Second Semester Seniors

For second semester seniors, the dreaded disease “senioritis” comes in three different shapes and sizes

By Truman Stovall

The second semester of a high schooler’s senior year has a stereotype that everyone has heard of. The infamous condition known as senioritis will affect every senior at Dexter High School to some degree. As their high school career comes to a close, a senior’s grades, involvement in extracurricular activities, and overall effort tends to dip below what was previously expected of them. By the time graduation comes around, the average senior has skipped at least a handful of school days and is averaging about ten hours of sleep a night.

This can’t be said for every senior, however. While some might stay awake until 3 a.m. at a Tuesday-night party in April, others might spend the same long night studying in their room. For some seniors, their second semester has little impact on their future. Others became infected with senioritis a long time ago. For the rest, it is critical to stay focused and to maintain a rigorous schedule. In this article, we’re going to analyze the three types of seniors you’ll encounter this semester, including the ones you won’t see as frequently in the halls anymore.

No. 1: Hakuna Matata

This type of senior has had plans set for a while. They either committed early to a college after being recruited, decided previously that they will attend a community college, or will enter the workforce right out of high school.

Either way, the point is that they have a well-developed case of senioritis, and this final semester of high school should be relatively easy. Some entered senior year with a reduced schedule, looking primarily to earn required credits for graduation. It may have been years since they last opened up a textbook.

This type of senior generally has less to worry about than the others. AP or IB tests are typically only applicable to four-year universities, and students with a scholarship to one may not weigh the monetary value of using a high score to test out of a course as heavily. In other words, it might not make sense to pay the high AP or IB test fee to have a chance to save on tuition if their tuition is already covered by the school.

One of these seniors is Gwen McCartney. After high school, she will attend Washtenaw Community College (WCC) and plans to transfer to another college later. This fact has influenced her class decisions in her final semester but not her level of effort.

When asked if she was the kind of person to stop trying in high school if it’s not necessary, she said, “If I have ambition, I’m going to try hard.”

And despite not knowing what she wants to study in college, she does have ambition. Her decision to attend WCC for a year was mainly to get some core classes out of the way before finalizing big choices for her future.

“I keep good grades and am in an IB class, but I dropped my first hour because I don’t need it,” she said.

Overall, she said that her situation compared to others “feels pretty good. I don’t have a lot to worry about.”

No. 2: Prepaid Ticket

The second group of seniors has very little to worry about as high school comes to a close. They likely submitted their first semester grades to their prospective colleges and suddenly lost most of their anxiety. At this point, many colleges stop looking at senior year grades since their admitted students have already proven themselves through seven semesters of hard work, unless their grades drop a little too far.

Seniors in this category might magically reveal to their counselors that they were never actually interested in a full class schedule this semester and think a reduced schedule will improve their “mental health.”

Despite being able to drop a bit of extra weight, these seniors can’t start spending more time at Taco Bell than in school. Athletes will have to stay in shape if they play a sport this spring and seniors in AP or IB classes might get college credit if they score well on their exams. Failing a class might become a huge problem if it’s required for graduation.

Nate Skinner is one of these seniors. After being recruited for lacrosse, he was offered admission to Moravian College in Pennsylvania and committed to the school near the end of 2016. Skinner admitted that his decision to commit was a factor in his academic choices leading up to his last semester in high school.

When asked how the rigor of his class schedule compared to last semester, he said that it was “about the same. I still took hard classes, but I’m not gonna lie — I dropped IB Math Studies.”

Academics is still a motivation for Nate, though. He will not receive an athletic scholarship from Moravian, so when asked if he will continue to try hard in school, he said, “Yes, I still need good grades to get more scholarships.”

He’s taking AP Macroeconomics and IB Biology, so it’s obvious he didn’t decide to give up. He said that he will probably take the AP exam, but was still unsure about taking an IB exam.

When asked if he would have been more certain about taking the exams if he hadn’t decided on a college, he said he would “definitely” take both.

Overall, his second semester has been a mixed bag. He joined the National Honor Society this year, but for another club, Students Needing Accepting Peers (S.N.A.P.), he said, ”I haven’t been to a meeting in a while.”

Skinner is determined to play well this spring in lacrosse. After all, it is the sport he was recruited to play. But he said that he isn’t too worried about taking a day off here and there, citing senior skip days, weekdays that many in the senior class collectively decide are good days for relaxation.

He is pleased to be able to confidently look forward as his tenure as a high schooler comes to a close, and his security certainly makes the mental transition into thinking about the future easier, “It’s nice knowing you’re going to have a place to be at. You can work on the next step.”

No. 3: The Mysterious Beyond

The third type of senior is generally in the worst position of all. For them, the future is unknown. They may be accepted into a college, but it’s not their first choice, or they are awaiting the result of the rest of their application decisions and won’t know where they’re going to end up for a while.

This puts them in limbo for a while as they watch their friends start talking to their college roommate next year, drop out of some difficult classes, and generally feel better about their future. Couple this envy with anxiety about the tests they have tomorrow in AP Biology and Honors Humanities, and it’s easy to understand why you don’t want to be this type of senior.

One of these seniors is Marc Lopez. He is stuck in the middle. He hasn’t committed to a college yet but is in the recruiting process, and he has a list of potential colleges. Compared to the seniors who have their decision set and stone, this can be quiet stressful.

“I didn’t apply anywhere through early action,” he said. “I’m pretty much only considering Memphis, Wayne State, Lake Superior State, Albion, and the University of Saint Francis.”

This eases some of the stress than some of the other seniors have in this category, but altogether he is still behind the people that have already committed. He has to continue in school to ensure his chances for scholarships.

“I try in school and think I’ve been pretty consistent,” he said. “I see [not knowing where I’m going yet] as motivation to stay focused. But, at the same time, I have lost some motivation running.”

This kind of senior year is a lot like junior year all over again, except instead of hating yourself and having your grades all but determine which colleges you will get into, you still don’t know which colleges you’re going to get into and still hate yourself.

Athletes in the Crowd

An inside look into a few of the varsity athletes playing their sport this winter

By Caden Koenig

Tony Seidl

Starting possibly his last season of basketball that could end a career that started way back in second grade, senior Tony Seidl expects to be a leader on the boys varsity basketball team. “I’d like to impact my team by being a leader, being loud, and talking during the games,” Seidl said. “I am most excited for Chelsea week because it will be two good teams, and the rivalry makes it even more fun.” This year’s team is very experienced with multiple seniors and juniors returning with playing experience. This season’s expectations are to continue Dexter basketball’s winning tradition.

Drew Golin

Coming off a state championship last year, junior Drew Golin and the rest of the men’s swim team fully expect to be in contention for a state title once again. Despite being ill right before states last year, Golin still gained six points for the Dreads and wants to get more this year. “This year, I need to move up from that; I got sick last year so I expect to get more points,” he said. The swim team expects to have another long run that starts with a SEC title and ends with a repeat championship.

Brandon Wright

Brandon Wright is the leading scorer on this year’s hockey team, which currently sports a 2-5 record near the season’s midpoint. As the senior captain, Wright aims to get the underclassmen on the team more involved. “As the captain I try to create a better atmosphere for the younger kids,” he said. Finishing off a full 12-year career of hockey, Wright has multiple goals. “For the team, I expect to at least go .500 this year; a lot of teams are bigger and faster than us, so we have to be smarter. For myself, I need to step up in scoring and help spreading the puck,” he said.

Mckenna Graham

Head Coach Mike Bavineau and assistant coach Lauren Thompson have called upon some younger players to join the girls varsity basketball team this season. One of these underclassmen is sophomore Mckenna Graham. “I am most excited for the season because it will be a good experience to be on varsity,” Graham said. “And it will help us grow and develop for next year.”  Despite losing a heavy senior class, there is optimism for a solid season with the younger team.

Holiday Hustle

Runners, many dressed in holiday garb, enjoyed Dexter’s annual one-mile and 5K charity runs

By: Andy Dolen

Dexter’s annual December run, the Holiday Hustle, was held Saturday, December 10 in downtown Dexter. The event offered a one-mile run and a 5K run, and included all ages, genders and even pets.

The Holiday Hustle is a charitable event with entry fees ranging from $19 to $34 depending on ages and the preferred run. There is also the option to donate more money or non-perishable food items.

The start of both races was at the center of the downtown area near the gazebo. Food stands, warming tents, and other festive scenes were set up all around Monument Park for the hundreds of runners participating in the event.

The one-mile event sent the runners through a small part of the neighborhood surrounding downtown while the 5K spanned through the Huron Farms neighborhood.

Participants came out prepared for the holiday run with creative outfits and costumes ranging from reindeer hats to full Santa Claus costumes. Dexter roared with Christmas music until around 6:00 p.m. Saturday night after the final runners crossed the finish line.

Cross country and track runner Jack Shelley is an annual participant in the event along with many high school teammates.

“It’s just a nice race overall,” he said. “And it’s good to see where my time is at before the track season arrives.”

Shelley also said nearly half of the cross country conditioning team participated in the event as well.

“There was also a lot of good competition outside of the team,” Shelley said.

Fun or Fear?

As clown sightings have reached record highs, a fear sparked in the ‘80s has returned

By Claire Ward & Lisa Zuiderveen

“I do not want any killer clowns anywhere near here, or fake killer clowns. No clowns of the killer variety.”

Senior Gigi Eisele has an opinion that many can agree with. She, like others student at Dexter High School, has heard the stories. The ones where a bunch of friends are hanging out on a Friday night, driving to a friend’s house when something catches their eye from the side of the road. As the car pulls back around to check it out everyone realizes what the figure standing on the side of the road is.

Dressed in rainbow polka dots, big shoes, and that classic red nose, he stands on the side of the road with a balloon in his hand.  Speeding away, they can see him running at the car through the back window, moving faster than what seems possible in a costume like that.

This is the basic story for so many people across the United States lately. It started in Greenville, South Carolina, with the first report to police on September 29. From here, sightings spread around Greenville, and as word grew, across the U.S. By the middle of October, sightings had been reported in nearly all 50 states, 9 of 13 Canadian provinces, and 18 other countries. The threat of killer clowns used to be an idea that was laughed at, saved only for theaters. Now, it’s become a worldwide epidemic.

Police warn people of the threat clowns pose, especially over Halloween weekend. The typical playful costume has now become dangerous. Major retailer Target pulled clown masks and costumes off its shelves for the holiday, but places such as Party City still sold the costumes – even with “scary” versions.

One thing is for sure, stepping outside in clown attire is not safe anymore. Officer Jeremy Hilobuk warns students to be cautious, and “be aware that this is something to be aware of.”

So far, clown sightings have spread across the state, reaching from Manistee to Detroit, and endless cities in between. Flint and Jackson have both received reports of clowns, and with Jackson only 30 miles from Dexter we’re left to wonder how long until the clowns make their way into our town.

Eisele believes that DHS will   remain relatively safe from the clowns, but is not completely sure. “Someone did paint a clown on the rock,” she said.

Meanwhile, senior Madison Delacy believes students should keep clowns out of the classrooms; “I feel like clowns shouldn’t be a joke at school because some of them really scare kids,” Delacy said. “I don’t think it’s okay to go around wearing a clown outfit either. That’s just creepy.”

A survey of 100 DHS students showed 29 percent would run if they saw a clown, and 25 percent would do something violent. The 46 percent said that they wouldn’t do anything.

Others, like senior Luan “Tom” Nguyen, stated that they would turn to social media. Nguyen, an international student from Vietnam, said he would “take a picture, put [it] on Facebook and ask ‘If you saw a clown what would you do?’”

“I think it’s kind of funny when you see clowns walking around, but it’s not funny when it’s threatening people’s safety,” Nguyen said.

Many DHS students agree with this statement as 69 percent of students surveyed think that dressing up as a clown isn’t funny.

The anxious feeling many get when thinking about, looking at, or hearing about clowns is not rare. The term “coulrophobia” was developed in the ‘80s to give name for the irrational fear of clowns. Stephen King’s “It” was published in 1986, with the movie following in 1990. Other movies such as “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” and “Poltergeist” add to the terror. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was running wild in the mid-70s dressed in clown attire, arrested for the sexual assault and the murder of 33 young men while under the name of Pogo the Clown.

Just as every fashion nightmare returns, so have clowns. Hilobuk believes that the clown issue, while “it’s kind of died down in the past few weeks” is still something students need to be cognizant of.

“[We] still need to be aware of it,” he said. “Something like that doesn’t necessarily go away.”

The majority of Dexter students claimed if they saw a clown they wouldn’t do anything, but some mentioned calling the police. DHS English teacher Barry Mergler said assessing the situation first is key.

“It depends; at a circus, okay that fits. Walking around at night, avoid it and keep moving. Maybe call the police if my kids were with me” Mergler said.

The clown frenzy that filled the end of the millenia seemed to die down for the early 21st century, but clowns have made a comeback.

As Delacy said, “Clowns are now like a weird trend to scare other people. As someone who is afraid of clowns, I’m not a fan.”

 

Air Jordan

At 17, Senior Jordan McGinnis is one of the nation’s youngest female pilots

By Julia Bell

When school ended last June, most students threw their backpacks in the closet and didn’t even consider picking up a book.  Jordan McGinnis, a senior at Dexter High School, spent hours every day with her nose inside of Gleim Test Prep, a textbook used to prepare for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Private Pilot License Exam. 

A private pilot license (PPL) is a certification that allows the holder to act as the commanding pilot of a private aircraft.  In the United States, you must be 17 years old to hold a private pilot license. 

Jordan turned 17 this May, and earned her PPL in September, making her one of the youngest female license-holders in the nation.  She is one of only 423 young women in the the United States between the ages 17 and 19 to hold a license.

Jordan discovered her passion for flying in seventh grade, but it has always played an important role in her life. Jordan’s father, Colonel John McGinnis, recently retired from the United States Marine Corps after 28 years of service. He spent many years as a fighter pilot and now flies commercially for Delta Airlines. Jordan has always been proud of her dad’s work, and now he feels the same pride towards Jordan.

“It’s been amazing watching Jordan work towards a goal over the course of two years,” he said. “[She’s made] a lot of sacrifices to complete what she started.”

Jordan began flying during the summer before 11th grade.  She participated in flight lessons every day from July through August.   The day before her father retired from the Marine Corps, after 20 hours of instructed flying, Jordan completed her first solo flight. “I didn’t know I was doing it that day,” she said. “I was up practicing take offs and landings and they were going well. When we landed my instructor asked how I felt about them and then asked how I felt about doing my first solo flight.” Jordan’s response was simple, “Let me call my mom first.”

During her junior year, school work took precedence over flying. “During junior year I only flew four times,” she said. “One was my first cross country flight, which was definitely scarier than my first solo flight. There was a really strong headwind, so we had to make an unexpected stop for fuel.” Once school ended, she began studying for her licensing exam. 

Jordan is a drum major for the Dexter High School Marching Band and a varsity cross country runner.  Between drum major responsibilities, cross country practice, flight lessons, and studying, Jordan was left with little time to relax this summer.  “As a student pilot you aren’t allowed to fly at night. One morning I got up at 4:45 to get to the airport at 6 so I could start flying as soon as it was technically day,” she said. “I had a band leadership seminar at 9 and had to go straight there from the airport. Afterwards we had a full band rehearsal.”

The FAA private pilot knowledge exam is a 60 question written exam. In order to pass the written portion, one must receive a score of 70 percent or above.  Jordan’s dedicated summer of studying earned her an exceptional score of 88 percent.  “I know that while I didn’t necessarily spend my summer how I hoped, I went in to both my check ride and FAA test feeling confident. That was huge for me,” she said. “I didn’t want to barely pass. I wanted to do well enough that when I finally got the chance to take people flying I could be confident.”

Last summer, Jordan attended a week long seminar at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Following graduation, Jordan hopes to attend either the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy with the intent to serve in the United States Navy. Her long term goal is to become a fighter pilot. “I want to be a part of something that’s for a greater purpose and that’s why I want to go into the military,” she said. “I’ve known that this is something I’ve wanted to do since I was in seventh grade, and earning my private pilot’s license was the first step to getting there.”

Athletes in the Crowd

Here are some key athletes from their respective teams who you should keep an eye on for the rest of the season and beyond

By Caden Koenig and Nick LeBlanc
Alex Janosi- Water Polo

“Our team goal is to be the best ranked Dexter water polo team ever, which is fourth in the state,” senior Alex Janosi said.  Janosi is in his third full year on varsity and is a co-captain. As the season progresses, Janosi realizes this season could be his last year playing water polo as he is undecided about what the future will hold. “I really want to make the most of what we have this year; we have a lot of skill,” he said. Janosi and the rest of his team are excited to see if they reach the “best team ever” goal.

Jack Shelly- Cross Country

For most people, being the best on their team is the goal. Not for senior runner Jack Shelley. “I would really like to be top twenty in the state,” he said. Shelley, now 30th in the state, has been running since he was young and has been running for Dexter since freshman year. However, Shelley doesn’t plan to stop running af    ter graduation. “It’s a deal breaker if I can’t run at a school after high school,” he said.

Annette Schultz- Swimming

Annette Schultz started swimming at the age of six and started USA swimming at 10.  Since then, Schultz has held state records during her three years of varsity swimming and was named Michigan High School Swimmer of the Year for the 2015-2016 school year.  As Schultz’s high school career comes to an end, the process of college searching has begun. “I have a few colleges in mind,” Schultz said. “Right now I’m just trying to keep my options open.”

Nick Fileccia- Football

After not playing football since the eighth grade, junior Nick  Fileccia is hopeful that his return can help the Dexter football team. Nick hasn’t let his time off slow him down: “My goal is to have the most touchdowns,” he said. So far, Fileccia has scored three touchdowns and is pushing to get more. Watch for Fileccia, No. 13, on Friday nights.

Hometown Classic vs. Growing Franchise

Cottage Inn wins school lunch bid, threatens to take more business

-Tyler Valentine

For many years now, Classic Pizza has been a household pizza, so to speak, for most homes in Dexter. Everywhere you went, it was being served. Could this be the end of Classic’s reign in Dexter?

The 2016-17 school year has brought many changes and one of the most notable changes is the pizza being served.

For those who haven’t yet noticed, every school from Bates and Cornerstone to the high school has made the switch from Classic Pizza to Cottage Inn on pizza days. Smaller changes have also taken place in regard to lunch at the high school. A new froyo machine with toppings has been added to the DHS lunch options.

During the summer of 2016, Cottage Inn outbid Classic Pizza for the school lunch contract. A recent survey shows that high school students don’t mind the change and actually prefer Cottage Inn pizza for lunch.

“Cottage Inn is cheesier and it tastes more fresh,” said sophomore Autumn Edwards, who voted for Cottage Inn in the survey. “And, the pizzas are bigger.”

The switch will cause changes at both Classic Pizza and Cottage Inn. Within the last five months, Classic Pizza has lost business from Little League concessions, who switched over to Cottage Inn, Dexter Youth Football on Sundays, and now the school lunches. However, Classic Pizza is still served at Friday night football games and nearly every other high school sporting event, which is no big deal because “business is business” according to Classic Pizza owner Ralph Schlaff.

The stores are vastly different from one another. Cottage Inn is more updated with technology and new, efficient ways to make food, while Classic Pizza makes pizzas the same way they’ve been making them for more than 25 years.

“Not much has changed during the day; [it’s] a little bit of a slower lunch with us not having to get the pizzas to the schools, but other than that things aren’t much different,” Schlaff said.

According to Schlaff, Classic has considered delivering to other schools for lunch, but he said that other schools are just too far away.

Cottage Inn is fairly new to the pizza scene in Dexter, but that hasn’t stopped the growing franchise from rapidly expanding its business.

Though Cottage Inn is thriving in town, school lunches are a different kind of rush to handle. They have to make and deliver 200 pizzas to the schools everyday, which is a challenge even for an efficiently-run restaurant such as Cottage Inn.

Some people think Cottage Inn may have bitten off more than it can chew by adding 200 pizzas a day and on top of the already-thriving lunch buffet.

“I’m glad I’m not working during lunchtime; topping 200 pizzas doesn’t sound fun,” said Kyle Gilbert, a DHS senior and Cottage Inn employee. “But I know it is good for business.”

There is still a bright future for Classic Pizza. They have their sights set on returning to the DHS cafeteria in 2017.

“Next year we are going to work things out and enter a new bid and hopefully take back the school lunches,” Classic Pizza owner Ralph Schlaff said.

Also, Classic is celebrating 25 years of sponsorship by donating 10 percent of every Wednesday’s sales during the month of October to the Dexter Athletic Booster Club.

The future is also looking bright for Cottage Inn. Within the last year, the franchise has branched out to Texas and Florida. Cottage Inn is also planning on expanding to both North and South Carolina, as well as China.

Who knows, maybe a few years down the road there will be countrywide franchise that got its footing in our area.

Tech Takeover

DHS students and staff participate in a social experiment that transported them to the pre-smartphone era

By Caden Koenig & Joe Ramey

The era of phones becoming smarter is in the past, the era of phones being substantially smarter than you is now. All of that knowledge, just inside your pocket. Smartphone. A term that has become an everyday word, along with an everyday necessity. These devices are taking over the world, consuming your time along with your life.

The new generation, the “millennials” as they have been labeled, is now starting to assimilate into the real world. This generation was the first people to be around and use technology their whole lives. Whether it was the late 90’s and early 2000’s when camera phones were the rave, growing up with technology has caused them to be the most tech savvy in society today. The necessity to be with their technology is very serious, and most parents and older people do not understand this attachment that people have with their smartphones.

The idea of missing something if you don’t look at your phone every other minute is one of, if not the biggest problems facing teens today within the realm of technology. We were curious. So we put Dexter students and teachers alike to the test to see if they could endure a day without the thing they love most: their smartphones.

“It was actually hard; I didn’t expect it to be,” said Junior Rachel Wittenberg. “It’s not a necessity, but it’s definitely become a big part of my life.” The idea of not having her phone on her all day was a bit unnerving for the junior, and she even said she went looking for her phone a couple of times only to be let down when she remembered she agreed to partake in this social experiment and surrender her phone for a day.

Junior Michael Bergamo had something else to say pertaining to his experience, “It was a strange feeling not having it in my pocket all day,” further exemplifying the idea of your phone being a huge part of your day to day life. He continued by say- ing he actually did receive seven notifications, all of which were from his mom. Needless to say, there were some punishments because of his failure to re- spond. Our condolences to Mrs. Bergamo.

English teacher Zach Lindke also allowed the Squall to apprehend him of his life (phone) for a day. During the interview he had a couple interesting, as well as traumatizing things to say.

“I was so naked without it,” Lindke said when asked if he ever noticed himself going for his phone.

He went on to explain that he created a fake phone from construction paper and used that in place of his actual iPhone. Even going as far as putting a fake text message from his friends asking if he wanted to go get something to eat later, and attaching a rock to the back to make it seem as if the construction paper was the same weight as his phone. A close emulation.

Comical at the least, he then went on to say it was “hard to breathe without it” and sometimes he’d wake up in a panic attack when he couldn’t locate his phone.

“Coincidentally, I don’t think I had any no- tifications at the end of the day,” proving the point that you’re probably not missing as much as you think.

Lindke also went on to explain how he com- pared the lack of a smartphone to a ghost limb. Anomalies along the lines of feeling text vibra- tions that didn’t actually happen or the quiet bellowing of his ringtone when in fact no one was calling him.

Today, smartphones are used to do so much, from buying time with playing games, to taking memorable photographs that when looked back upon revive nostalgia. Last year 68 percent of the world’s population owned smartphones, and that number has only increased since.

To some, it is amazing what this new technol- ogy can do. For others, it is scary how connected we are to everything, but being this connected also has pros. The exchange of information between countries and throughout the world is pretty amazing, and to that we do have to thank technology.

Graduation Coach

Women’s basketball coach, Lauren Thompson, works with students to improve DHS graduation rate

By Megan Sarns

If you’ve been around Dexter Community Schools for a while, you’ve probably run into Lauren Thompson. With a list of credentials including (but not limited to) experience as a student teacher, substitute teacher, choir instructor, and women’s basketball and volleyball coach, Thompson is taking on a new role at DHS this year: graduation coach.

“My job is to make sure that every student at Dexter has the opportunity to graduate,” Thompson explained. “That can mean anything from providing resources and eliminating barriers…and working with counselors to create a plan for each student.”

Thompson provides academic support for students that otherwise may not get it, and that can make all the difference. “Kids like somebody holding them accountable,” she said.

Teachers don’t mind the extra help either. Teachers can recognize when their students might be struggling to keep up with their work, but with up to thirty students in each class, they may not be able to give every student the assistance they need. “Now, they know who to call and say ‘this student needs help.’”

Thompson was hired at the end of June, and the graduation coach program was recommended by superintendent Dr. Chris Timmis.

“In 2016, having a high school diploma is automatically expected,” Principal Kit Moran said. “[if a student doesn’t have a diploma] they are at a significant disadvantage.”

Because the graduation rate at DHS has dropped slightly over the past few years, having someone in the building whose job is specifically to deal with this problem and these students was found to be the best approach.

Leo Theisen, a senior at DHS, has always struggled in school. This year, he’s been working with Thompson and is already seeing improvement.

“My grades would be a lot worse if she wasn’t helping me,” Theisen said. “She’s helped me out with schoolwork and makes sure I turn in assignments.”

In addition to keeping an eye on his grades, Thompson works one-on-one with Theisen on his math homework and other problem areas.

“We have a relatively small [graduation] problem,” Moran explained. Currently, DHS graduates about 93 percent of their students. With each graduating class averaging around three hundred students, that statistic means that with every 1 percent drop, three kids aren’t graduating. “If [Thompson’s] intervention results in one kid getting a diploma that wouldn’t have otherwise, that’s huge.”

In regards to how her work could significantly impact the future of DHS students, Thompson said, “It’s a new adventure, but I feel very fortunate to be able to do this.”

LGBTQ+

Transgender students are at risk: Studies show creating safe, supportive school environments can have a big impact

By Megan Sarns and Julia Bell

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From the highly publicized transition of Caitlyn Jenner to the Target boycotts, the transgender community is being widely discussed. However, with this new platform comes controversy as to how schools should approach such a sensitive topic. Much of the controversy is rooted in confusion and misinformation.

When talking about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTQ+) community as a whole, the idea of “equality” is widely spoken of. The word has good intentions but a complicated meaning. It’s a common misconception that equity and equality can be used interchangeably in terms of ensuring fairness. Equality refers to providing every individual with the same resources and opportunities.  It’s an imperfect system because individual strengths and needs are not always accounted for.

“Providing equality to students can provide more privilege to some students and still not provide enough opportunity to others, when given the same assistance,” said Autumn Campbell, art teacher and Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) facilitator at Dexter High School.

Equity, on the other hand, does identify the strengths and needs of students and helps everyone in different ways. The goal is for every student to be at the same baseline for success.

Just like any group of students with specific needs, transgender and gender nonconforming students that attend DHS now, or will in the future, require a specific type of assistance to thrive.

According to psychological studies, individuals identifying within the LGBTQ+ community are up to three times more likely to have a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. These conditions can sometimes lead to self harm, substance abuse, and even suicide.

“A lot of people don’t understand; they think these students are doing this because they want to or for attention,” DHS counselor and GSA facilitator, Kristie Doyle, said. “But when you look at the statistics, the evidence is there…these students are at a much higher risk for mental health conditions.”

This problem gained national attention when Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs in July of 2015. In her acceptance speech, she implored her audience to take notice of the staggering number of transgender youth that are bullied and abused by their peers and families to the point of considering suicide. According to a 2015 survey, 4.6 percent of Americans report having attempted suicide at some point in their lives. Within the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, that number climbs to 20 percent; within the transgender community, it is 40 percent.

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In 2014, the death of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender high school student from Ohio, sparked a national conversation. When Leelah, born Jacob, attempted to come out to her parents as a transgender female, her parents refused to allow her to undergo transition treatment and sent her to conversion therapy instead. When she began coming out to her friends, her parents removed her from her high school and restricted her access to social media. She lost contact with the friends she was once able to confide in. Leelah committed suicide on December 28, by walking into oncoming traffic on the Interstate 71 highway. She was 17 years old.

Leelah posted her suicide note publicly on social media, posthumously turning her into a martyr for transgender youth across the world. Nevertheless, situations like these are all too common.

The reason transgender people are at a higher risk has been studied by countless psychologists over many years. Several factors have been cited, but one reason stands out above all the others: a lack of support within their families, peer groups, and communities. Even if a transgender student doesn’t have the support of their family or all of their peers, creating a supportive environment within school, a place where teenagers spend most of their time, has been known to have a big impact. Studies have shown that having a strong support system, wherever it is they can find it, can decrease a transgender person’s chance of committing suicide by more than 80 percent.

If a school is unable to provide accommodations to meet the specific needs of their transgender and gender nonconforming students, it doesn’t go without consequence.

Data posted by Trans Student Equality Resources in 2013 stated that 80 percent of transgender students report feeling unsafe at school, resulting in poor grades and difficulty advancing in their academic career, leading them to miss school regularly or drop out altogether.

“As an administrator, I want students to feel like they want to come [to Dexter High School] every morning,” Principal Kit Moran said. “There can be anxiety about a big presentation or a test…but when a student is anxious about coming to school and being harassed, that’s a problem.”

Working with the GSA, Autumn understands the importance of prioritizing the safety of these students.

“Our goal is to provide safe spaces for all students,” she said. “They shouldn’t have to wait for it to get better…it should be better now. All students should be able to thrive, not just survive, in our schools.”

There can also be consequences for the school if these students’ needs continually go unmet. Discrimination against any group of students based on race, class, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression by their school is a legal issue. Title IX, a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

In 2014, a memo distributed by the U.S. Department of Education extended these guidelines to include transgender students. The memo reads that “All students, including transgender students, or students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX.”

If a school ignores these guidelines, they are at risk for a lawsuit that would not only cost the school district lots of money, but their reputation as well.

In 2014, four Detroit-area schools were being sued for allegedly discriminating against a transgender student. The schools’ administrations allegedly subjected the student to continuous verbal abuse and banned them from using the restroom that coincided with the gender they identified with. This was only one of many nationwide cases.

In December of that same year, a court in Maine awarded the family of a female transgender student $75,000 in settlement after they won a lawsuit against her school administration for requiring her to use a staff restroom instead of the student girls’ restroom.

In regards to how DHS is handling themselves in situations like these, Moran’s answer is simple.

“We cannot discriminate against transgender students [at DHS],” he said. “The law said students can go in the bathroom of whatever gender they identify with…schools who don’t follow the law will not be supporting their students.”

Moran stated that DHS, alongside all other public schools in the country, received a letter from the Obama Administration last spring compelling them to regulate students’ access to bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, rather than their biological sex.

Over the past year, this policy has become controversial (a federal court in Texas blocked the edict in August), but thousands of schools nationwide have chosen to follow its guidelines. Many have expressed concerns that a more fluid regulation of spaces, that were once specific to following the gender binary, could promote an increase in sexual assaults. The facts say otherwise.

Sources such as the Transgender Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union state there is absolutely no verifiable data to confirm reports of transgender people assaulting non-transgender people in public restrooms, and that claims of this nature are often fabricated to perpetuate violent stereotypes against the transgender community.

In fact, if anyone is at risk, all data points to the transgender people themselves. Studies suggest that approximately 70 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals have been assaulted or otherwise harassed while using public restrooms. However, “bathroom bills” only work towards resolving a small part of the problem.

A study done by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2009 found that the systemic discrimination and abuse faced by trans people extends far outside the bathroom.

According to their surveys, transgender people face up to double the rate of unemployment (keep in mind that this survey was taken during the economic recession, when unemployment rates were already high), and 97 percent of those surveyed reported that they had been mistreated at work. They have also faced a high rate of poverty and homelessness, with 19 percent of the sample having been homeless at some point in their lives.

Solving this problem begins with acceptance.

“We want [students at DHS] to take what they learn into adulthood,” Moran said. “We’re known for having high test scores…our kids go to good colleges, but we also want to be known for being accepting of every student. It’s not just about educating [your brain] on math and science…we’re educating the whole part of you.”