Students are censoring opinions due to fear of backlash and consequences.
They say school is supposed to be a safe place but is it really safe if students fear what might happen to them if they speak their minds?
Giving power to your voice is important and one of the many things you have the right to do no matter where you are. Students not feeling safe or secure enough in school to voice their opinion in fear should be taken seriously.
In the article How Comfortably Can You Speak Your Mind at School? A college student named [first name] Daniels describes her experience exploring hot-button issues on campus., “Each week, I seek out the office hours of a philosophy department professor willing to discuss with me complex ethical questions raised by her course on gender and sexuality. We keep our voices low as if someone might overhear us.”
This story alarmed me because I believe that students shouldn’t have to hush their voices in response to what might be thrown at them in the aftermath. And yet, I see students behaving in the same way at this school.
There was a situation a few weeks back where my friends and I were discussing the injustices that we saw in SLA, more to how students from Ben Franklin are treated compared to SLA students. We talked about how students receive different treatment depending on what school they go to and their racial background.
We were discussing the different levels of treatment we saw towards people of color and white students and how it impacted us. My friends and I started to connect situations we experienced and how both students and teachers at SLA are judgemental. One of my friends had seen a teacher walk by and said “Hush lower y’all voices. Y’all are too loud. We don’t want them to hear us.”
Personally, I didn’t care about whether teachers heard what I had to say either way my point was going to get across. I am not the type to fear speaking my mind. I questioned why my friends were hesitant to continue the conversation afterward or shut down when a teacher or staff walked by. They said they weren’t afraid of the teacher, but now I know that they are afraid of what might happen if we were overheard.
In thinking about our exchange now, I actually don’t think there would have been a negative consequence if the teacher had overheard us. So why did my friends lower their voices? There has always been negativity in the air when discussing things that impact students.
The majority of the time my friends seem to shut their voices due to the wrong ear hearing or things being misinterpreted by others who are around us. In response, they’ll change the topic when they see an outsider or when they think that they were being delusional about what they are experiencing. SLA has freedom of speech and I think that it’s important for students who are learning at SLA to be able to speak their truth and figure out how to move forward.
Students should never be put into a situation where they fear that voicing their feelings or opinions could lead them to get in trouble. Young people’s opinions matter more than ever: Gen zer’s are starting to vote and have their opinions taken into real consideration.
Judgment and criticism are common but can be very harmful in societies- especially in school. The importance of words should never have to live on the tongue because of fear of the wrong ear hearing.