She just wanted to make things better
It’s not as easy being a teenager as you might remember. You may have not been working or paying rent, but you had to worry about doing well in class so that you could get good enough grades to be able to get into the right college. Hopefully you earned such good grades that you got some scholarships, but if not, you’d have to take out hefty student loans that every adult you know is still working to pay off.
Nowadays, teens have all of those concerns with the added pressures of stagflation, cyberbullying, and an uncertain future. Several shows and documentaries have premiered in the last few years trying hard to get adults to understand that it is harder to be a teenager these days, and something needs to be done to help them out.
One young lady made a poetic plea to explain how hard life is at her high school. She was subsequently punished for her effort to make high school a better place for other students.
Emily Gipson, a 16-year-old sophomore at Lebanon High School in Tennessee, made a video in a classroom where she went on a poetic, emotional rant about what life is really like for the students. The five-and-a-half minute YouTube video entitled “Welcome to Lebanon High School” was made by Emily because she was disturbed by what she saw happening a few months after her schoolmate took her own life.
Emily described seeing an insensitive social media post that read “She should just put a gun to her head like that girl from Lebanon” and explained that depression is a “disgusting disease that haunts your soul.” While Emily went on about how the school’s hallways and classrooms are “blank” and uninspiring, she interspersed her speech with claims that bullying is rampant, unpunished, and celebrated at her school. She said that “gun threats are passed out like candy.”
After the devastating suicide of a student in October 2017, the administrators promoted an app called “Stop It” where bullying can be reported anonymously. However, the app was met with jeers and disinterest which further upset Emily. She wanted to somehow tell her fellow students that this was serious and that people were being hurt.
“My intent [in making the video] was not only to bring students together, it was to also let all of them know we need to do something, and the way we are all treating one another is not OK,” she told The Lebanon Democrat of her actions.
She implored bullies to reconsider their ways and for those suffering from depression to get help. “High school is not the beginning to your end, but only the end to your beginning,” she said to those having suicidal thoughts.
Speaking the Truth
The video was posted on Jan. 22, and it quickly went viral, catching the attention of people across the national, current and former students of the school, and the school’s administrators. The principal and vice principal were particularly upset with the video and called Emily out of class to discuss it.
“They sat me down and had a really long talk with me about it. They sent me back to class, but they pulled me out of class again [later], and that was when they told me about my punishment,” said Emily. She received two days of in-school suspension for the anti-bullying video.
Principal Scott Walters explained to The Lebanon Democrat that she wasn’t punished for what she said in the video but because she made it in a classroom without permission, something that Emily denied. “I can appreciate the perspective of the video. Of course, she’s 16, and her perspective is going to be different from mine,” he said.
Emily is just happy that so many people received her message despite how many people had negative things to say about her opinions. “I only went to this school for a semester, and I had to leave because of the bullying, It’s so wild to be in a place that says they encourage student’s well-being when even the adults that work there encourage or completely dismiss bullying and ignore everyone’s safety and well-being,” commented Angelo Pansy.
Former student Fiona Hayward had a different view even though she had to deal with very serious issues herself. “I was diagnosed with severe depression around my sophomore year, and the faculty were great in helping me out,” she wrote in a comment. “However, they have a job that isn’t constantly mediating our life issues. To think that the LHS facility needs to solve all our issues is just childish and selfish.”
Research has shown that teens are more susceptible to entering a state of “suspended adulthood” where they are so pressured to succeed in a lower-wage economy and glamorize their lives on social media that they become frantic and depressed. “Make no mistake, we’re talking about a generation of young people in crisis. It is not in any of our interests to write off an entire generation,” chief executive of the Young Women’s Trust said Dr. Carole Easton to The Guardian.
Real issues that teens face nowadays were portrayed in the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why about a teen girl who commits suicide and leads the people who had a hand in her demise on a depressing, enlightening journey. Several topics were discussed in the show like voyeurism, victimization, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol use, and suicide.
Writer Nic Sheff explained that he tried to take his own life while he was addicted to crystal meth. While in therapy, he realized that there was no romanticism in suicide.
“I saw the opportunity to explore issues of cyberbullying, sexual assault, depression, and what it means to live in a country where women are devalued to the extent that a man who brags about sexually assaulting them can still be elected president,” he told Vanity Fair.
Emily hopes that her school and her classmates will change for the better after all of the national attention that her school has received. “It has brought so many students together. Girls who have never talked to me have messaged me and said they liked it. I’ve gotten some negative comments on the video, but mostly everything has been positive,” she said.
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