In The Bulletin’s previous issue, the following article ran: Academic Integrity: A Struggle Between Morals and Mental Health. In response to reading the article, Board of Education Trustee Paul Wasserman thought it was important to bring attention to the article and its topic. The Board, when discussing the item during a February 8th public work session, seemed a bit unclear as to how to discuss or approach the issue at hand.
When Wasserman brought the article to the table it was unclear what his purpose truly was: to discuss cheating or to truly highlight the concern about the mental toll the rigorous school system has been taking upon the mental health of students. Following the board meeting, it seemed to be a mix of both.
At the meeting, Superintendent Dr. James Kaishian expressed that the mental health of students is a serious factor, which deserves constant attention while Wasserman focused on the very prominent cheating habits present within the student demographic. Dr. Kaishian and Board of Education Vice President Jan Fisher were most concerned with what makes kids cheat rather than the act of cheating itself.
It’s safe to say a majority of students at one time or another complain that the compiled workload given by teachers is unhealthy and the teachers do not care about their students lives. However, there are certain administrators who do care about the mental health of students and wish to improve it signi cantly, it is just a matter of how to approach the topic.
The intent of the previous article was to initiate a dialogue among the student population, teachers, administrators and the Board about how to get to the root of problems such as cheating, which often are a byproduct of mental health issues (i.e. stress, anxiety, etc.). In today’s college admissions system, students in an affluent school district are expected to or do feel the pressure to take advantage of every advanced class or after school activity that is available. This mindset places immense stress on students, and the focus upon the individual’s mental health needs are often compromised in order to achieve Ivy-League dreams (often possessed by the parents of said students).
Board Trustee Mike Haberman said some students need that extra push in order to achieve their goals, alluding to his opinion that there will always be people who cheat, and that the problem is not necessarily that they put too much on themselves. His concern is viable, and there will probably always be people who cheat. However, there is a large pool of people who cheat not because they aren’t driven, but because, as overextended students, it is their last resort. Furthermore, things are not the same as they once were. The intensity of the school systems and the modern college process has put a newfound strain upon already burdened students. Stress and mental health was stigmatized only until recently, and only now is the issue dealt with and accepted in society. The ways of the past, with ignorance in regards to mental health, and an overall lack of effort to do something about this issue, should be left in the past. Initiative must be taken, and if the mental health of the overall student population is given attention, people of different work ethics may all be more motivated to pursue their education in a stress-reduced environment.
I view the Board meeting as a success because it brought mental health issues onto the radar of the board members. The concerns were heard, and the dialogue is just beginning. It is a great element within our school to have an open dynamic between students, teachers and decision-makers. Briarcliff High School greatly cares about its students mentally, emotionally, and academically, and we have many to thank for that.