We decided to include the following story despite the fact it occurred off campus. We believe this issue effects the entire community. We encourage readers to use this paper as a forum for discussion.
Bethany Poole shared her feelings about the social divisions in her high school and was suspended.
On Friday March 3 the Sacopee Valley High sophomore distributed a letter she authored titled “Snobs at Sacopee,” which summarized her discontent with the snob culture that exists at her school.
Later that morning she was summoned to the school administrative office and informed that she would be suspended.
“The administration felt as though there was an implied threat, so disciplinary action took place,” said Principal Allyn Hutton.
The line administrators felt was most provocative reads, “Your [sic] like a disease that keeps growing, and you know what happens to deseases [sic], somebody always finds a cure, and then you’ll be gone, forever.”
Mixed communication between students and parents led to confusion about the actual content of the letter. After receiving complaints from parents, local police contacted Hutton about what they believed to be a student-formulated hit list.
In an age where school violence has the nation on edge, school administrations are struggling with how to discipline students for potentially threatening behavior.
“In today’s environment, everyone is very nervous,” said Hutton. While she believes Poole would not hurt anyone, she admitted that, “violence in schools is scary and I don’t want to assume that it won’t happen here… [In looking at the letter] we needed to ask, ‘What are you trying to say? What do you need?'”
“Snobs at Sacopee” was reportedly placed in the hands and lockers of specific students. Tyler Britland, a freshman recipient of the letter found two copies of it in her locker. She believes she was one of a few targets the letter was written for.
“If people think I am a snob, I’m sorry I made fun of them,” said Britland.
Students reported seeing Poole and other students hand out the letters to select students. Britland said a friend of hers was the recipient of six copies of the letter.
“There was more of a response [to the letter] than usual. Some kids were scared, asking, ‘What does this mean? I got three in my locker,'” said Hutton.
But student response has been varied. Janine Howell, a freshman, said she felt “the disease comment was a threat.” However, she added that the distribution of the letter was a “good way to make people aware and think about what they do.”
“I don’t think it was threatening to students,” said Poole.
Poole’s mother Kathy supports her daughter’s letter.
“That was just an analogy,” she said. “I was there when she wrote it. Diseases are curable, not by being eliminated but by being ‘cured.’ Bethany did not say snobs will be ‘eradicated’ forever.”
Hutton said that students who share the Pooles’ feelings should feel encouraged to share their feelings with an adult or an older student they can trust. “These feelings can be turned into positive solutions,” said Hutton.
An advisory committee is being formulated for the next school year to encourage students to speak up about this type of issue. Faculty admit that it is difficult for students to feel comfortable enough to confide in a teacher. But that discomfort can go both ways, says Jean Bragen, coordinator of the Advisory Committee.
“Not all adults are ready to do it [learn about kids],” said Bragen. “Adults are afraid, generally. Sometimes they just don’t want to know.”
Even Britland, who received three copies of the letter, sympathizes with the difficulty Poole might face in expressing herself to administrators.
“What does she say, `I hate everybody?'” said Britland
Poole’s mother claims her daughter was given no option but to accept the punishment of a three-day suspension. “They’re making an example. No one can speak his or her minds. [The students] are there to learn freedom of speech, not anything detrimental,” she said.
“In a case like mine,” said Poole “they should have a meeting with you, not suspend you on the spot.”
Freshman Maria Tucci agrees.”I think she should be talked to about it one-on-one,” she said.
While Hutton stands by her decision to suspend Poole, she recognizes the need for treatment. The school has offered Poole individual counseling.
Freshman Angela Kendall also feels that suspension is inappropriate. “[Suspensions] won’t help. It might make her madder or make it worse. [Writing a letter] is better than carrying a gun to school.”
“The problem is that society, people who don’t work with adolescents, are judgmental of anyone who works here,” said Hutton. “They don’t understand that kids are kids. Some need real help.”
Staff Writer Alex Steed can be contacted at: [email protected]