by Sharlett Ramos
Many faculty members at Bonita Vista High School claim that students are welcome to openly address them about anything they wish to talk about. However, the attitudes of faculty members can contradict their claims. There have been a number of times on campus that faculty members have shown a negative attitude towards students who are simply just asking a question, or voicing a concern, causing a divide in trust between teachers and students.
Students are required to respect and follow the rules set by their teachers. If their conduct does not conform with those regulations, students are later punished. However, unless a parent or guardian intervenes in a situation, faculty members receive no punishment when students are disrespected. According to the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) Security Mission Statement, “SUHSD safeguards the physical security and emotional and psychological safety of our students’ learning environment.” This statement calls for assurance to both students and parents, the safety of the student body. However, the actions taken by several Bonita Vista staff members have reflected a hazardous environment, both emotionally and psychologically. This affects not only the decisions that students make on campus, but also with whom students can trust and confide in, in terms of authority figures. This is because when a student is presented with an untrustworthy environment by a teacher, it is easy to reciprocate that untrusting behavior; therefore, causing an untrustworthy relationship between the student and the teacher.
The obligation of teachers is to aid students in their education, while creating a safe environment for students. As stated in the SUHSD Mission Statement, “a positive and welcoming climate is characterized by inclusiveness, sensitivity, tolerance and respect promotes psychological, emotional, cultural and intellectual safety.” Nevertheless, there are some teachers on campus who are not abiding by this regulation by putting down or calling out certain students in class. Through these actions, these faculty members are mistreating their students simply because they do not trust them. Thus, an unfortunate situation is taking into place as hostility between the two parties is created.
Admittedly, some students do not follow the conduct that is expected of them. In turn, they disrespect teachers and staff members as well, creating a bigger divide in trust. Students that break those rules or misbehave are given a referral and punished for their actions. However, there is no punishment for staff members that do not respect students. The only punishment that teachers can receive is being fired from their position, or being transferred to teach at a different school. Due to teacher tenure, a form of job protection that public school teachers in all states receive after one to seven years on the job, it is extremely difficult for teachers to be fired.
Although some students do not respect or follow the rules of conduct set by the district, it does not give faculty the right to disrespect other students as well. As stated by the Sweetwater Education Association Contract 2013-2016, one of the California Standards for Teaching Profession is “engaging and support all students in learning, and creating and maintaining effective environment for student learning.” Student learning depends highly on the environment teachers create for them. This proves that a hostile environment does not allow the students to feel safe enough to simply ask a question.
The main issue is that there is no immediate punishment for teachers. There is only the drastic punishment of losing their position or being transferred. Another issue is that no action is taken unless a student’s parent gets involved and complains to the school or the district. A student’s concerns should not have to be escalated to those extremes in order for change to occur. There should be other alternatives in dealing with a conflicting relationship between a student and staff member. In addition, faculty should strive to create a more trusting relationship with students and to not assume that all students are trying to break the rules, just as students should follow the regulations set by the school. Respect should be a matter that is expected by both the students and the staff, in order for both parts to have a relaxing and safe environment of learning.