Guest Column: Post-pandemic student angst is not unique to Lawrence | Opinion

Lawrence High School is under siege and it looks like a battlefield.

It’s not because of a handful of students fighting in the hallways whose remains have garnered more attention than they normally would thanks to iPhones, Instagram, and Tik Tok.

It’s because of the media.

The streets and sidewalks outside the entrance to Lawrence High School are lined with trucks of TV stations and gauntlets of cameramen and reporters, all waiting to catch B-roll footage of students leaving the building as they go. ‘they can play alongside sensational “Breaking News” stories about “Fists Flying” at six o’clock.

We have seen these stories before.

It’s not the first time that a problem in Lawrence that’s common everywhere has been turned into a circus performance for the suburbs.

In 2018, the President of the United States and the Governors of Maine and New Hampshire each named Lawrence as the real problem behind the opioid epidemic in New England.

Maine Governor Paul LePage has openly expressed what many really mean when they criticize our city.

“Heroin-fentanyl arrests are not white people,” he said. “They’re Hispanic and they’re black and they’re from Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts.”

He was, of course, wrong about that.

As NECC Chairman Lane Glenn pointed out in an open invitation to these governors to visit Lawrence, published in The Eagle-Tribune, drug trafficking may have taken place along the I-495 and I arteries. -93 that are heading to those neighboring states, but customers mainly had license plates from Maine and New Hampshire, where doctors were prescribing pain relievers at twice the national rate and the state was spending less on treating the drug addiction than almost every other state in the country.

But somehow, when a pervasive issue gets negative attention, if it’s possible to focus on people of color, low-income people, immigrants, or anyone who may seem different. – or maybe even threatening to a TV audience – that’s where the attention goes.

But this time it’s our kids, and using them as fodder for the evening news is wrong.

Since the return to full in-person learning for most students in September after a year and a half of distance or “hybrid” learning, schools across the state and nation, not just in Lawrence, have been struggling. with the students. behavior problems.

From rural Pittsfield in western Massachusetts to Tony Wellesley and gritty Everett just outside Boston, principals, superintendents and school committees are grappling with a new pandemic: anxious students, stressed out and, after months of isolated zooming, seem to have forgotten how to socialize peacefully.

Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Ky., Have reported more than 400 fights on school campuses in the first two weeks of the school year.

So, let’s stop portraying the pandemic pain and anxiety our children are experiencing in Lawrence, and even the outbursts of violence that have occurred, as something that is somehow unique to our city, requiring 24 hour media attention. 24.

With over 3,000 students, Lawrence High School is the second-largest high school in Massachusetts, behind Brockton, which has just over 4,000. So statistically speaking, at a time like this, of course, it will. there are more brawls on campus than at Wellesley High School, which has less than half of students.

But guess what? Lawrence High School also has hundreds of Early College students more than Wellesley, all of whom are off to a good start in their future studies.

Earlier this week, Dr. Noemi Custodia-Lora, vice president of Lawrence Campus and Community Relations at NECC, met with 75 of these students from Lawrence High Early College to talk about what’s going on at their school.

Unsurprisingly, they’re not happy with the fights, or all the media attention.

“We are doing our job,” explained a young man. “We work hard, and yet we are punished by all the media waiting right outside the door.”

A young woman added that a relative of hers in Guatemala had seen television footage of brawls in the halls of school in Lawrence and called to make sure she was safe.

At meetings of the Lawrence Alliance for Education, at a public forum convened by Mayor Vasquez on Monday, and across social media, residents, educators, community and state leaders and elected officials debate the question of knowing whether the state should end its sequestration of the St. Lawrence. Public schools, if the district has exercised sufficient control over the situation and if enough money is spent on student support services such as mental health counseling.

These are all reasonable questions to ask and important strategies for success, and we support everyone in the city who is working with good intentions to support our children, relieve their stress and pain, and help them. to success.

And as we engage in this important and necessary work, we invite the media to responsibly cover every minute of every school committee, city council, and public forum they wish to cover. This is how democracies prosper and schools improve.

But leave our children alone.


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Norma A. Roth