Column: NNHS Administration, staff need to take ugly issues head on; promote discussion


An illustration of the symbolic Universal Flag in the hallways at Naperville North

“Staff, please check your email for an important message.”

The announcement was discreet, yet students knew exactly what was coming. Pepper spray, gummy candies and racial slurs — it seems like Naperville North can never catch a break.

On Feb. 27, Principal Stephanie Posey came on the announcements yet again. By then, most of the school had heard everything about North’s latest scandal, both the rumors and the truth. This time, her announcement came in the form of a public statement. There was no full explanation, no methods of preventing the next ordeal, and it was probably the last time you heard a staff member formally acknowledge it.

And that’s exactly the problem. Because NNHS Administration appears reluctant to talk about sensitive topics when they arise, students inherently miss out on constructive discussion as well.

In an interview with The North Star, Posey pointed out that the BSLA held an open and well-attended public forum after the racially-insensitive video surfaced, and NNHS may hold more events next year. It’s clear that Posey and NNHS faculty care about the well-being of their students, otherwise we wouldn’t have programs such as First Class and Link Crew. We wouldn’t have had two Chris Herren visits in four years.

However, it’s also safe to say that Herren’s message isn’t being used to its full potential. The school’s campaign to “BU247” is a step in the right direction, but we have to do more than just print it on T-shirts and posters. We need to be doing more to reach our student body effectively.

After all, how can students truly be themselves when they don’t say what’s on their mind? It’s vital that teachers create a classroom setting that encourages discussion and is supportive of differing opinions.

Senior Ellie Prorok believes more needs to be done to improve North’s communication.

“We send out an email, make an announcement, and then they just stop talking about it. I think that’s a major thing that we as a school need to work on,” Prorok said.

When sensitive issues arise, setting aside a few minutes of class time to allow for students and teachers to share their opinions would at least give students a sense of closure. It would grant them a chance to vent about an issue that left them feeling angry, hurt or sad. It is a chance to know how classmates outside of their friend group are impacted by such events.

No student would be left thinking their geometry homework is more important than their feelings.

Although this may take away time from regular instruction, teaching students how to respectfully and civilly discuss issues is a crucial life skill that should be prioritized, especially when these situations arise.

In light of recent events, Naperville North social studies teacher Kermit Eby felt liberated to write an essay entitled “Letter to my People about Hate Language: or Sticks and Stones will break bones, but words will break our soul.”

In his essay, Eby advises students to be conscious that “language has power, words have history, and we must complete the process of reconciliation.”

Eby is one of the few teachers who took time out of class to address the situation through discussion.

Junior Mariel Thompson feels the solution lies within respecting one another.

“[The situation could be helped by] just talking, and not being so afraid of being politically incorrect or making people uncomfortable, because this whole year has been uncomfortable. We have to respect that discomfort will lead to change eventually,” she said.

So, when does the vicious cycle end? It’s inevitable that some NNHS students will make bad choices. But with every poor decision, the administration is also given a choice: continue to avoid uncomfortable situations, or move quickly to spark a conversation that delves into the deeper issues. The answer is clear.