LCHS 7/8 Principal, Students Engage in Honest Dialogue

Photo by Mirjam Swanson / OUTLOOK
Principal Jarrett Gold told LCHS 7/8 students, “This is you guys being part of the conversation and having a voice,” and they responded by sharing thoughts on a range of topics, including vaping, bullying and school safety.

Principal Jarrett Gold went on a listening tour in 7th-grade English classes and 8th-grade history classes over the past few days, inviting a dialogue with all 700-plus students enrolled at La Cañada High School 7/8.
“This is not a talking to,” Gold told students in Valerie Gochez-Frasch’s English class on the morning of Thursday, March 1. “This is you guys being part of the conversation and having a voice.
“Nothing is more important than what you guys are thinking,” he continued. “I have a perception of what the school is, but your guys’ perception is much more important than what mine is.”
His presence sparked conversation about a range of topics, including recent drug-related incidents on the LCHS campus and the mass shooting on Valentine’s Day that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
In Sam Picture’s history class, Gold asked students how they felt when they heard what happened in Parkland, Florida, and he received a sobering response.
A couple of kids mentioned that they were “not surprised,” and another said he found “the fact that only 11 [as of March 1] schools have been ‘shot up’ so far, honestly, a little bit incredible. I feel like it would be a lot more.”
Students suggested steering funds away from dances and assemblies and toward security measures, and others wondered whether the campus should be closed — while also noting they appreciate the freedom they have at the school.
When Gold asked whether they’d heard about the walkout planned March 14 to honor the Florida victims, students responded affirmatively.
“So put yourself in my position,” Gold asked. “You’re a principal and March 14 comes. I have to have a plan — what’s the plan?”
“Let them walk out,” one 8th-grader responded.
Some suggested that it will create frustration among students if administrators and teachers barred them to take part in the 17-minute walkout that’s being promoted nationwide. Others suggested that discouraging the walkout would diminish Gold’s message about student voices mattering most.
District-wide, LCUSD administrators have made it clear they “cannot sponsor, direct or advise” a walkout, as LCHS Principal Ian McFeat wrote in an email to families.
Still, Gold wanted his middle schoolers to feel empowered to at least speak out — and to appreciate the responsibility that comes with that.
“Whatever I decide my stand will be,” he said, “I support your guys’ voice and I support what you guys say. But understand that if you’re walking out and you’re taking a stance, make sure you know what you stand for.
“Not everyone agrees with you. So whether you believe in gun control or you don’t believe in gun control, understand, if you stand for something, you can defend it, but other people have views, too.”
In an effort to quell rumors, Gold also shared basic facts about recent on-campus occurrences, which included three drug-related incidents that sent students to the hospital and two arrests. He then asked students if they would share their thoughts about the presence of drugs and vaping on campus.
The middle-school students indicated they feel it is a bigger issue among the high-schoolers, but some acknowledged vaping happens in school bathrooms.
One girl said a friend recently was asked to vape, an invitation she declined before questioning the boy about why he did it.
“He said it’s to look cool,” she said.
There can be a lot of power in peer pressure, positively or otherwise, Gold said.
“Don’t stand on the sideline,” he said. “If you see people being mean, there’s strength in numbers, there’s strength in your voice. Say, ‘Why are you doing that?’ … We need your assistance. My door is open to you guys if you want to talk confidentially or tell me if something’s going on.”
It’s not always that easy, one 8th-grader said: “People are scared to snitch. They’re scared that if you tell someone something that you’re going to get beat up or your social life is going to completely change.”
Gold waited until late in all of his conversations to broach the topic of “snitching,” and then to break the news about the online “tip line” the district’s developing.
“It’s an anonymous/confidential tip line where you can report things,” said Gold, before explaining the difference and advocating that students provide information confidentially.
With three of four days of class visits mostly under his belt, Gold said Tuesday that one of the messages that has stuck with him most is students’ frustration about not knowing what results from the information they’ve shared with school officials.
“When they tell us something, they want us to follow up, and we can’t always do that for student confidentiality reasons,” Gold said. “Having a forum to address that with students helped.”
Gold was able to offer insight into what happens when a student is caught, say, with drugs on campus, describing the restorative justice program that would allow a student to forego three days of suspension by attending counseling classes with family.
“Most importantly, it was about student voice and being able to speak up and speak out about things that are going on,” he said.

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