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TFHS students bring awareness to inequality


December 6, 2018

Annie Wooden

SENDING A MESSAGE - Students from Thompson Falls High School held a peaceful protest to inequality on Tuesday.

Two Thompson Falls students saw a problem, and decided to do something about it.

Junior Brooke Bowlin and senior Trinity Godfrey addressed the Thompson Falls School Board on Monday about some "serious issues we've been seeing at Thompson Falls High School." The girls detailed to the board inequality and harassment issues they feel is happening at the school. Bowlin said it's happening to boys and girls, and the two students don't feel enough has been done to address the issue.

"The inequality of students who don't feel safe should not be tolerated anymore," Bowlin told the board. She said that she has made reports, but no disciplinary action has been taken. "We want to show how much of an impact these kids are having," Bowlin said, "and it's not OK anymore."

With that, the girls led a walkout Tuesday during sixth period, just after 1 p.m. About 30 students, both male and female, joined them in a walk around the school parking lot. They carried signs that said "enough is enough," "would you talk 2 your mother like that" and "equal rights."

"We're not here to get out of class," Godfrey told the students before leading them out the school. She said she wanted it to be peaceful and polite.

Superintendent Bill Cain told the board Monday that counselors are involved, and said that with the students bringing the awareness, the school will create action from it. "We're going to address this situation, and we're going to be better for it," Cain said.

Tuesday after the walkout, the students sat down in the high school library with Cain to voice their concerns and come up with a plan.

"Our goal is to change the culture of the school, so everyone feels safe and comfortable," Godfrey said Tuesday as she and Bowlin addressed the superintendent with examples of how they have been treated, which Bowlin said "are many reasons students don't feel safe."

Cain said he was to be there to listen to the students, and then to create a plan that allows everyone to come to school and feel safe. He said the first step was raising awareness, which the girls did.

"I'm proud of you for exercising your First Amendment right and for starting the conversation to try and create change," Cain told the students. "That's how you make a difference in the world."

Cain told the students that "nothing matters more than how you treat each other," and that they, along with the staff and administration, need to treat one another with respect. He pledged to the group that students and staff would receive training, and that the district would bring in outside help to assist in making a change.

After listening to the students' concerns, he said, "I'm telling you, along with administrators, that we will make this stop happening." He said that the treatment and the examples the girls detailed required the district to respond appropriately. "You've been heard," Cain said.

School counselor Jodi Morgan mentioned Monday that she has been talking with the group EmpowerMT to bring in some outside support. According to EmpowerMT's website, they help "create a more just and inclusive society by developing youth and adult leaders who work to end mistreatment, correct systemic inequalities and strengthen communities across Montana." Morgan told the board that "the advisory program has great lessons, but a lot of kids aren't taking this seriously."

"What we do now is we take the situation and make ourselves better," Cain told the school board Monday.


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