Or, at least bits of it. Its a smidge personal ( why I made an open letter personal I have no idea, if I ever sent it you bet your bottom dollar it would be anonymous. ) Here are snippets, if you really want to read the whole thing let me know and we can make it happen! Cheers.
An Open Letter to the Administration of BVSD schools
It’s obvious to anyone who has been through it: high school is quite the turbulent time in the life of an adolescent. The strange change of age and the slew of accompanying hormonal imbalances that teenagers are facing all take places at a crux with strange new social strata called high school. I’m sure that you, the school board, have your hands full of things that need to be dealt with. Not only do you have to find teachers that can master curricula that can accommodate varying skill levels and intelligences, but teachers that can stay interesting and relevant without crossing the line of losing control of a classroom completely. The schools need to be well stocked with clubs, athletics, philanthropies and volunteer opportunities. Safety needs to be monitored. Funds need to be allotted properly. Dances must be scheduled. The building has to stay clean. There is an endless list of things that need to happen to make a high school crank out the strong, productive members of society that everyone on the board must dream of. And the kids must seem hell-bent on making it hard for you, huh?
At my high school, Monarch, teenage drinking and drug use ran rampant. I’m sure you all remember the cheerleaders who got caught doing cocaine in the basement bathrooms, the girl who passed out inebriated in study hall, the security guard who you all had to fire after evidence surfaced that he had smoked pot with some of the weed slingers in the school. Drug use and alcohol is on the rise, it doesn’t take an expert to know that, and you guys do the best you can with plenty of in school information, facts, statistics, posters, meetings and rules about how to combat this rise of teenage use. Kudos on the 68% campaign; while none of my friends nor I thought it was particularly accurate to say that 68% of our school doesn’t socially drink; the effort to broadcast the silent majority was appreciated.
I’d say an item that you must have considered less important on the bill of teenager well-being was teenage depression. You had us watch a movie in 9th grade health class that addressed it, but what type of kid feels better after watching a VHS from the 80’s that ends with a montage of a kid running with a golden retriever, no longer pressed to listen to Morrissey in his room but instead doing productive things like dishes and raking the leaves? I distinctly remember this movie because I distinctly remembered feeling offended that the school was treating depression as if it was outdated. And the fact that there was just this one movie, this one time, begs this question: who is responsible for addressing issues like drinking, drug use, depression and anxiety in adolescents? The health teachers? After school programs? The counselors? If no specific class is set up to deal with it, then surely it falls to the teachers and staff to report behavior that might be dangerous. And this is where I am, in retrospect, deeply disappointed in Monarch High school.
If depression barely made the bill, eating disorders missed it completely. In my entire high school career, I think there were two lectures about eating disorders; one inexplicably took place in catering, and the other took place in my 10th grade health class. I remember the 10th grade one the most, as this was when I was clinging to information as if it was a life raft in a stormed ocean.
(I omitted some here, sorry)
So my question for you is this–where were you guys? Where was the school, when a gym teacher reported that a girl who weighed in the double digits passed out in the locker rooms because she hadn’t eaten that day? Where were the counselors, for that matter? Where were you when that English teacher told the counseling office that she had 3 students very worried about their friend? I had that teacher for senior AP English; she was from the get go overly kind to me and expressed a genuine concern in my well-being that I didn’t understand until she told me what happened two years before when my friends went to her. And then she asked me diet tips and if I still ate carbs.
Is this a problem in schools, or a problem in society that is just trickling down to the schools? I feel like no one seems to know how to deal with this. And I don’t blame the schools alone, I just feel like there is a dangerous neglect in how we allot attention to issues that so many adolescents are struggling with. And with eating disorders having the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, this cannot be delayed. I made it; not every person does.
I encourage you, BVSD, to look into endorsing more programs that deal with things like eating disorders. I know your teachers already have so much to deal with, but there are so many groups that know how to handle this particular beast. Specifically, I highly encourage you to look into the Boulder Youth Body Alliance Peer Education Group.
I joined the BYBA after I graduated at semester of my senior year, but I wish I had known about it long before that. It is a peer education program focused on teaching young adults how to be critical viewers of image in the media, of how to have a positive self-image, about promoting eating disorder prevention as well as awareness, and how to have healthy relationships with food and exercise. The BYBA is amazing; given enough support, it could become revolutionary. It is spearheaded by a woman named Carmen Cool, an eating disorder therapist in Boulder. She formed it after an incident that people who have struggled with eating disorders would find uncomfortably comprehensible: her sister passed away from complications due to anorexia, and at the funeral reception she heard her mother commenting to her grandmother about how many calories there must be in the sandwiches they were being served. Heartbroken by this comment, and how it represents the culture of women in general, Cool worked to become powerfully and effectively counterculture.
Through the BYBA, we made Yay Scales (scales that had affirmations that had nothing to do with weight, instead of numbers). We collected jeans that no longer fit from people and had them cut and quilted to be made into blankets that were auctioned off, the proceeds going to help feed undernourished children in third world countries. And we went into schools, lots of schools, and talked to our peers about what it looks like to be critical viewers of the media, and how to interpret what they are really selling you every time we see an ad. We talked not about what eating disorders looked like, but how to prevent them. And we talked about hope. Lots and lots of hope.
I write you this letter in hopes that you will consider the fact that schools need groups like the BYBA. I write you in encouragement that not only will you provide students with boundless media, but teach them to be critical viewers of societies images of self, because school might be the only place where they get this lesson. I write you, BVSD, as a 21 year old woman seeking a degree in English education with dreams of becoming a teacher. I no longer eat less than 300 calories a day; I can now focus on the glorious life I’ve been given instead of how much fat is on my body. Not all people with eating disorders are as lucky.
I write you because this problem continues to grow and grow. I write you because I have seen friends have breakdowns in dressing rooms over their body size; because I have heard girls talk ceaselessly about another girl’s body behind her back; because I have friends who will feel obligated to run for miles after eating a dessert. I write because I have seen a friend go in and out of 4 different eating disorder treatment programs before she was old enough to have a drivers license; because as a senior I once comforted a sobbing 9th grade girl as she confessed to me that her eating disorder has slowly taken over her life and she didn’t know what to do anymore. I write you because of the time a friend called me, terrified because she had puked up blood; I write for the night I gave the opening statement for a candlelight vigil while a family stood silently crying behind me. I write you, because intervention in the school may be the only hope some girls may have.
I write you, because I have seen bright, wonderful women die.