By Amelia Spring
On Thursday, November 10th, students found and reported hateful vandalism seen in the CRN bathrooms, featuring swastikas, slurs against the LGBT+ community, and messages relating to the election. Along with the hateful vandalism, there were also events where Latino students reported being harassed. Superintendent Dr. Robert J. Fraser sent out a district-wide email explaining the inappropriateness of the actions and the Newtown Township Police Department’s investigation into the hate crimes. Reports of these events in CRN soon swept the news, both local and national, and elicited appalled emotions from students and adults alike.
The students of CRN came to school on Friday as discourse about the events ensued: many teachers held classroom discussions about the event, and people spoke about them, texted about them, and posted about them on social media. The hateful behavior displayed by the perpetrators of the crimes threatened and frightened some students. “I don't feel safe,” explained Seth Mazlin, head of CRN’s gay-straight alliance (GSA). “Many students don't feel safe.”
GSA is a club that offers a secure, positive place for both straight students and LGBT+ students. GSA held a meeting directly following the events, and this meeting experienced a massive increase in attendees: usually about 30 people attend the meetings but more than 60 attended this particular meeting. “We’re working hard to make each other feel safe,” Mazlin explained, showing why clubs like GSA are important to many students in times where they need support.
Higher GSA attendance was not the only reaction from the students to the event. A group of students wrote a message, titled “An Open Letter to Council Rock Administrators,” and submitted it to the “Reality” section of the Bucks County Courier Times. Alex Miller originally posted a rough draft of the letter on the class of 2017 Facebook group. The letter ended up being the collaborative product of Miller, Samantha Gougher, Sarah Lefebvre, and Emily Goulazian. It expressed the sentiment that events like these are a problem that needs to be fixed permanently and suggested ways to deal with the problem of hate amongst students.
“We can represent our students just as loudly and as powerfully as the people writing swastikas on the bathroom walls” Samantha Gougher said, explaining why the writers chose to publicly post the letter. The writers also found it important to address these themes to the administration; as Sarah Lefebvre explained, “We really need to work together as administrators and students to make this place better for everyone.” This letter gained momentum as students and adults alike read and shared it, and when the school administration read the letter, they scheduled a meeting with the letter’s writers. Sarah Lefebvre described their meeting with Ms. McCarthy, Dr. Fraser, and Mr. Traczykiewicz: “They made us feel comfortable, and they just asked us. . . how we think as a student community that we can move forward. . . we all ended up feeling really good walking out of there.”
The school administration took immediate action after the events, both with the students in the school and the adults involved. As Dr. Fraser detailed in his district-wide email sent out November 17th, the school district hosted community forums and is forming a diversity committee. Staff members attended workshops with the Peace Center, a local organization that works to prevent violence and promote peace. Administrators at CRN organized assemblies on Monday and Tuesday, where class presidents made speeches along with teachers and administrators. The students then broke into small groups, where they were encouraged to share their thoughts and opinions on the events and how the school should move forward. One idea students mentioned during these group conversations is the idea of having circles, a type of group discussion that is a restorative practice, allowing students to communicate with each other in a safe environment and voice their opinions. Group discussion in the form of circles is only one of many ideas that the school district is deliberating, and administrators welcome additional suggestions as well.
While the hateful actions of certain students in CRN have horrified, scared, and hurt many people in the school and in the community, the events also allowed the school to address important yet often overlooked issues in the student body. “[These events have] the potential [to bring about change], but whether or not that change will occur, that’s up to us,” promised Sarah Lefebvre. “[The administration is] trying on this, and we have to match that effort.” Lefebvre highlighted the importance of carrying on discussions and carrying out actions that have been spoken about since the events occurred. North Principal Susan McCarthy echoed this sentiment: “[These events] presented us with the opportunity to make our school a more positive environment. My strong desire is to continue this conversation until, working together, we succeed in doing this.”
By Julia Gokalp
Seventeen Republican candidates and six Democratic candidates, outspoken politicians, tension within parties, heated debates, and alleged scandals. From the beginning of the 2016 presidential election, it was clear that this election would not only be out of the ordinary, but also unforgettable.
The primaries began with a wide variety of opinions due to the large number of candidates in the two major parties. The Democratic candidates- Martin O’Malley (former Governor of Maryland), Bernie Sanders (Senator from Vermont), and Hillary Clinton (former Secretary of State) most notable among them- and the Republican candidates- including Marco Rubio (Senator from Florida), Ben Carson (retired surgeon and author), John Kasich (Governor of Ohio), Ted Cruz (Senator from Texas), and Donald Trump (real estate mogul and television celebrity)-- engaged in debates and compared views over the months leading to the primary election, months during which the numbers of candidates dwindled.
The choices for presidential candidates in the Democratic Party were Sanders and Clinton, while Kasich, Cruz, and Trump remained candidates for the Republican Party. Clinton and Trump were the victors in the primaries and faced off in the general election. They were joined by Gary Johnson from the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein from the Green Party (there were, of course, other candidates from lesser-known political parties, but they did not gain enough votes to stand out in the election).
Both of the two final candidates were considered controversial in their own ways, but so was the idea of voting for a third party candidate, for such an action was often considered a wasted vote. Despite the complicated nature of the election and its candidates, people managed to find some merit in the ones they chose.
Gabby Zingarini believed that, in Hillary Clinton, “America has never seen a more qualified candidate in our entire history,” since “she was as close as one can get to the presidency without actually being the commander in chief,” for she was Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term and a Senator from New York.
Aside from her experience, her supporters cited her policies--such as Keynesian economics, paid medical and family leave, environmental protection, reproductive rights, infrastructure repair, and reduction of college prices.
Her victory would have also meant that the first female President would take office, which, her supporters believed, would send an inspiring message to women throughout the country that they could succeed in any field. Of course, her victory also meant Donald Trump’s defeat, and to many liberals, fear of having Trump in office was enough to persuade them to vote for Clinton.
Many Republicans, though, argue that Democrats misconstrued Trump’s campaign as divisive--that his idea of building a wall was meant to protect the country from criminals; that he retracted his plan to ban Muslim immigration; that his KKK endorsement does not define him, for one’s supporters do not fully define a person.
As some of Clinton’s supporters simply wanted to help the Democratic Party, so did some Trump supporters want to bolster the Republican Party. Many others supported his conservative values such as his pro-life stance or his belief in laissez-faire economics.
While Clinton supporters believed that government intervention in certain aspects of life was crucial to protect public interest, Trump supporters generally believed that businesses would benefit from a lack of oversight from the government. Many of them also agreed with Trump that additional border security was necessary to protect the country from criminals who could access it illegally.
Supporters such as Nolan Hartwell hoped that a “big, beautiful, glorious wall” would help protect the country. Although a wall would be expensive (and doubt remains over whether Mexico would actually pay for it or not), Jack Earley, a junior, compares the funds needed to build a wall to our current military spending: “[An] F-18 fighter [...] jet costs [m]illions of dollars. [...] That’s for our national defense. [...] Whether it’s building up our air force or building up our navy, it’s the same thing as building a wall because it’s [...] to protect the country.”
Although not all of Trump’s supporters focus on his plan to build the border wall, many share the same desire to keep the country guarded from potential threats.
Meanwhile, others supported third party candidates. Some of these people believed that the two-party system was broken and that the two major parties did not cover the beliefs of all voters. The majority of the third party voters supported Johnson, for the Libertarian Party’s ideals are socially liberal like those of the Democrats, but fiscally conservative like the ideals of the Republicans.
Griffin Murphy, a senior, believes that Libertarian ideals appeal to him “because they allow people to have the liberty to make their own choices in their lives as long as they don’t hurt anyone else.” To his supporters, Gary Johnson’s ascension to the presidency would have led to more freedom--both social and fiscal.
Political views greatly varied- even amongst members of the same party- especially in this election. However, many people and national polls believed that Hillary Clinton, who had more political experience, would be the winner of the election until Donald Trump’s victory was announced early in the morning of November 9.
How did Trump pull off what many consider to be an upset victory? One explanation could be that a large number of people supported a candidate for the purpose of defeating the opponent they deemed worse. Both candidates were involved in scandals of some sort. Both candidates had their personalities questioned. Neither one seemed to be a clear favorite of either party, nor were they favorites of the general public, as shown by a voter turnout which was lower than it had been since 1996, according to exit polls on CNN. Trump was also an anti-establishment candidate going against someone who represented the status quo, and although Trump’s idea of change was arguably quite drastic, it was still a change, one that Clinton, who exemplified for many the “broken” system, could not offer. The highly charged and often negative atmosphere, combined with these aspects, may have contributed to the election’s outcome.
Despite the divisiveness of this election, on a cold Thursday night, religious leaders, CRN students, politicians of both major parties, and other members of the community gathered in the Garden of Reflection and stood together against hatred--not the election results, but hatred itself, a sentiment that cannot be blamed on an election alone. Although the election and subsequent events left some in the community and the country divided, this gathering was one of many in which people showed unity despite differing political views.
It was a way of showing that we cannot- we must not- allow politics to splinter our country. The divides in our country will only be healed if people are willing to exchange opinions with others and not let these differences become divisive. Whether students supported Trump, Clinton, Johnson, Stein, or anyone else, the majority of people chose whom they thought would be the best leader for our country. They just saw different ways of improving it. Our country can be improved, as long as people are willing to work together and communicate, not silence each other and be afraid to share their voices. To borrow from both candidates, we can make America great if we stay strong together, whatever our differences may be.