Students Speak Up on Issues at School

Student Voice is an opportunity for students to bring school wide issues to administrators

Alyssa Masiewicz, Editor-in-Chief

  What was once a select group of student leaders from the National Honors Society (NHS), Student Senate, and other leadership groups at school has turned into an opportunity for students of all grades to come together and share issues and solutions—Student Voice.

  Student Voice was started by a group of teachers around eight years ago who have now either retired or moved on to other schools, but their legacy lives on when students come together every couple of months to discuss growing issues the student body notices.

  Senior Kaylee Niezgoda attended her first meeting in November in hopes to help her peers have a better experience at school and to share her opinions on matters that directly impact her.

  “I think I’ve sat on the sidelines a lot and I have a lot to say. There are a lot of things I see happening and I know I’ve got friends who might not speak up for it, but I know I will say something,” Niezgoda said. “I just care a lot about our school and the well-being of our students, because I am one.”

  Student Voice only addresses issues that can be fixed at the school level. Open campus has been debated among students and administrators for the past several years, but it is not a school-level issue and would have to be taken up to the Traverse City Area Public School (TCAPS) School Board. Because of that, it is not addressed at Student Voice.

  At the November meeting, the main topics covered were issues surrounding bathrooms and lunches, which many students are happy to see change happening. More changes have come from Student Voice meetings than students realize. Suicide prevention posters, having security guards wear red, and even buzzing in at the main entrances came from previous Student Voice meetings.

  “The lunchroom is completely different and that was because of us. We said to maybe change up the lunch tables and came back next week and it was all different. So far, I’ve heard a lot of good feedback about that. It’s really cool just to know that [administrators] were listening,” Niezgoda said.

It’s really cool just to know that [administrators] were listening,

— Kaylee Niezgoda

  While the lunchroom issues seem to be improving, students are still upset to hear racial and homophobic slurs used around school. Although students believe it isn’t as bad in years past, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

  “I hear a lot of slurs around school, as well as a lot of harassment from other students to LGBTQ+ students. It feels like when we speak about that no one really does anything. It seems like they’re not taking it seriously,” sophomore Max Moore said.

  The issue surrounding slurs was addressed at the previous Student Voice meeting, but they are still coming up with ways to educate students.

  “We did talk about it because we did have students who were a part of that community and have experienced it, or even heard of it from their friends and talked about how it made them uncomfortable. So we talked about different ways to bring up the conversation,” Niezgoda said.

  In years past, pre-COVID, West held school-wide assemblies to draw awareness on the usage of slurs. Principal Joe Esper hopes to one day get back to those assemblies in order for students to learn that any type of slur is not okay, even if it is used in a ‘joking’ manner.

  “A lot of it is just awareness. Almost every time we deal with one of those, the people perpetrating it are like, ‘Oh, it was a joke,’ or, ‘I was just repeating something from [a] YouTube

.’ And they never make the connection that it’s not okay,” Esper said.

  In a school survey administered by Esper, only 65 percent of students said they felt safe at school, and only 53 percent of students said they felt like they belong at West.

  “Sometimes [slurs are used] in my classes when kids make gay jokes. Sometimes it’s in hallways. Sometimes when I am walking from one class to another people will bark at me or call me stupid things,” Moore said. “It’s not that I am trying to tear down specific students or teachers or trying to harass them. It is just that I want a safer school.”

 If we aren’t teaching this, if we aren’t teaching respect and tolerance then it’s never going to happen,

— Max Moore


  Even though Esper still can not hold school-wide assemblies, students hope that administrators will try their best to educate students about the issue and come up with a solution.

  “If we aren’t teaching this, if we aren’t teaching respect and tolerance then it’s never going to happen. This is the type of stuff that leads to self-harm and even suicide, and that is really serious and dangerous. I think this is why it is a really important thing we need to talk about,” Moore said.