Student Letters to the Editor -- 6/14/18

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tweak the seatbelt law to help save more lives

Right now, drivers in Montana are only required to wear seatbelts as a secondary offense. This means that drivers cannot be pulled over for the sole reason that they are not wearing their seat belt. This type of legislation is essentially toothless, in that the law establishes a rule (requiring seat belt use) but, if the rule is broken, there is no penalty. A Harvard study found that states with secondary seat belt enforcement on average see an 11 percent increase in seat belt usage rates, whereas states with primary seat belt enforcement see a 22 percent increase in seat belt use.

The reason that seat belt usage rates are important is that they correlate to a decrease in motor vehicle fatalities. Seat belts are the greatest life-saving device inside a car. In the event of a collision, an unbelted occupant has a 30 times greater chance of being ejected than a belted occupant, and seat belts also cut the risk of dying in a collision by 45 percent. The seat belt has become such a well-known life-saving device that even the CDC has endorsed its use, saying that “seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes…” Making seat belt usage a primary offense is a no-brainer because it will save lives.

A recent Stillwater community survey found that most people wear their seat belt, yet oppose stronger laws on this issue. One such respondent said, “It encroaches on personal rights/responsibilities. Not the government’s place to make that decision.” This response was very similar to many others I received, and, while this argument makes sense at first glance, when you get down to it this affects more than just the individual. It affects the community when a person dies. It costs taxpayers when people are injured in a collision. It requires government resources. When people look at the big picture, they would much rather have a new law and give up the option of not wearing a seat belt if it would result in saving lives.

Nationwide fatality rates show that Montana drivers are more likely to die in a collision when compared to drivers in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. The best way to fix Montana’s motor vehicle fatality problem is to introduce primary seat belt enforcement. Through this enforcement, we would see less serious injuries and fatalities on Montana roads.

State legislators should step up and pass a bill that would change our current secondary enforcement law into a primary enforcement law. This law would save lives and make Montana a safer state to drive in. We don’t know when we will be in an accident, but wearing a seat belt can make you prepared for one. It might even save your life. We need primary seat belt enforcement in Montana.

Rob Ivankovich



Generation Z out to disprove previous generations

In 1923, the “theory of generations” was introduced in an essay by Karl Mannheim. He basically explains how a generation of young people experiences significant events, how those experiences shape their decisions, and those decisions shape future history and future generations. Their experiences also form their views about other generations. The Greatest Generation experienced the Great Depression and World War II. The Baby Boomer generation experienced the Cuban Missile crisis, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Civil Rights era, and the first moon landing. But our generation has witnessed the War on Terrorism, the 2008 stock market crash, and the expansion of mobile technology.

There’s a pattern over time, from one generation to the next, where people view the generations that come after them as disrespectful or lazy. The generations before ours think we are a generation that can’t be listened to because of the choices some of our peers have made. This affects their opinions about us and how they choose to interact with us.

Here at CHS, current students are part of Generation Z, which is made up of young people between the ages of 6 to 23. Generation Z’s birthdates are between 1995 and 2012. Some people say things about us like we can’t be listened to because we are the generation that eats Tide Pods.

We are told we aren’t good enough by the generation before us, and this is a cycle that has been going on for decades. For instance, over 62 percent of students felt like they have been judged by another person based off their age. Seventy-seven percent of teachers felt the same, but about 39 percent of teachers also say they have a negative stance on teenagers today. Similarly, 54 percent of community adults said people complained about their generation when they were younger, and 70.2 percent of those same individuals felt they had been judged by other generations at least some of the time. Despite that, 40.4 percent of the same community members had a negative view on teens today.

One student said, “I think older generations are disappointed in our generation. They make assumptions about us that are broad and not accurate. It think it is very unfair and biased.” This is important evidence because it shows that people of our generation don’t like the way they are viewed and they want something done about it.

One thing we can’t change is the generation before will always look down and judge us. We can change their views and opinions on us, but they will always find flaws--just like we will in the generation under us. One thing our generation can do, and is already doing, is take a stand on issues that generations before us have been afraid to speak about. Like when the Parkland shooting happened. The students there made a stand against gun control. If our generation can keep doing things like that then the generations before us will come to respect us.

Marrahley Jones, Hunter Sheils



Positive atmosphere can uplift and inspire students

Columbus High School should promote positivity and uplift students in our school because students perform better in positive environments.

In my research, I’ve found that one great way to do that is to incorporate positive messages throughout the school, including in the bathrooms. Girls in particular have issues with body image, so positive messages in the restroom around the mirrors can promote healthy self-acceptance. Many schools are remodeling their bathrooms to create a positive culture.

But the positive school culture isn’t limited to restrooms. For instance, at Lebanon High School in Missouri, recently named one of U.S. News & World Report’s best high schools in the country, the climate and tone that is set and what it communicates is quite different from Columbus High School. They have inspiring quotes and the principal’s motto throughout the school. They have walls dedicated to certain educational and athletic achievements and so much more to show how proud they are of their students.

Here at Columbus High School, positive is an area where we could improve. In a perfect world, every single person should be going out of their way to make one another feel important, but there’s only so much people can do right? Currently, there are plans to redesign a portion of our school. The tone and climate of those additions are something to be considered. I want to turn my dreams of a positive school culture into a reality with the help of my art teacher by implementing a culture similar to Lebanon High School’s hallways, where inspirational quotes cover the walls. In the bathrooms they have inspirational quotes all over the mirrors and walls. If a student is having a bad day, they will see the quotes, and it might make them feel better. This communicates that the school thinks the students are important.

In a 2017 risk behavior survey, our school had some interesting results. Students indicated that in the 12 months prior to the survey, over 25 percent felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some of their usual activities. Over 18 percent seriously considered committing suicide. Over 16 percent had a suicide attempt plan. These could be decreased immensely. I would like to start by repainting the bathrooms with positive quotes to set a tone for the students at our school.

If things go as planned, Mrs. Rasmussen, the art teacher and I, want to use this project as an opportunity to paint the boys and girls bathrooms with positive quotes at the end of my junior year. I plan on doing this by replacing my fourth quarter of art with this project that way I would be getting a grade on this and impact the future students in a positive way. Not only the students at our school, but the staff, the visiting athletes, and the continuous flow of people that come in and out of our school.

Carley Jones



More suicide awareness and prevention is needed

Suicide is a problem in our community we often don’t address. In our schools, we don’t have a program to help students learn how we can help prevent suicide. When a suicide does happen, we are never prepared for it.

Our class conducted several online surveys with teachers, students, and community members, and the results indicated these groups think mental illness is an important issue in our community. Altogether, we posted the community survey on local Face-book groups, including the Still-water County Online Yard Sale page, Come Together Absarokee, the Reed Point High School page, the Park City community page, and the Rapelje community page. The respondents on these pages agree that we need a solution to address the situation.

91.9 percent of students thought that mental illness was a problem in our community. Among community members, 95.8 percent of the people thought that suicide and mental illness was a problem locally. One teacher said, “I think what Crystal Hitchcock does with some students helps. She counsels students who seem to have trouble with this or other areas. So having someone to talk to that they are comfortable with helps a lot.” This teacher knows that people who struggle with mental health or depression can have someone to go to for advice, comfort, and someone to listen to their thoughts, problems, and concerns.

On Montana’s Native American reservations, suicide is a big problem to their communities. They have a higher rate for suicide in the range of 15-24 years of age. Native Americans have a higher suicide rate by ethnicity than any other race. One reservation that we found suffered 17 suicides in 8 months. Different tribes have different rates of suicide, and in some tribes the rate of suicide can be three times the national average while another one can be ten times the national average. This statistic shows that Native American suicides are a big problem and, since we have many tribes in Montana, this plays a factor in why Montana ranks so high in suicide rates in the U.S. In Arlee, Montana, located on the Flathead reservation their state champion boys’ basketball team raised suicide awareness by dedicating their Class C state basketball tournament performance to suicide awareness. They made a video spreading awareness about suicide rates across Montana and the reservations located here. This video spread across the national news and was featured on the New York Times website among others. Arlee made an impact across the nation with their video by raising suicide awareness.

We need to raise awareness about suicides in our community. Montana ranks very high in suicide rate in the U.S. The only way we can prevent suicide is by raising awareness in schools and surrounding areas. Bringing it up in city hall meetings, assemblies, PTA meetings, and school board meetings is important. If we want to prevent a suicide from happening, we need to take the steps in raising awareness in our schools and community.

Cahill Stadel, Chloe Ketchum



Construction projects should be approved by voters

The Columbus Public School Board has proposed expansion and renovation projects at Columbus High School. We strongly believe these construction projects should be approved by voters in the district in order to solve heating and cooling issues in the Columbus Middle and High School buildings.

Throughout our research and personal experience, we have found discomfort in classrooms due to temperature. During winter months, 86.7 percent of students believe some classrooms are uncomfortably cold. Eighty-five percent of these same students say that some classrooms are uncomfortably hot as we approach warmer months of the year.

Over the years, added building spaces do not share the same heating and cooling technologies, causing inconsistencies which lead to discomfort. Some rooms are colder than others because their source of heat comes from radiant heat drifting in from the hallway or other classrooms. When discussing these issues with our superintendent, Mr. Bermes, he agreed that our school structure makes it difficult to install a cost-friendly system throughout the entire school that will solve all of its problems. Not to mention that many different systems are in place, new and old, conflicting with the ability to maintain comfort. Mr. Bermes said some solutions include tinted windows and vestibules. Tinted windows would protect classrooms from being affected by outside temperatures, blocking sunlight or trapping in warm air, providing control over classroom temperature. A vestibule, or chamber-like structure at the entrance of the building, would control the amount of air let in when people enter, preventing entrances from changing temperatures.

We recommend some changes be made to keep a consistent temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the entire building. An experiment completed by a Michigan middle school teacher named Brian Hadfield proved that the most effective temperature for student learning and productivity was 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The construction work would help maintain this temperature throughout the entire school, as many students and staff members believe classrooms are either too hot or too cold at different times of the year.

However, these changes would be in addition to major construction plans that Mr. Bermes, the school board, and many planners have been considering over the months. Some expenses that come with renovations would be paid for by school district tax payers. Construction plans, including our proposal, would be voted through by school staff, board members, and community members. The community vote held sometime in September of 2018, otherwise known as the Mill Levy Election, will determine if changes to our buildings can be set into motion.

Community members must be informed about the importance of these renovations to our school, and they must understand how it could change the learning environment here. We encourage that registered voters approve these plans and help make our school a more comfortable setting for students and staff.

Gracie Phelps, Emma Haskins



School lockdowns should be taken seriously

School lockdowns should be taken seriously by students and staff members at Columbus High School. Over time, people can develop a negative attitude because we live in a rural town, and they think nothing that severe is going to happen. School safety is a vital necessity because it allows students the ability to focus on a better education and not worry about being unsafe. But in order to increase school safety, students and staff need to treat lockdowns as a serious matter.

The concerns that the students and staff members have should be looked upon as a way to make them feel safer while at school. 61.6 percent of Columbus High School students are worried about their safety in the hallways. 60.5 percent are concerned about their safety in the library, which has glass windows on three sides, and 60.7 percent are worried about the cafeteria.

There are some solutions that we could take into consideration. A school in Indiana placed smoke bombs in the ceiling and demonstrated how it works to ABC News. If an intruder is seen, the teacher will then set off the alarm which calls for a schoolwide lockdown. Police and school officials can view the hallways on cameras and can set off the smoke, which affects the intruder’s vision. This allows the students to have more time to go to a safer place and allows police to stop the intruder. This would help to solve the unsafe part of being in the hallway. The school in suburban Indiana puts red tape down in the back of the room indicating an area where the intruder can’t see you, and students build a barricade on the taped line and hide behind it. All rooms have a switch which the teacher can flip to tell officers that the class is safe or in danger. They also turn off the lights, lock doors, and sit quietly until they know for sure that the intruder is gone.

Another possible way of having lockdowns taken seriously is to have more realistic lockdowns. If we were to have more mock lockdowns, then the students and staff wouldn’t know when it will occur. We sent out surveys to students, staff, and the community and nearly all of them believed that having more mock lockdowns would benefit everyone and would help them to be taken more seriously. There are multiple ways to stay safe in a classroom during a lockdown and it can be simple as well.

Overall, students need to take any lockdown seriously, whether it’s real or not. If they practice a mock one correctly, then when it comes to a real incident where it’s a necessity to take it seriously, it will be much more organized and everyone will know what to do.

Brenna Rouane, Cassie Ludwig, Elizabeth Lorash



Job opportunities limited for teens in Columbus

Local teens have limited job options and are further held back by biased businesses that favor family and friends. Adding a new family-oriented business would provide jobs, job experiences, and job diversity — all of which Columbus is currently lacking. We conducted multiple surveys that were sent to CHS students, teachers, and community members through local Facebook groups. An overwhelming majority of students stated they felt Columbus didn’t have enough job opportunities and recreational activities.

Businesses will often hire those close to them, typically relatives or friends. This practice is often defined as nepotism. Professor Robert G. Jones, a graduate from Harvard University and author of “Nepotism in Organizations,” wrote that “... a nepostic job search is more likely when a family business is present or when one has relatives or friends at positions in organizations with the possibility to affect hiring decisions.” This is more common place in small towns as families will make up a larger portion of the population and thus be more likely to be in a place of power. Jones also went on to say, “For example, when one is living in a rural area or small community, or when unemployment rates are high, there may be a lack of non-nepotistic alternatives.”

We personally feel like we are in the same situation in Columbus.

Local business owner Mayson Ehrlich agreed that Columbus doesn’t have enough job opportunities. He stated that part of this is due to the size of the town and the fairly large retirement community. During the interview, he suggested the idea of creating a recreational center and a hobby center. He also suggested the addition of a family center with family dining and an arcade. This would also aid the problem of limited job opportunities by creating job positions for teens.

Statistics reveal that teenagers and senior citizens are the two largest age groups in the Stillwater area; a statistic reinforced by the numerous senior homes within the community. As a family center would pander to these two age groups, it could be highly profitable.

Adding a new business would directly address the lack of jobs in Columbus and would provide teens with more job options. The idea we had discussed with Ehrlich would fill the role of this business and provide a place for teenagers and families alike.

Jacob Richardson, Ethan Terry, Dylan Mentzer, Nick Rindahl



Poor road conditions in Columbus need to be fixed

The road conditions in town are bad. We need to fix them. We need to get people to work on and take care of these city roads better than they have been. Like a lot of people said in a survey we sent out, these roads make it harder for people to get around and make the travel less enjoyable than it could be. They actually dread going out on these roads with how they’re getting.

Creg Coleman, a lawyer from Knoxville, Tenn., with over 40 years of experience, says, “Bad roads cause half the fatal auto accidents every year in our country. Poorly maintained roads cause accidents in a variety of ways, mostly due to the fact that they create an enormous hazard to drivers.” In many instances, a driver may attempt to avoid a certain situation, like a pothole or pooling water, which could cause a serious accident.

If we don’t do anything with these roads, they will just get worse. As the roadways throughout Stillwater County continue to age, a number of potential hazards will emerge that could lead to collisions. Again according to Greg Coleman he says, “One of the main issues we need to focus on are the potholes which cause damage to vehicles. Potholes occur when blacktop or asphalt are missing in large chunks from the road”.

These roadways in Columbus are affecting everyone in their everyday life as they’re driving to work or school or even just running errands. Anthoney Down from Washington D.C. he says, “commuters are getting frustrated by policymakers’ inability to do anything about the problem, which poses a significant public policy challenge. Although governments may never be able to eliminate road congestion, there are several ways cities and states can move to curb it.”

Overall, I think Columbus needs to take control of it by clearing these roads a lot better during the winter or ice times of the year. When it comes to the streets we need to have people work on finishing all these potholes and cracks In the roads by putting new asphalt down and filling these spots and making the roads a lot more smooth and enjoyable for people to travel on. In order to do this we should probably look into getting newer and better equipment and people to run it that actually know how to run these machines and do it the right way so it lasts longer than it has.

Getting more people to work on it and possibly buying more equipment. I think people working on these things should get paid better then they do that way they actually want to be there and will hopefully do the job right. I think it would help if we where to assign certain people to smaller areas to focus on. I think most of these workers are forgetting about some of the problems they don’t think are a big deal and focusing on more important and more traveled roads and interstates.

Leonard Milne



Upcoming renovations could increase school safety

In a recent survey distributed by our class, many people in our community expressed concerns about school safety and security. These concerns are trending in communities throughout the country. From the survey, Stillwater County residents are specifically worried about the rise of school shootings. Community members want our schools to be safe to protect their children from harm. Fortunately, Columbus Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Bermes has a plan to hopefully ease the concerns.

Other schools around the country are also getting concerned about school safety due to the recent increase in school shootings. Some schools are taking new precautions such as increased security, new door locks, and new lock-down procedures. We think that our superintendent’s plans are a good solution to this issue.

The upcoming renovations for both the high school and elementary school include several additions to increase the security of Columbus Public Schools. There are a few modifications that are going to take place. A new “buzz in” system for visitors to enter into the school will be installed. A hard copy of identification is going to be required in order to enter the building as well. The main doors in front of the offices will be extended so that visitors have to go through two sets of doors in order to fully enter the school.

The locker rooms are currently a problem area. Students have the tendency to prop the locker room doors open and leave them open throughout the day and even into the night after school activities. When students leave the locker room doors open, it leaves an easy entry for a threat to enter. An addition to the gym will create a “barrier” wall in front of the locker room doors at the high school to ensure that individuals will not be able to prop open the door at any time. This will also give the students an escape route in the case of an emergency situation. There will be an alarm system put into place as well. All of these security renovations Mr. Bermes is hoping to put into place will cost approximately $250,000.

As students at Columbus High School, we believe the renovations would give certainty to worried parents and community members as well as the teachers and the students about their safety concerns. The school should continue working with the future plans that are already in place because nobody should have to worry about their own safety or the safety of loved ones while they’re in school.

RaiLeigh Strommen, Madison Ludwig, Kyra Mattmiller



Block scheduling could improve Homework Central

Columbus High School’s Homework Central (HC) program is designed to encourage students to turn in missing assignments. Each week, a missing assignment list is generated, and students on that list are referred to a lunchtime study session to complete their work and receive help. Students are notified by email and text message if they’ve been referred. A major complaint from students and some teachers is HC isn’t effective, and that we should discontinue its use. The only problem with that is, in reality, HC has been effective.

Looking at the numbers from the 2016-2017 school year, HC reduced the number of Ds and Fs on quarter report cards by 43 percent, holding students accountable for not turning in homework and making them do their work to earn a grade. It also reduced the number of students who had to repeat semester courses.

We believe HC should be improved because it takes away a large portion of the lunch period from students and teachers. Students are starting to have apathy towards their homework. Some students skip HC and leave to get food. When students don’t show up to HC, they get an in-school suspension (ISS), and, even then, some students have apathy toward ISS. In some cases, students would still prefer to take the consequences to get a full lunch period. Students often don’t have time to check their emails to see if they are in HC, and this causes the students to unknowingly skip and end up in ISS after lunch. Some students don’t bring their phones to school, meaning they do not receive the text.

The research shows that HC is successful, but only works to a certain point. This problem could be fixed by incorporating a block scheduling and homeroom class into the school day. Block scheduling and a homeroom class put together would eliminate the need for study hall and HC. If we added this, students and teachers alike wouldn’t have to worry about HC because it would give students longer class periods, along with a structured class specifically for doing their school work.

There are many variations of block scheduling, but we recommend the AB scheduling where students would attend periods 1-4 on Monday and periods 5-8 Tuesday. This would repeat every two days. “A” days would have periods 1-4 and “B” days would have periods 5-8. We believe this solution would benefit CHS tremendously because it would lower the amount of students missing assignments, improve student learning, and allow for student to have their full lunch period.

Oranda Libsock, Keegan Goddard and Ricky Preece