The disrespect problem of Harrisonburg High School


Oziel Valdez

Junior Carlo Mehegan and Harrisonburg High School teacher Seth Shantz demonstrate respect between a student and teacher with a handshake and a smile

Holly Bill, Head Editor in Chief

Harrisonburg High School has a respect issue. Students aren’t respectful to each other. Students aren’t respectful to their teachers. And, in some cases, teachers aren’t respectful to their students. There isn’t a day that goes by in this building where I don’t witness both blatant and passive-aggressive ignorance and unappreciation. I’m not saying I’m a perfect, gracious, always kind person, because I’m not. No one is perfect. Most of the time, though, after I catch myself making a rude comment or gossiping, I immediately feel guilty. I’m aware of what I say and I often find myself mulling over things I’ve said months or even years ago that I still regret to this day. I know how much my words can affect others simply based on how words others have said about myself, my programs, my family and my friends have affected me. Thinking before posting things on social media, gossiping to your friends or even just saying something that could be interpreted as disrespectful by peers and teachers is a very important skill that I have learned over time (and am still learning) and that many people in Harrisonburg High School still have left to learn.

Again, I am not immune to gossiping or making insolent comments. However, at HHS, I believe both toxic gossip and outright rude comments have become so prevalent that both students and teachers are just expected to grow thick skin. We’re expected to ignore comments, to project a facade of indifference. This is true regarding both direct, mean remarks and gossip that has circled back to its target. This apathy has affected all aspects of HHS culture, whether it is school spirit or flouting school structure. Words have meaning and it’s wrong to let them slide like they have been. To combat this, the HHS community needs to practice self-awareness and appreciation while also rejecting toxic words and actions. 

Another more disguised form of disrespect that has a large impact is mockery. When people make fun of extracurricular programs or even class-based activities without understanding the work put into them, it is ignorant. Everyone has different passions and, while they may not be yours, mocking them is disrespectful. It may feel like publicly making fun of an activity isn’t attacking a person in particular, but there are faces behind these programs. There are real people behind that newspaper you deride who spend countless hours writing and covering events on social media platforms not for themselves, but for you. There are real people behind that production you make fun of whose cast is simply passionate and emotional about their performance. There are real people behind that school spirit activity you ridicule as “cringey” when they are simply trying to promote unity in the school. Before you make that seemingly harmless comment about a program, think about the people who are dedicated to it first.

There are many caring people in my life whose little words and actions of kindness I cherish. I cannot express how thankful I am for them. I’m not asking for the same kindness from each and every one of the 1800 students in HHS. I’m just asking them to be respectful.  

I’m not asking for people to be nice. I’m just asking for people not to be mean. Please, just think about the power of your words before you speak.

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