10 Problems Facing SJHHS Students That Are More Serious Than Mask Mandates

February 17, 2022

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Anna Ho

Currently, the main focus of SJHHS student activism is centered around repealing mask mandates. While the energy put into this cause is admirable, it begs the question—could this energy be utilized to help resolve other issues that are greater affecting our community?

It is honorable to take a stand for something you believe in, and the political energy demonstrated by the mask protest organizers is admirable. With increased political focus and action surrounding mask mandates, however, other pressing issues affecting SJHHS students are being overlooked. We need to analyze and determine what our priorities are, and repealing mask mandates—most of which have already been lifted in all indoor and outdoor public spaces outside of K-12 schools—should certainly not be one of them. 

Here are 10 important issues facing our community that students can put their energy and activism into: 

(ISSUES ARE NOT LISTED IN ANY SPECIFIC ORDER)

1. Financial Instability: 

Homelessness affects an estimated 270 students at SJHHS, who are recognized under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Even if they have a roof over their heads, many students do not know how their family will pay the bills or afford essentials such as food. Many have to work one or multiple jobs to financially support their families.

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Volunteer to help students without housing, such as with nonprofits like FAM.
  • Support or hold fundraising events that help students afford school activities. SJHHS has clubs centered around this purpose, such as Sponsor-A-Stallion.

 

2. Mental Health

Depression and anxiety among adolescents have been steadily increasing—20-30% of teenagers battle symptoms of depression or anxiety. Lack of resources, visibility, and the financial costs of aid cause many students to go without treatment for mental health disorders. Even for teenagers who are receiving help, the process of healing can be a long and exhausting one. While masks might be affecting the mental health of some individuals, they are certainly not the main cause driving the decline. 

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Petition for the school to put more resources in place for struggling students and demand for better promotion of the schools’ current resources. 
  • Organize or join mental health awareness campaigns.

 

3. Personal or Familial Health Issues

Many SJHHS students are either struggling with health problems or have a loved one who is afflicted by medical issues. Personal illness or caring for someone ill can disrupt almost all aspects of life. In addition to this, some students and their families face difficulties in paying for medical treatments, placing additional stress on families already enduring extremely challenging circumstances.

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Organize fundraisers for students who need financial help due to medical issues.
  • Coordinate support for students who are struggling with health issues. This can look like sending notes and homework to a continually absent student.

 

4. Eating Disorders/Body Image Issues

Many students struggle with eating disorders and body dysmorphia to different extents, and those issues often go unnoticed and untreated. This can be extremely detrimental to student life, as a poor diet can lead to poor sleep, lack of focus, and mental health issues.

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Meet with school administration and petition for them to implement more resources toward raising awareness about and aiding students struggling with eating disorders.

 

5. Familial Struggles and Strained Relationships

Students often have to deal with divorce, remarriages, and abusive relationships at home. Others have young children in their families who they share responsibility in raising and caring for, especially when parents work long hours. Other strained relationships with loved ones can take serious tolls on student mental health, and these issues cause them to place school priorities on the back burner. 

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Create outreach programs that provide support systems to students struggling at home.
  • Contact the School Board and local government officials and petition for them to implement better childcare programs for young children.

 

6. Academic Pressure

The immense academic pressure faced by students can lead to overwhelming thoughts about college and future careers—which can lead to anxiety and depression. Many are struggling with balancing heavy course loads, AP/Honors classes, extracurriculars, and more. Students who have ADHD and learning disorders often have additional difficulties and can feel this pressure tenfold. 

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Join and assist tutoring programs.
  • Speak with teachers and counselors on possible steps toward helping other students—and potentially yourself—find balance. 

 

7. Drug Abuse

Students are increasingly reliant on nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana, often using them as mediums of escapism. This can be extremely dangerous as students often do not know the ingredients or effects of what they are ingesting, as many drugs are even very unfamiliar to pharmaceutical scientists. This can cause serious, direct health issues among the student body, as many vaping devices have harmful, damaging chemicals added to them.

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Raise awareness. Use social media tools and graphics to make students aware of the harm and health risks associated with certain drugs.

 

8. Racism

Students of color face racism in nearly all facets of their lives. It can be mentally taxing to face such hate day by day and dangerous for students when they are more likely to be attacked in the street because of their physical appearance.

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Use social media to raise awareness and hold others accountable for their racism.
  • Educate yourself. Speak up at school board meetings to push for a more race-inclusive curriculum and resources for POC students at SJHHS.

 

9. Sexual Assault

Many individuals—especially young women—who have experienced sexual harassment/assault have to walk the same halls as their abuser, which is terrifying. Both men and women who have encountered abuse or assault are afraid to come out with their stories or are even shut down when they do, creating an ongoing pattern of abusers getting away with their actions and victimizing other students.

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Support survivors—raise awareness through social media if they consent to it.
  • Work with victims and school administration to take action and hold abusers accountable.

 

10. Intrapersonal Struggles

In high school, almost every student undergoes struggles with their identity, trying to figure out a place for themselves in the world. This internal conflict can be especially difficult for queer students, many of whom are figuring out their own sexual and gender identities in conjunction with the homophobia they face at home.

HOW YOU CAN PUT YOUR POLITICAL ENERGY INTO THIS ISSUE

  • Find ways to support students and connect them to the advice of people who have gone through the same experiences.
  • Support and join organizations that aid queer students. A good example of this is the SJHHS Queer Alliance.

 

The topic we are debating should not be whether or not mask mandates are effective. The wide variety of “facts” that people believe make it seem as if this debate will never end. 

In an ideal world, every problem facing our community can be duly addressed. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in, and it is most logical for student activists to confront the most serious problems facing our community first.

Masks are not a dire issue. If mask mandates are truly the only threat to your liberties and general well-being, you should be extremely thankful for the fortune and privilege you have received in your life. Use that privilege to help those less fortunate than you.

 

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