News: Mormon church comes out in support of anti-discriminatory legislation for LGBTQ community

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 6. Friday, March 13, 2015.

Category: News Literacy

Reason for publication: There was confusion about the Mormon church’s stance on the LGBT community after the gave their support for anti-discriminatory legislation. In this story, I attempted to inform readers of the significance of their support and their current stances.


 

 On Jan. 27, Church officials representing The Mormon Church announced their support for anti-discriminatory legislation for members of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community.

  This legislation represents aspects of anti-discrimination such as housing and employment. It also notes that discrimination, specifically involving violence, against the LGBT community is wrong. The Church’s statement comes as a result of trying to balance the rights of those in the LGBT community whilst not sacrificing or taking away the same rights of others.

  However, this does not mean the Mormon Church, officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supports the lifestyles of those in the LGBT community, same-sex marriage or acts of intimacy between two people of the same sex. It simply means they will not discriminate.

  “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that sexual relations – other than between a man and a woman who are married – are contrary to the laws of God,” Sister Neill F. Marriott, a member of the Young Women general presidency, said as a representative of the church, according to the Newsroom for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “God is loving and merciful. His heart reaches out to all his children equally and he expects us to treat one another with love and fairness.”

  The Mormon Church has asserted that the announcement is not a change of stance or change in belief – accepting others has always been a prominent aspect in the Mormon belief. This legislature comes as the result of a news conference held between official Church leaders to find a middle ground between the gap, and even “tension” that has manifested between LGBT activists and religious rights activists.

  Granite Bay High School junior and senior CP English teacher, identifying Mormon and local Bishop’s counselor Jason Sitterud said the Mormon Church has always accepted LGBT people but does not agree with their lifestyles and these beliefs have not changed with the announcement.

  “I think the purpose (of the announcement) was to educate people,” Sitterud said. “I don’t think we’re always educated on what people believe in and so we hear stories and we hear rumors and … sometimes we base our opinion on those rumors without finding out what the reality is. I think the purpose of the announcement was to clarify what the Church’s stance is, and really always has been, with people who have alternative lifestyles.”

  GBHS senior, ASB president and identifying Mormon Kristen Hilburn also said the announcement serves to clear up any misconceptions others may have previously held concerning The Mormon Church or their beliefs.

  “Its significance is mostly for the public,” Hilburn said. “To (announce this) isn’t a new thing for us. It’s not new knowledge or information – it’s just letting the public … understand what we believe. Acceptance has never been something we didn’t practice.”

  Similarly, senior Miriam Flinders said the announcement and its purpose was directed toward the public in order to clarify the beliefs they have, and have always had, to propound that the Church is not “anti-LGBT.”

  While beliefs inside the Mormon community have not changed with this announcement, GBHS senior and member of the Gay-Straight Alliance club Amanda Ramos said she sees this announcement as progress and a step in the right direction towards change and acceptance.

  “I’m glad that this LGBT progress has to do with a religious group,” Ramos said. “Because it can (serve as) a wake-up call for other religious groups – showing what religion should really be about and that religion doesn’t mean denying people of their rights and the way that they love.  I don’t just see it as a step forward in politics, but a step forward in understanding and human compassion.”

  Therefore, Ramos said the announcement  may serve a bigger purpose that encourages acceptance of others – no matter their differentiating lifestyles.

  “I think that in a school community like ours – where many people are very grounded in religion – this news can show  people how possible it is for (those) who are firm believers in their faith (can) also be accepting towards those who are different from them and/or who don’t share the same views,” Ramos said. “Awareness is always very good in improving a community.”

  Finally, the question remains of whether or not this announcement, or the effects of this announcement, will, in any way, touch Granite Bay or GBHS. Both Hilburn and Flinders said they do not think the announcement will bring any noticeable changes – as both said they believe the GBHS student body has a sound knowledge of Mormon belief – however, Sitterud said the announcement’s impact will be its significance.

  “I don’t think it’s going to impact Granite Bay (in a drastic way),” Sitterud said. “But I think it supports the various clubs we have on campus and I think … it supports the ripple effect. I think it’s just another caveat that will help bring awareness that people need to be good to each other – no matter what (their) lifestyle choices (are) or what your economic background is – (because) we’re all the same so let’s just get along. When we get along we can do great things.”

 

 

News: The great gun debate

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 5. Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 (published online here).

Category: News Literacy

Reason for publication: I wanted to publish a story about guns but was not sure how to approach the situation. I decided to compare the city of Granite Bay to other cities, the county to other counties, the state to other states and, briefly, the country to another country to give a broad view of gun culture and the various debates concerning gun control.


 

There might be no topic more controversial or contended in the United States than gun control – to restrict or not to restrict, that is the divide.

America’s gun culture – that is, the beliefs and views about guns held by the American people – shifts standpoints from party to party. The Republican party views guns as untouchable items guarded by the second amendment, and the Democratic party believes that while the right to own is indisputable, guns are not immune to rational restrictions.

Differing views on guns may stem from what one perceives the purpose of gun usage to be. The ideas of guns used as a tool versus a weapon has been disputed.

Both former GBHS student Reed Homen and College Preparatory Biology and Fish and Wildlife teacher Scott Braly expressed the idea of guns being tools, which can be used both appropriately and inappropriately. However, others disagree.

“Guns are weapons,” said junior Maryne Matthews. “They are used to destroy whatever or whoever is being aimed at. Shattering disks, killing animals and murdering people. That’s what people use them for.”

In terms of guns used with a malicious intent, the degree with which gun violence occurs in the U.S. is higher than rates in other developed nations. According to Professor of Sociology Tom Kando, who is an expert in crime statistics and popular culture, firearms are used in approximately three fourths of all criminal homicides and suicides.

Gun culture and gun usage is also influenced by the media, cultural trends and political views.

“America is afflicted by a lethal combination: there is a diffused rage that is spreading like wildfire, and Americans are armed to the teeth with the most sophisticated weaponry imaginable,” Kando said. “This is a very combustible mix. The rage is fueled by those who peddle anger, angst and discontent to the population. The peddlers include political candidates and their media outlets.”

It is also true that while the U.S.’ gun death rate has decreased by 31 percent since 1993 – according to the Pew Research Center – a Harvard study found that the number of mass shootings since 2011 has tripled.

While a portion of U.S. residents favor an increase in gun restrictions – approximately 55 percent according to a Gallup poll – others stand strong beside the right to bear arms, guaranteed by the second amendment.

“This is America – land of the free and home of the second amendment,” GBHS 2014 graduate Chandler Dale said. “There’s not many other places in the world that promise citizens the right to bear arms (without any) infringe(ment) on those rights. So why would we want to forfeit certain liberties that our founding fathers specifically left for future generations to protect themselves, their country and their freedom?”

The second amendment is seen as the Constitutional protector of firearms against the placement of restrictions. However, some argue that the amendment’s relevance in the late 1700’s is irrational for the 21st century.

“I don’t believe that other comparable countries have anything similar to our 2nd amendment,” Kando said. “Surely the founding fathers did not mean to protect individual citizens to possess automatic assault weapons of mass murder, which can spray a room full of people with hundreds of bullets and kill dozens of people within minutes. And what happened to the word ‘militia’ in the 2nd amendment?”

With a slim majority of Americans supporting stronger gun regulations while guns themselves remain protected in the eyes of the Constitution, the gun control debate seems to remain gridlocked. But does this necessarily mean America has a gun problem?

“Do I think America has a gun problem? Definitely not,” Spanish teacher Ben Soper said. “I think we have an irresponsibility problem (which) doesn’t necessarily pertain to guns. I’m way more nervous of getting killed in the parking lot every day than I am about getting shot. I ask people who are really scared of guns ‘when is the last time you were shot at? Or when is the last time you saw someone get shot?’ There’s millions and millions of guns owned in this country, and those millions and millions of guns don’t just kill people.”

The commonly used clichés “guns kill people” versus “people kill people” are heard often in reference to the gun debate – the former placing blame for violent crimes on guns, the latter on the individual.

Because of the number and rate of gun-related deaths and crimes in the U.S. compared to other countries, junior Faith Atkins said, there is a definite gun problem in America.

Returning to Soper’s statement about irrational gun fears, the reference to the dangers of something as commonplace as cars may have more to do with guns than initially thought.

“Same as anything else – cars, airplanes, bicycles, (etc.) – the more guns there are in circulation, the more people will die from guns,” Kando said. “All categories of gun deaths  – murders, suicides and accidents, especially among young children – go up with increased availability of guns.”

As reported in a 2012 Congressional Research Service report, in 2013 the number of guns in the U.S. was expected to exceed the total population – 357 million guns compared to 317 million people.

“The presence of hundreds of millions of firearms among the population, including ever more sophisticated automatic assault weapons, is the only reason why mass murder has become so common and why America differs so much from  other comparable countries in this regard,” Kando said. “It is not the main reason, it is the only reason. Anger, political strife, fighting, tribal feuds, mental illness – none of these things are new. What is unprecedented is the insane volume of sophisticated weaponry in the hands of the populace, and the ease of obtaining it.”

Gun Control debate

Still, the resolution over the growing number of mass murders remains static. However, some, including gun owners, see certain types of gun control such as background checks as necessary, while certain more restrictive forms of gun control are seen as excessive.

Many gun owners, including Chandler Dale and Scott Braly, said they believe background checks are reasonable and aide in the process to spot red flags and filter gun distribution away from those who may possibly mishandle their gun.

“We should have background checks, … gun ownership is a right, it’s not a privilege,” Braly said. “I think it’s reasonable that anytime a gun is sold, from person A to person B, there should be a background check. But they should be quick, there’s no good reason for a ten day background check like we have in California. (Some) say ‘it’s a cooling off period so they can’t buy a gun when they’re mad and then shoot somebody with it.’ But a day or too should be (sufficient).”

Some, like Braly, agree with background checks but not other, more excessive, forms of gun control. Others, like Atkins, are more supportive of gun regulations than background checks.

Others, still, do not support more intensive versions of gun control because they may see those regulations as infringements upon their guaranteed rights and may not believe that restricting guns will reduce crime – future imposed restrictions will not have an effect on criminals who bear firearms.

“The population has been brainwashed into believing that gun control ‘doesn’t work,’” Kando says, “That’s nonsense.  Consider ‘car control:’ today, the number of deaths per-mile-driven is twenty five times lower than it was three generations ago because the nation developed a coherent, mandatory and universally enforced set of regulations. The same could be done with guns, if a majority of Americans didn’t view gun-crime as inevitable.”

However, those who stand against gun control remain strongly opposed. These adversaries include Congressman Tom McClintock, who represents California’s fourth district which includes parts of Placer County.

“The best defense against an armed terrorist is an armed American,” read McClintock’s official statement on gun control, sent electronically by his Press Secretary. “That’s what the second amendment is all about.  It is an absolutely essential pillar of our security.”

Executive Order

This opposition to gun control is not shared by all elected officials, including President Barack Obama, who recently committed to reduce gun violence by using a series of Executive Orders. These Executive Orders plan to prevent gun crime by requiring those who sell firearms – whether in person or online – to have a license to do so and conduct background checks. Also, by funding personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to enforce the new gun laws, by increasing investments in mental health care and by asking specific departments, such as the Department of Justice, to conduct investigations into gun safety technology.

Junior Katie Misik said she believes the President is overstepping his boundaries by implementing excessive policies. Braly also said the Executive Order may be an overuse of power, but that it is a better response than parties in Congress sitting in gridlock, refusing to compromise.

“If congress is not able to do (anything) at all, even really have a rational discussion over things that could be done, then maybe the president does need to do it,” Braly said. “I think (the government) needs to respond. A responsible government tries to make its country safer for its people. And anybody that buys a gun, period, should have a background check.”

California’s gun laws

The President’s Executive Action will affect other states more than it will California – which is known for having stricter gun laws than most other states. Among other restrictions, California bans certain assault weapons, restricts gun shows, requires a ten day waiting period before individuals can receive the gun they bought and requires that gun sellers have a license and issue background checks – a requirement also seen in the Executive Action.

In some cases, in terms of the banning of assault weapons, California’s currently implemented restrictions exceed the level of restrictions in the President’s Executive Order. Because of this, the restrictions may not affect Californians to a great extent.

“It comes back to what we’re used to in California,” Braly said. “California has much more restrictive regulations than anything (President Obama) is proposing. Some of the states are much less regulated, so some of the things that we’re used to in this state, people in other states are not (used to). So it’s a big change for them, potentially.”

In certain states, such as Texas, residents can open carry. Reed Homen, a former GBHS student who recently moved to Texas said that it isn’t surprising or shocking to see people carrying guns, and, unlike Californians, Texans have more of a respect rather than a fear of guns.

Will Lambert, a resident of Australia, said that if one owns firearms in Australia, which are already hard to buy, they must have a gun license, they are required to lock them in a special safe, and even then the police “periodically come and inspect them.”

Localized perspective

Granite Bay itself may have an attitude towards guns different than most cities in California, and even the state of California itself. Placer County is one of the more Republican-dominant counties in all of California, with 45.95 percent of registered Republican residents. Because Republicans are generally more opposed to gun regulations, some speculate that Granite Bay is more open to guns and resistant of restrictions.

“Granite Bay, being a heavily conservative area, seems to have a very positive attitude towards guns and gun culture,” graduate Chandler Dale said. “I have no idea about the amount of actual gun ownership, but when the high school trap team met with many local businesses for sponsorship, the community welcomed the idea of high school kids competing in a sport with guns. Many were surprised to find out a  high school in California lets you get varsity letters in shooting sports.”

The GBHS trap team is advised by assistant coach and faculty advisor Scott Braly and head coach Ron Dale. Braly said that the main benefit received by members of the trap team is to learn about responsibility, as well as learning about properly handling a gun and safety.

Arming teachers

Because guns are more welcomed in the Granite Bay community than they might be in other, more liberal, communities, the idea of arming teachers is still debated, but considered by some. Arming teachers has been a suggested response to school shootings. In reference to Congressman McClintock’s aforementioned statement, supporters of the idea believe that trained armed teachers could adequately protect students in case of danger.

“I have plenty of experience to be armed safely, and responsibly, but I go back and forth about whether it is something I would want to do, personally,” Braly said. “We can’t afford to have more law enforcement, (although) that would reduce the chance of (shootings) happening. So one option is to arm teachers. It’s not like we have a faculty meeting and say ‘OK here’s a gun for everybody.’ It would be very closely controlled, the people that would (carry) would be vetted, and then the guns would certainly be secure at the school. There would be a lockbox and a safe where it (would) only be opened by that person. If we explored that possibility someday, I would certainly be open to considering it. Because the goal is to keep people safe. That’s one of our primary goals and that might be a way to do that.”

However, not everyone agrees that an increase in arms would increase safety – again, increased arms has been seen to cause increased accidents. But the call for arms is not unusual.

“After every new mass murder, Americans go in two opposite directions: many run to gun stores and buy additional firearms, while some support stronger gun control,” Kando said. “We increasingly hear calls to permit college students to come to class armed with both concealed as well as visible firearms. I taught at (a) university for over 40 years. I can’t imagine how I would have felt, knowing that I was facing dozens or hundreds of armed individuals in my classrooms, but ‘feeling safer’ would certainly not have been it.”

Ultimate solutions

In a time of increased mass murders and fear, what is the ultimate solution to what many perceive as a gun problem?

Take, for example, Australia, which has had huge success in lowering gun crime after they responded with a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons and a buyback of automatic shotguns and rifles to the Port Arthur Massacre which killed 35 – almost the equivalent of the Virginia Tech shooting, in which 32 were killed. Lambert, the Australian resident, said that the country’s gun crime is relatively nonexistent.

Some think a step as drastic as a complete ban on guns is plausible.

“Although many view it as drastic, the complete banning of guns is the most obvious and avoided answer,” junior Maryne Matthews said. “How many children, teens (and) people have to die before we realize how dangerous guns are? In Australia, it only took one horrible tragedy for them to realize this. It’s not even a shock anymore when news of yet another shooting comes on the news. Stories of children killing or maiming themselves or other children rarely even make the news. Without access to guns, (this) type of crime will without a doubt drop dramatically.”

Ultimately, if this rate of mass murder continues or increases, a regulatory response is expected. Even without regulating legislation, there is hope for the future.

“The good news is that (gun) violence has already declined tremendously over the past three decades,” Kando said. “Regardless of what happens on the ‘gun front,’ the American people are becoming more mature: both literally, the population is aging, and psychologically, we are becoming more ‘civilized.’ So crime declines. Many, including President Obama, have noted that ‘we may never be able to eradicate gun violence fully, but we can certainly reduce it a great deal, and save thousands of lives each year.’ This is absolutely true and it is the bottom line.”

“There will be some progress on the legislative front, but progress will happen regardless of what the federal government does. In time, I see less panic (and) less frantic gun buying, especially … of automatic weapons of mass murder.”

News: Technology’s influence on communication

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 2. Friday, Oct. 23, 2015.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: I wanted to examine technology’s effect on modern communication and did so by interviewing an expert whom I found through a New York Times article. 


 

   Because of the desire to increase efficiency and productivity, modern-day societies have become dependent upon technology and, in doing so, may have sacrificed basic human connections.

 Renowned psychology professors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis have coined today’s youth the “app generation” – a name representing the generation’s apparent obsession with digital media. Granite Bay High School’s newest assistant principal, Jessup McGregor, said he sees the current high school-age generation as an “apt generation” – speaking on observed tendencies to grab information quickly, but having difficulty pausing, and retaining information without utilizing the ease of technology.

  According to research published by the Pew Research Center, 89 percent of cellphone users report using their phones during a recent social interaction. Cellphones “are always present and rarely turned off,” according to the Center, which claims that mobile technology is directly responsible for new social and communicational difficulties.

  “I walked up to a group of kids (at GBHS) … and there were three girls sitting there and they were (all) on their phones,” McGregor said. “Totally zoned into their phones. It’s almost sad to see that in the time they’re spending together, they’re really not together at all. They’re each doing their own thing … It makes me sad to think about how much less human connection people have.”

  Senior Ethan Guttman said it annoys him when people can’t make it through social events such as concerts without taking a video and posting it on their Snapchat story. If you pay to go to a concert, you should enjoy it without using your phone, Guttman said.

  These instances of phone reliance during social events bring to light a conversation about the American population, specifically younger generations, and the influence technology has had on their abilities to communicate with each other.

  Phones and mobile devices can be seen as something of a double-edged sword. Technology may be making online communication easier, but making face-to-face socializing more difficult.

 “You (can be) texting somebody and you see them in person and you don’t say anything – that happens a lot to me,” junior Katie Carson said. “Sometimes it’s easier to talk over text becaue you can think about it and word it right. In real life, you’re just in the moment, and (have to deal with) whatever comes out of your mouth.”

  Mobile devices enable students to decide their level of interaction with the outside world. There is a certain comfort in the usage of a phone when alone, like listening to music while walking to class.

  “Think about people who walk around with their earbuds in – it’s like they don’t want to be alone, but they don’t want to engage,” intervention counselor Melanie Anvari said. “You put that on because you want to close off. Same with being on their phone (when alone) – they don’t want to be alone, but they don’t want to necessarily talk to other people.”

  However, senior Cameron Erickson said he listens to music when he walks to class on occasion because there’s too much music and too little time in the day to get through it all. On a few of these occasions, he’s had incidents where he accidentally ignores someone or doesn’t notice a hello because he’s “virtually deaf.” Still, he said Anvari’s statement regarding those who listen to music on the way to class is too far-reaching.

  More than the number of those who listen to music on the way to class, is the number of those who use their phones when alone before or after class, before or after school or during lunch or passing period on campus.

  “There are folks who will get involved in their phones, even just scrolling through Facebook, just so that they have something to do so they don’t appear to be not talking to somebody,” McGregor said. “That’s detrimental to a person’s emotional health. It’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to not be talking to somebody.”

 Furthermore, the presence of phones in classrooms is disputed and debated, and a teacher’s willingness to allow usage differs from class to class. Whether a teacher allows for it or not may still not necessarily prevent students from using them in class – much to the chagrin of many teachers.

  “What I care about is when the students are so used to just grabbing (their phone) and using it at any time, that they don’t even realize it’s an inappropriate time,” said Advanced Placement Government teacher Jarrod Westberg, who has had problems with students in his class using phones at inappropriate times. “This last two (or) three years, that’s what I’ve seen and that scares me … If you’re at home, and you’re eating dinner and everyone’s on their phones – that’s what you think is normal. But socially that is not the norm.”

  Mass production and prevalence of technology has certainly influenced how and when it is being used. However, the instantaneous speed may also have an affect on the patience of its users.

  “We all lose focus very easily, naturally,” Anvari said. “(But) the phone has made us really impatient. I’ve noticed that people expect things to happen as quickly as it does on their phone.”

   A new phenomenon describes the instance of using one’s phone to snub someone else – appropriately dubbed “phubbing.” Researchers at Baylor University have found that increased levels of unhappiness occur as an effect of phubbing.

  Carson said she can think of multiple circumstances, such as hanging out with friends or meeting someone, where the person chooses to check their phone, distressing her. The action appears as one choosing a phone over a verbal conversation, Carson said.

  Technology could be the culprit of an even bigger emotional revolution, which has caused a 40 percent decrease in empathy amongst college students.

  Psychologist Sara Konrath collaborated with a University of Michigan research team to combine the findings of over 70 studies from 1979 to 2009 to conclude the shocking decrease in empathy. In an interview which took place via email, Konrath proposed technology’s plausible influence.

  “I think that there are logical reasons why it is possible that new technology can make it harder to read emotional cues,” Konrath said. “Emotional cues cannot be easily and accurately transmitted by text.”

 Any loss of empathy is significant, as the ability to empathize is a basic trait of social creatures. Additionally, technology may be influencing other personality characteristics.

  “When people have difficulty empathizing, this affects all aspects of our relationships,” Konrath said. “Not only would this affect our closest relationships with our families and romantic partners, but it would also affect how we treat strangers and people who are different from us. Being socially connected is critical for humans’ well-being and health, so if people become more disconnected this could affect their own mental and physical health.”

  Speculation about whether or not the emoji (a digital emoticon) is an adequate replacement has been met with differing opinions.

  Online communication doesn’t involve emotion, so emojis aren’t replacing anything, according to Guttman. He pointed out that advancements in technology make face-to-face exchanges possible from anywhere in the world, thanks to programs like Skype and FaceTime.

  Carson said a possible reason for the popularity of emojis originates from the detached nature of texting, which can often make it difficult for the receiver to detect tone. Emojis may add emotion into the text.  However, she also said there are unwritten rules which define the situations where emojis are appropriate.

  “When someone puts a period at the end of their text, I think they’re mad at me,” Carson said. “(Which is why) I use smiley faces – I think that helps (with the tone of the text). If I was sad, I wouldn’t want a sad emoji face, because I would feel like you didn’t actually care.”

  If emojis can be seen as substitutes for emotions, is it feasible to conclude that technology fosters superficial relationships – or relationships that would not be so, if not for the help of social media? Some agree.

     “(Through your phone), you increase your chances to meet people on a superficial level,” McGregor said. “If you’re a Facebook friend, we all know that can mean nothing or it can mean something, but I think it certainly decrease your chance to make a deep friendship with somebody.”

  Guttman and Carson both agree that technology promotes artificial relationships. Anvari also agreed, saying she thinks social media “creates this false sense of social networks.”

  Technology has affected the way human beings communicate. If allowed, it can influence our emotional connections and relationships with each other, but the answer to ensuring one stays in control of one’s own emotions could be finding a balance.

  “I’m hoping that when students use the technology, they see what to use for work and what to use for socializing,” Anvari said. “The biggest thing that students struggle with is balance. It’s (drawing the line between) how to use technology with your friends, and how to use technology to help you succeed in life.”

News: Effects of sitting are equal to effects of smoking

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 7. Friday, April 17, 2015.

Category: News Literacy

Reason for publication: Because of the exorbitant amount of sitting students do everyday, I thought it was extremely important that the GBHS student population – and Granite Bay locals – know the effects of sitting on a person’s health. 


 

   ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ is the new health-fueled, anti-sedentary behaviors slogan that has linked sitting, among other common sedentary conduct, as a major catalyst that heightens health risks such as cancers, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and increased risk of death.

  The American College of Cardiology has found that sitting can be just as detrimental as smoking to one’s health because sitting for prolonged hours of the day increases a person’s risk for such diseases previously mentioned.

  Additionally, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found sitting for long periods of time increases risk for colon, endometrial and possibly lung cancer, and a 2008 Vanderbilt study concluded Americans spend an average of 55 percent (or 7.7 hours) of their conscience day sitting, or in other sedentary positions.

 A typical Granite Bay High School student spends roughly six hours a day in class sitting – not including time spent working on homework or relaxing after school.

  Both GBHS junior athletes Brandon Miyashiro and Macayla Thomas said they have not been taught at school about the negative consequences of sitting for prolonged hours – the latter having prior knowledge on ergonomically corrected chairs and desks.

  “High school students do spend a lot of time sitting,” Dr. Arshia Islam a rheumatologist with UC Davis said. “However, whether they are at increased risk of … (having or suffering from) obesity, diabetes, or neck and shoulder pain depends on what they are doing to counteract the risks associated with prolonged sitting.”

  Dr. Islam also said the factors contributing to the health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle include a decreased metabolism – resulting in a decrease of calories burned – potentially leading to obesity and diabetes, as well as  poor posture which can lead to musculoskeletal problems.

  Because high school students sit for prolonged hours of the day, one discussed method to counteract the effects of sitting is standing desks, but many students do not think they are a plausible solution on the GBHS campus. Another discussed solution are hourly five minute walking breaks – partially instated already as students walk to class every 90 minutes during their ten minute passing periods.

  “There is probably an increased risk (at GBHS from) the extended block period schedule that makes our time sitting in one class longer than students of other schools,” junior and GBHS varsity swimmer Macayla Thomas said. “There could be a stretching opportunity or … short breaks provided by the teacher as a chance for students to move – kind of like how Mr. Lawrence ha(s) his student “touch a tree” … to walk outside and take a quick break.”

  Damien Lawrence, the aforementioned International Baccalaureate Biology and college preparation Chemistry teacher, gives students in his classes ‘touching a tree’ breaks every twenty minutes in order to give students a release from their focus. One study from Indiana University found five minute walking breaks may reverse sitting-related consequences, however this may not be a practical solution.

  “Fifteen minutes is about the maximum anyone can truly focus on something,” Lawrence said. “That is why I try and have a leg stretch session at least every twenty minutes. (However), if I gave breaks every 20 minutes to maintain attention span, that would be approximately four breaks.  If each was five minutes long, I would lose 20 minutes of instruction every day.  That is almost like losing one day of instruction each week.”

  Furthermore, according to Dr. Islam similar studies akin to the one published by Indiana University have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals but none showed significant changes to the effects of sitting with the placement of physical activity breaks. Nonetheless, Islam said walking breaks are reasonable and may be beneficial.

  Another huge factor in determining and counteracting the significance of the negative effects sedentary positions have on one’s health is the posture with which one engages in.

  “Don’t sit with your legs crossed,” GBHS Health and Safety teacher Kathie Sinor said. “Because that throws off your spine. Don’t sag (or slouch) because that’s not good for your core muscles. Just think of proper body mechanics while you are sitting and … (it has been) found that even sitting properly and sitting up straight will get more oxygen to your brain.”

  A different discussed solution previously mentioned to eliminating the risks brought on by sitting is to install standing desks – many of which have already been provided as an alternative to sitting for workers by companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Google. Nevertheless, many students doubt the solution’s practicality.

“All lab setting are supposed to be seat free,” Lawrence said. “Students are safer and less likely to knock over glassware if they are standing.  However, most students will sit when given the chance even if they know it could be detrimental to their grade.”

  Additionally, Miyashiro said he believes a standing desk is not conceivable on the GBHS campus because students would most likely feel uncomfortable after a while standing.

  To avert or hinder the significance of the effects sitting may have on one’s health, it is crucial high school students be conscious to the damage sitting can do, as well as to take part in physical activities and be mindful of one’s everyday posture.

  “In order to prevent or decrease the risks of health problems due to their long hours of sitting, high school students should ensure they are otherwise physically active on a regular basis,” Dr. Islam said. “Sports, swimming, jogging/walking, yoga etc., try(ing) to maintain a healthy diet which is nutritious, limit(ing) the intake of empty calories and pay(ing) attention to their posture while sitting. They should be trained on the ergonomics of their body and learn how to sit in such a manner as to avoid straining their spine/joints/muscles.”

  Moreover, with the current knowledge medical researchers have discovered on the severity a prolonged sedentary lifestyle may have, students should utilize this knowledge to the best of their ability in order to benefit both themselves and others.

  “As discussed above, prolonged sitting has significant health risks,” Dr, Islam said. “Our high schools should certainly take the lead in ensuring our future generations understand the importance of regular physical activity and steer away from a sedentary lifestyle.

  “Cutting back on the hours of sitting at school may be a reasonable place to start, but this is only one small piece of the puzzle and we need to remember that although prolonged sitting is associated with health problems, most of these can be overcome with maintaining a regular exercise regimen, eating healthy and paying attention to proper posture while sitting.”

News: Racial awareness on GBHS campus

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 4. Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015.

Category: News Literacy

Reason for publication: With the rapid increase of incidents on college campuses involving racial intolerance, I wanted to explore the status of tolerance on the GBHS campus. I did so by addressing the status of the incidents on college campuses and incidents and awareness on my own high school’s campus. My hopes for this article were to tell the stories of racial minorities who have dealt with race-related incidents and whose experiences may not be recognized by racial majorities. 


 

 Colleges across the nation have felt the backlash of a growing movement of people – young people in particular –  who will no longer stand for racial intolerance.

  At schools such as Yale (where racially insensitive events involved fraternities), the University of Missouri (where students protested multiple racial incidents and one student engaged in a week-long hunger strike) and Claremont McKenna College (where racial tensions came to a head after questionable Halloween costumes were worn by students at the college and the staff’s response was unsatisfactory), students were demanding action on events they believed were not properly addressed.

  At Claremont McKenna, racially insensitive Halloween costumes were worn just a day after students at the college sent a message of solidarity to Yale and the University of Missouri with an organized protest in response to those schools’ own bouts with racially fueled controversy.

  “It all started when a couple of girls dressed up in stereotypical Mexican attire for Halloween (and were photographed with) our junior class president – who was not dressed like they were,” Granite Bay High graduate Sydney Talmi, who attends Claremont McKenna, said in an electronic interview. “This created uproar, because prior to Halloween there were a bunch of posters and emails stating ‘Our culture is not your costume’ and (expressing) that it (is) wrong to wear (essentially) what the girls wore.

  “This picture then circled Facebook and was pretty much the tipping point for many students of color. Now that they had the administration’s attention, they were able to declare the other wrongs done to them and work toward a solution. During the week or so of protests, tensions were high for everybody.”

  Following the protests prompted by the picture, dean of students Mary Spellman and Claremont McKenna’s junior class president resigned.

  GBHS senior Brandon Miyashiro, who is applying to Claremont McKenna, said he knows nothing of the events which have recently taken place and that these events would not affect his decision to attend if he’s accepted. However, Miyashiro said he does think student relations are an essential aspect of college life and necessary “when building a strong college community.”

  Sabrina McCord, a GBHS senior, said the events which have occurred on the campus at the University of Missouri, or “Mizzou,” might affect her decision to attend the college if she’s accepted. At Missouri, racial tensions came to a head when threats to shoot black students were made on the social media app, Yik Yak. After the university’s football team backed the protest and threatened not to play, both the president and chancellor of the university announced their resignations.

  “I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff in the news about (the events), and it’s a little worrisome to me,” McCord said. “I want to be on a college campus that values equality, and I don’t want to be in a place where people are (intolerant, so) it might affect my decision.”

  The racial tensions at colleges across the country have served, to some extent, as a period of reflection for GBHS. Rahul Bavirisetty, a sophomore at GBHS, said he does not believe racial tensions exist on the school’s campus. However, many students do believe racial awareness is hugely absent and thus racial intolerance and ignorance is – perhaps unknowingly – abundant.

  Senior Alex Gavia, who is of Hispanic descent, said that while instances of intolerance exist, it is never to a severe or extreme level, and it hasn’t involved things being pointedly said to him having to do with his race. Racial intolerance exists at GBHS, he said, because students often do not understand the weight or meaning of what they’re saying.

  “It’s not desired to be intolerant here, (but) because there’s no one playing in your backyard who you have to be tolerant with, there’s no recognition of that,” assistant principal Sybil Healy said. “You could say, ‘I’m not racist, I’m not prejudiced,’ and there’s not many people who are racist, but there are people who are prejudiced. Every single one (of us is), because those are our beliefs, values, how we’re brought up and our culture. But that could lead to racism.”

  Kasey Yean, a sophomore who is of mixed-race African American and Asian heritage, said she has never experienced racial tensions at school, but she remembers being racially insulted at a young age.

  “When I was around 9 years old, I went outside to play with another group of kids who I’m sure were my neighbors,” Yean said. “I’ve never talked to them before, but when I approached, one of the kids said, ‘We don’t play with black people,’ and then I walked home.

  “That’s the only time I remember where I was racially insulted to my face. But … even today I hear endless black-people jokes, but I hear jokes every day about all races. I know people don’t do it to be mean, and it’s rare when people take it too far, but it doesn’t even have to be (an offensive) joke (to be) offensive.

  “Sometimes people say to me, ‘You don’t act black’ or, because I am also of Asian descent, ‘You don’t look THAT black,’ as if they are giving me a compliment. It’s not a compliment. It is rude and it’s insulting to my African American family, friends, my race and me. You don’t act black means ‘you act proper, like a white person, and ‘you don’t look THAT black is another way of saying, ‘Hey, you’re actually kind of good looking for a black person!’ Some may not see it that way, but that’s how I see it.”

  This lack of racial awareness – especially when it comes to those things said in one way that can be taken as meaning something else – might be a contributing factor to the perceived lack of diversity at GBHS.

  Senior Sam Northam said that, because GBHS isn’t a diverse school, students don’t experience the same problems that other more-diverse schools have. Additionally, students at GBHS are at least naive – if not ignorant – because students believe that what they see is what every other school experiences, Northam said.

 According to Healy, schools in the Roseville Joint Union High School District, which includes Granite Bay High,  rarely pay attention to cultural or world events. Yean said one way to promote diversity with a non-diverse population is for a school to address Black History Month and educate students on African American history, even if it’s brief. Disregarding these kinds of historical and cultural events might foster increased ignorance, Healy said.

  “Our district (was) disappointing when Nelson Mandela died, nothing was said about that,” Healy said. “A few years ago when Coretta Scott King died, (nothing was done). Our district doesn’t acknowledge those types of things, but (they were) huge icons in terms of civil rights.

  “Those things are important to me, and if you go to other districts, they recognize that (and) acknowledge that. With … issues like Black Lives Matter, you don’t hear anyone talk about that here – it’s like it doesn’t exist. We had a recent breaking news story (about the) shooting of another African American male …  and again a police officer (was involved), and we’re not paying attention (to) this whole tragedy. (There are) comments about Syrian refugees, well how many Syrians do we have here? Do we pay attention? I would say not so much.”

  Racial awareness, or the lack of it, is perhaps at the root of the problems for many colleges experiencing the kind of racial tension that has wracked Claremont McKenna, Missouri and Yale. Experts say the ability to understand the points of views of others, specifically views from racial or ethnic minorities, is what it means to be racially aware.

  According to the California Department of Education, ethnic minorities made up approximately 33 percent of the GBHS population in 2014-15. About 66 percent of the GBHS population was caucasian. The disparity in diversity is much greater when it comes to the GBHS staff – 83 percent of certificated staff (teachers and administrators) were caucasian in 2014-15, 85 out of 102.

  There are no 2014-15 certificated staff members who are American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander or Filipino. When assistant principal Sybil Healy leaves GBHS for Adelante High after the end of the fall semester, there will be no certificated African American staff members on campus. This means beginning in January, roughly 4.5 percent of minority students on campus will not be able to find a single certificated staff member on campus who shares their minority designation.

   “One of the issues we have in this district … is (that) our staff has never reflected our student population,” Healy said. “I came here in ’96 and (recognized that) it wasn’t diverse. I was the first black teacher in the district. A couple others joined later, but it was still not reflective of the student population. When I became an administrator over 10 years ago, I was one of three black administrators in all of Placer County.”

  According to Healy, conversations between students or parents and school staff are much different when the staff member shares the ethnicity of the family.

  “Although I’m not their (assigned) AP, parents or students will want to talk to me,” Healy said. “When I talk to them, we talk a little bit differently about how to play school and make things work for (their) child, because it’s different.

  “We do discuss that, because that’s how the world is. The world is racist, it’s hateful and of course there’s great things, but we all have to navigate it differently based on our background, our culture, our ethnicity (and) our race  because that’s what society is a mixture of, fair or not fair that’s what happens.

  “Even when I was (working) at Oakmont (High), students would come to me and ask me, ‘Can I talk to you?’ whether or not I was their AP because they had to share things they could not share with their AP.  I speak Spanish, so the Spanish parents would come and talk to me. It’s (comforting if) you have a voice and someone understands your story.”

 When reflecting on encounters with students who have talked with her instead of their designated assistant principal, Healy shared a particularly memorable experience.

  “I had one student, a male junior (at Oakmont, who was) very, very sad come to me and (say), ‘Mrs. Healy I can’t do this anymore’ and I said, ‘Do what?’ and he said, ‘I can’t be black anymore, I can’t be a black male – it’s too hard,’” Healy said. “That was in 2009. That’s awful. We had a long conversation, but would he tell someone else? No. That’s why you need to have different staff, so the students will think (someone) understands their story and where they’re coming from.”   

  Yean said that while she will miss Healy, she doesn’t think much can be done about providing students with a more diverse staff. Yean said she does think the staff can work to ensure that students feel comfortable around those who work here and to reach out to students to see if and where discrimination exists.

  Northam and McCord, both seniors, said the hiring process for new staff members should be colorblind. Or, in other words, the hirees should not account for the applicant’s race or ethnicity in any way, and the person who is most qualified should be the one who receives the position.

  Healy said that, while colorblind hiring might be a good idea, it would be nearly impossible to put into effect because people make judgements automatically based on outward appearance. Furthermore, Healy said her friends who work in education have told her they are not interested in working in the district because, they say, it “is not an inviting place at all for minorities,” and it would help if the district made it clear it’s a welcoming place for employees of all ethnicities.

  There are other issues that sometimes are overlooked when it comes to the community’s lack of racial awareness.

  A few years back, a local Native American tribe took offense with GBHS students wearing traditional cultural headdresses, warpaint and using the name “the Tribe” for the student cheering section at school sporting events.

  According to Healy, this was one of many examples of a lack of racial unawareness at GBHS – in the case of the Tribe, the purpose of using another culture at school was unclear and the usage was inappropriate.

  “I agree with (Healy), we are culturally unaware and we don’t really see our student section being called ‘the Tribe’ as having any relation to (anything) cultural,” said senior Tribe leader Charlie Tooley. “We like the name because (the) name ‘the Tribe’ in general has a feeling behind it of being a family, (a) team and having unity.”

  One act of unintended racial division and separation involves a traditional school event – dances. The music played at dances is usually not a conflict of interest, but for some students, the music played can feel exclusionary.

   “What people might not know is that a few black students (at GBHS), when they go to dances, (will) stand aside and what they’ll say to me … when I walk by (and ask them is), ‘We’re waiting for them to play our music,’” Healy said. “They say that all the time, and people don’t realize that. Latino students will say the same thing.  Those are things we don’t think about, and it’s not being racist, but it’s not being aware, so it’s ignorance. You’re not meeting the desires and/or needs of everyone. Not just academically, but socially and emotionally, it’s not happening.”

  One unique program at GBHS is the speech and debate team, where ethnic minorities account for the majority of members. According to senior Ryan Joy, who is among four caucasian students out of 40 members, the students separate themselves by race.

  “I see that all of these kids, (who are mostly) people of Indian and Asian origin, separate into their own subgroups,” Joy said. “All of them would fit great into other social groups, but they don’t reach out. Everyone … sticks to their own ethnic group. It’s not that they can’t reach out or they don’t have the ability to, because they are the funniest and most fun-loving group of kids ever. They would fit into hundreds of other social groups in this school, but at the same time, you can see that social groups (at GBHS) are kind of dictated by race.

  “I have never seen one white student reach out to a speech and debate kid. When I’m walking down the halls (with one of them), I don’t see any of my friends or people who are white say, ‘Oh hey, what’s up, man.’ They just keep to their own. It’s not because they don’t accept them, but they don’t necessarily think of them as a friend or (give them) as much consideration.”

  Bavirisetty, the sophomore who is of Indian descent and is a member of the speech and debate team, said students segregate themselves because of family connections. Students aren’t as close outside of school, but they form tight-knit groups in class, he said.

  Joy, however, compared his observation of the groups inside the program to the larger state of cultural segregation which exists in the community.

  “(Some) of these kids are first-generation Americans, so you can see them trying to assimilate, but at the same time, you can see that … they like to stick to their own,” Joy said. “We grew up in white communities, and we don’t see our community as an Indian community even though … we are an Indian and Asian and Filipino community. But we don’t see that, because our family doesn’t intermix with (them). I never noticed, until I joined the speech and debate team, how many different cultures are in Granite Bay.”

  The idea of the “Granite Bay Bubble” has been mentioned by many students as a factor that contributes to the community’s general state of cultural unawareness. Outside of the community, issues involving heightened racial tensions certainly exist, as exhibited by colleges around the nation combating the effects of such, but this does not necessarily mean that race relations are perfect here, inside the bubble.

  The result of not paying attention – the result of a lack of racial awareness – is significant, Healy said.

  “We’re an (International Baccalaureate) school, so we should truly be an IB school,” Healy said. “There is nothing really international about us, except for the student body that comes here. If you came on campus … you’d have no idea that we’re an IB (school). … You want to be very careful, pay attention. Know who your clientele is and how you’re perceived outside our nice, comfortable bubble.”