Critical issues — from bullying to vaping in the bathroom — surprisingly took center stage at the last Chimacum School Board meeting after student representative Eugenia Frank presented a …
Critical issues — from bullying to vaping in the bathroom — surprisingly took center stage at the last Chimacum School Board meeting after student representative Eugenia Frank presented a detailed outline of the challenges facing the Chimacum Junior and Senior High School.
From the lack of recognition for the College in the High School Program, to tensions surrounding integration of seventh- and eighth-graders with the high schoolers, as well as a perceived lack of sanctions for bullying, cutting class, and vaping in the bathrooms, Frank used her position on the school board to cast a stunning spotlight on the continuing concerns of some students.
“I need to do absolutely everything in my power to shed the light and effect the change, for which I see a need and have seen a need for two years,” said Frank, a senior at Chimacum.
“I took my role and I overhauled it into something that I’m proud of and I won’t stop until I’ve squeezed all I can from my tenure,” she added.
Frank credited her years of “boots on the ground force of observation and information gathering” for her assertions.
She explained her belief in a “jarringly prevalent disparity between our district’s ability to do good work and our ability to communicate the good work that we do.”
That charge was especially related to the College in the High School program, wherein students can study core academic subjects and art through Everett Community College and Central Washington University right on Chimacum School grounds and even earn an associate’s degree.
“Rarely do I hear College in the High School being praised to the degree a program of its merit ought to be praised,” Frank said.
“Our campus is home to a groundbreaking academic opportunity for our high school students and yet we hide it away,” she said.
Most of Frank’s speech was bolstered by a recent student survey with 153 responses among seventh- through 12th-graders.
Frank prefaced the survey’s comments by saying, “School is not just a place to learn. It’s a place where our students spend half their waking hours; school should be safe and comfortable for every student.”
The survey attempted to get a read on feelings of safety in the classrooms and hallways, with 42 percent reporting they always feel safe, which Frank said is too low.
“This number is unacceptable, and we must do all we can to lower it to as near zero as possible,” she said.
Less than 14 percent of students reported that they respect and care for each other.
Thirty-nine percent reported respecting each other “a little or not at all.”
Similar numbers reflected perceived respect between staff and students.
Students also expressed a desire for stricter sanctions to tamper behavior issues, especially surrounding ongoing vaping in bathrooms and bullying, according to Frank’s survey.
She cited that four out of five students who responded to the survey said they supported more discipline at school.
After the meeting, Chimacum School Superintendent Scott Mauk said sanctions are already being issued when behavioral problems arise.
“Just because people don’t know about other kid’s private disciplinary issues doesn’t mean it’s not being handled,” Mauk said.
“It’s been a rough year to get a handle on these things and we’re doing our best and we’ll keep plugging away,” he added.
The superintendent also expressed concern for unreported bullying and said he hopes to foster an environment where students feel comfortable approaching staff when issues arise.
Mauk also explained that College in the High School is a well-supported program that staff tries to promote as much as possible, even allocating extra funds toward the program.
“We’d love to see more students take advantage of it,” Mauk said.
As for the seventh- and eighth-graders splitting off to their own building, Mauk said it’s not in the cards.
“People who go through this go through growing pains,” he said. “It’s not going away, but we will continue to address the issues as we’re aware of them.”
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