An Inclusive Environment Equals a Safe Environment

Due to recent events in Wisconsin and Waukesha county, schools and students are taking precautions to be more safe at school. Which has also evoked a lot of anxiety and fear. “I know that there was some apprehension with parents and students after those things happened which anybody would be. For me, it wasn’t. I wasn’t apprehensive. I was more about how can I get into school? How can I be visible? How can I support students? That was my thought right away. I was like, ‘okay what are we going to do  to make sure that our students feel safe and they feel like this is an environment that they can come to and they don’t have to worry’ because of the measures that we’re taking.” PHS Dean of Students, Brenton Roberts said. Luckily, there are ways that we can create a healthy, safe environment every single day; outside safety precautions like ALICE training and drills, all steps to safety in our schools, begin with us.

Everybody has felt like an outcast at some point in their life. You have felt different or alone. High school is a zoo of outcasts and people that are different. Some may read that and see it as a bad thing; while it is actually something beautiful. We have managed to take that idea and place people in their boxes creating a very exclusive and detrimental environment to go into every day. There are the popular kids, the “nerds”, the theatrical, and so many more. However, recently we have taken it upon ourselves to create a category of “potential threats” whom have been described to appear as though they could “shoot up a school”. The discomfort in saying that is unreal and chilling. And we have made it a point to not talk to these people, but exclude them. They lack connection to their community which is so important for a person to have, and is dangerous for their mental state and a student body. “You know I think a lot about it and that it stinks that someone’s getting to that point and that there wasn’t something that was done prior to something bad happening. There had to be red flags before that to support that student, not necessarily to prevent something but to just support the student. That is really what I always think. What could have been done not to prevent, but to support and why wasn’t anything done sooner?” Roberts said. How sad to live in a world where others place labels on people while having no idea what goes on in their personal lives.

On the flip side, I understand what it’s like to be a “labeler” and even to be wary of certain people just because of their appearance.  “Stereotypes are formed by a lack of understanding of individuals.” PHS Science teacher, Tyler Reed said. “But I guarantee if people were to actually get to know individuals as humans,  a living person… those stereotypes would melt away.” Reed said. And I am not advocating putting yourself in danger… but how will avoiding those students cause them to enjoy coming

Stereotypes are formed by a lack of understanding of individuals.”

— Tyler Reed

to school or have a desire for social interaction. There has to come a time when somebody makes the first move. We are a type of people constantly wanting attention and recognition… we are all waiting to be approached and talked to. Yet if we are all expecting others to come to us, there will be no interaction. We need to be a people that instead of desiring to be approached, we desire to be the approachers. Tell her you like her dress, tell him he played a great game… We should want to be known for our complimenting instead of condemning.

How do we achieve this? “Be nice to one another. Be polite. Be inclusive. Say hello. You know, listening to others, being empathetic — all of those things would lead to students feeling welcome, feeling safe, feeling secure, feeling included… and if students feel that way there is no motive for them to cause harm.” PHS Principal, Brian Sniff said. “We are part of a community. A lot of times I’ll refer to this place as a learning community because that’s what it is. And we’re all members. You and I hold equal weight in that community.” Sniff said. It all comes back to community. Everyone longs for that sense of community. It’s why high schools are filled with their cliques, clubs and sports… it’s a community. But why can’t our community expand to everyone? It’s that feeling of belonging that could make or break people. If a person is being exclusive to another person, then that person is rejecting the other from the opportunity to be a part of something. Which many people value and cherish our community at PHS… why not let everyone in on it? 

“This is my community. Now my community is being affected by these events, and it’s sad.” Senior, Manal Hasan said. “I have not personally been bullied or excluded. I don’t feel that at Pewaukee… but that could be a completely different story for someone else. But we don’t hear that voice. I believe in treating everyone you come across as a human, a friend, and with dignity. But not everyone feels that way and that’s something we need to advocate. Just be kind to absolutely anyone. It doesn’t take anything out of your day to be a nice person.” Hasan said. Being kind and having this mindset could do so much to help peers that we may not even know are dealing with something huge. Even students that appear to be going through something “small”. But who are we to judge who to be kind to based on what we see? That should not even be a problem we have, however it’s probably the biggest one we encounter. 

There are so many sources and people to rely on and look to for help and support. As Mr. Roberts said, Pewaukee staff longs to support the students. “I like to be friends with my teachers, I know what goes on in their life and they know mine. And they make me feel valued and they make me feel human and that’s why I like coming to school everyday… and that inspires me to be kind to others in the school or at least try. Teachers and students need to go out of their way to make more people feel human and I think they should do that to every student that walks into a classroom.” Hasan said. 

We have a great staff that does not get the credit that they deserve. They long to help the students as — despite what we may think — they do not want a miserable student body. And there are resources. If you feel that you are a victim to bullying, we have amazing counselors and staff that have the students best interest. And if you see a victim of bullying or exclusion, it is yours and my job to take action and be kind. We cannot expect that the people that are victims of these things are always going to seek help themselves and we cannot assume that every student “doesn’t want help”. We must be proactive in advocating to be a student body that is known for its kindness and closeness to each other. It’s what will fuel a safe environment. At PHS we need to make that our number one priority and that needs to carry on outside of school and into the future. 

Due to recent events our minds have been fixated for the worst, but why not take that to change our mentality for the better? To take advantage of this opportunity to be nothing, but kind.

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