An Open Letter to The State of Massachusetts

Subject: An Open Letter to The State of Massachusetts
From: Maxwell Austin
Date: 29 Mar 2018

Amidst the constant violence and chaotic state of our nation, it seems as if the only issue ever discussed in regards to education is school shootings. In the government, these events are perverted to be aligned with a person’s political interests. Trump has blamed the FBI’s Russia’s investigation for these events. Others have blamed gun control. The Republicans continue to avoid the question by talking about mental illness. But not once in this discussion have I heard anyone talk for the students. And, even though this event is tragic, I feel that in terms of education-issues, school shootings should be at the bottom of the list, especially for Massachusetts.

I believe that the state should not be immobilized from a school shooting, but continue to work towards greater prosperity, and in the case of the students of every school from Southwick to Salem, one of our most tremendous struggles is the practice of Student Shaming.

The practice is simply barbaric. To think that every day the poor students are dehumanized by cheese sandwiches, a reminder to them and the other students that they are poor. When I talked to my principal, she said the hope in doing so was to make them “wake up their parents”. The idea that humiliating students will somehow magically generate $2.50 is simply absurd. Especially when these debts are as little as 5$. These students are bullied, and their self-esteem diminished for an incident caused by no fault of their own. Not only this, but the policy is carried out not to save money because they can’t afford it, but to give an incentive for students to pay. On one incident at Woodland Elementary School, a student received a full lunch by mistake. The lunch lady, realizing her mistake came and took the pizza off her plate, slapped down a cheese sandwich which she carried in her bare hand, proceeded to say “Your in debt” then brought the pizza to be thrown away. She was humiliated. The children whispered.

In addition to the issue of lunch shaming, there are many incidents of student shaming outside of the lunchroom. Teacher’s often single out students or uses shaming as a punishment. In one incident, a student was reading an article on C.D.A. 230, when a teacher walked by and saw that Congress repealed it due to the claim that it prevented the enforcement of laws against sex trafficking. She decided that this could only be something inappropriate, and shouted at the student.

“Hands off” she declared, with a firm voice. The student asked why to which he received no response. He took his hands off, then she repeated herself inclining him to put his hands up.

She then shouted, “Back away”. The student complied. She proceeded to ask him what it was. He told her it was an article on CDA 230, but she did not believe him. She called to another librarian, in the process announcing to the entire library that this student was looking at pornography.

After this she took him from the library and marched in around the halls, telling teachers what had occurred.

These two incidents, both resulting in the development and humiliation of students, blatantly violating basic ethics. And because of these obvious violations, these teachers have received minimal punishment if any. These barbaric practices cannot stand, I thought we got rid of public shaming when we threw off the British. Now, this cruel form of punishment has manifested itself into a new style of discipline. A style of demoralization, devaluation, and humiliation.

Please, be the voice for those who have none. Be the one to stand against Student-Shaming.

Sincerely, Maxwell Austin, a 7th-Grade-Student at Southwick Regional School