Editorial: A Letter to Students in Public Schools
Dear SPASH, P.J.’s and Ben Franklin Students,
You are the future of our city, our county and our state. One day, we will depend on your ideas and innovations; among you may be the next Steve Jobs, a high-ranking Pentagon official or a world-famous musician. We may one day have need of your inventions to protect our precious resources of water and crops; one or more of you may indeed create a cure for cancer, multiple sclerosis or AIDS.
That’s a lot of pressure. But for now, we depend only on your good judgment and common sense.
Every adult in our community has once been where you are today: whether you are dealing with a tough family environment, a learning disability, a bully or social pressures there isn’t anyone in our community who hasn’t been in your confusing stage in life. Let’s face it: puberty stinks, and the rash of bomb threats in recent weeks isn’t making any of your lives easier.
Most of you seem to handle the transition into adulthood with grace and dignity. The majority of you students, by accounts from teachers at every school in this district, are good-natured, responsible and cooperative. You are a much-needed positive face in our district, despite how others at times- to include some of your own community leaders- behave in a negative and sometimes destructive manner.
But the brighter you shine, the further into obscurity that negativity dissolves.
We’re asking you to shine a little brighter these days, and for some of you that’s asking a lot.
You will never know what it’s like to attend school in a world untouched by the violence of 9/11, Columbine, Sandy Hook or the Boston bombing. Even though that kind of direct violence is foreign to our own district, we are sad and embarrassed to know this community is home to so many cowards who, either as a method to avoid school work or meant as a prank, can only display a kind of false bravado by making threats from inside a school bathroom stall.
We’re asking our students to embrace their schools, their classmates and their community. Volunteer to shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk. With your parents, bake a dozen cookies and drop them off at the police department or the county snowplow garage. Reach out to that lonely “nerd” in your class who everyone picks on and make a new friend. Give your teacher a card thanking them for their hard work. Stop by a City Council or County Board meeting and thank our local officials for serving the community in which you live.
We’re asking you to somehow make a direct and positive difference in your surroundings.
Above all, keep your eyes and ears open in your schools and your community. While there’s currently no apparent motive for the string of bomb threats at your three schools, Stevens Point Police Chief Kevin Ruder said it’s likely a copycat situation and at least some where meant as a prank. If the threats were indeed made “as a joke”, then perhaps we need to better educate ourselves and our students as to what, exactly, humor is.
But ignoring these threats, or their possible causes, won’t make the underlying problem go away. It could be a sign of some kind of disconnect, but whether that disconnect is among the family unit, the schools or our community is widely open to interpretation.
Your generation is luckier than any before because you have a more accepting society than ever in which to grow up. Long gone are the days of public shaming at the sight of pink hair or a nose ring. You and your fellow students have more options than ever before regarding your current education and future decisions. You have more of a voice than your predecessors and have resources at your disposal that your own parents could not possibly have imagined.
We’re asking you to report suspicious activity when you see it. We’re asking you to think and act proactively instead of reactively in uncomfortable situations, and take ownership of a small problem instead of witnessing a widespread reaction in the aftermath of a larger one.
More importantly, we’re asking you to think, act and speak as a representative of the Stevens Point/Plover community. Because essentially, that’s exactly what each of you are.