Editor:I have had the distinct privilege of working at the Oxford Area High School for 15 years. In that time, I have NEVER once heard of a student 'trash-canning' an underclassman during senior week, nor at any other time during the school year. until this year. While I understand the disappointment and frustration the seniors felt due to the pep rally cancellation, and fully support their right to protest, I take issue with their assertion that this is something that that the teachers and staff do not condone, "but do not prevent". In the days preceding the pep rally cancellation, many teachers and staff found out about the egregious behavior of SOME of our seniors that travelled around the building looking for freshman to bully. We were appalled that these rather large Seniors (in comparison to Freshman) were travelling around in packs basically 'hunting' for kids to bully. Entire class periods were devoted to discussions between the seniors; some who felt they had done no wrong, others who felt they took it too far. Most agreed that no one has the right to bully anyone else. To pick up the paper and see that some of these students have not taken ownership for their poor decisions, and their attempt to pass the buck onto Mr. Madden or other classes, is disheartening. I know these young men, and I think the world of them; wonderful young men, truly. However, in this instance they are wrong. Gentleman, you are better than this.
I would also like to address the pep rally itself. Again, I want readers to know that I have taught in the high school for 15 years, and in that time, admittedly, pep rallies can be a tenuous event. I have witnessed an incredibly poor understanding by students of what the event is intended to be - a united expression of support for our sports teams. Instead it becomes a shouting match. And again, this year's pep rally was off the charts. As teachers are required to act as chaperones to this event, I was able to see what some of the students in the stands did not see. At one point, the Seniors and the Sophomores (seated next to one another on the bleachers) began shouting at one another. Within moments a group of about 30 students from both aforementioned classes stood up and began to aggressively shout directly at one another. As an adult charged with keeping my students from harm, my heart was thumping in my chest for fear that at any moment one wrong move could occur and a fight would break out on the stands. This is a horrible feeling as an adult watching the kids you care about come close to getting hurt. Mr. Madden was absolutely right in cancelling this event. I was there. What was Mr. Madden's alternative? Wait and see if the students come to blows? Then what? Watch as 1100+ students try to get off the stands without getting hurt themselves? That would be unacceptable. The community would crucify us, and we would have a hard time forgiving ourselves for not acting sooner.
And to those gentleman quoted in the article, I know you are going to give me a hard time in class for using my right to speak of your protest, and that is okay. I know I have stressed the importance of asserting your rights. But, gentleman, with rights come responsibility; perhaps I did not do enough to convince you of that.
Basia Manniso OAHS Social Studies
Teacher and East Nottingham Resident