answer to disagreements or differences” were sentiments echoed by many.

“Students need to trust the adults on campus and inform them of any tensions that are brewing.”

So, what can be done to heal the campus?

“By being involved in a school activity, students will get to know their peers better, learn about something new, and learn valuable skills that will help them later in life.”

“Have an assembly that can bring the school back together” (about the importance of respecting others who are different).

A few students recommended reprising an event from middle school, “where the focus is on self-esteem and mental health, and every student has a chance to safely share their story without the fear of being judged.”

“We are a family and shouldn’t be talking about other people and what they look like or what kind of race they are. Everyone should be respected equally.”

One student summed it up this way:

“Do not allow this event to define our school.”

Enriching programs, dedicated staff members and good kids exist at Hoover and have for a long time. Sometimes it takes an unpleasant incident to remind us not to take them for granted.

Brian Crosby is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,000 Teacher.” He can be reached at www.brian-crosby.com.

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