A Failed System

Amaia Garay, Reporter

As the double doors slammed behind me I jumped but kept walking until I found an open seat. Alone and isolated I exhaled partially and waited. Every time someone opened the door to the busy library, I flinched just a little. Even in the library, it felt hard to feel safe when the reason for my fear was pacing back and forth outside the doors. 

It began when we started to read Night by Elie Wiesel. While my family isn’t Jewish, we do have Jewish ancestry, so maybe that was his reason, or maybe it was because I looked weak and easily attackable. I would go home and cry, night after night. I wasn’t sad: I was frustrated, angry, enraged. 

Nevertheless, after a few months of harassment daily, I grew exhausted and reported it to the administration. No part of me wanted what would come from it, no part of me wanted to tell anyone, but I knew that if it bothered me this much, I couldn’t begin to understand how much it would bother a Jewish person. I hoped they would take it seriously, unlike the countless reports of harassment and racism that had been swept under the rug, I hoped they would listen.

I was wrong. 

Reporting harassment at this school isn’t difficult, in theory; in actuality, it is like a roller coaster ride that leads to nowhere. There are twists and turns, intensely hopeful rises, an

d equally as intense stomach-churning drops, and after all that, you just end up exactly where you started, except your throat is sore from screaming at people that aren’t listening, and you’re exhausted. 

But in theory? In theory, sure, reporting harassment is a walk in the park guided by caring people and support, and with the sweet perk of justice at the end. 

So let’s walk through it, and figure out where I went wrong, maybe then I’ll understand where the caring people and support and justice went.

After telling a “trusted” adult, whether that be a teacher, counselor, or administrator, most likely you will be pulled out of class by a man in a golf cart (very discreet and empathetic, I know) and taken

to the office of one of the assistant principals. When you’ve walked in and taken a seat across from an overexaggerated look of pity and “caring,”, you’ll be instructed to fill out an incident report listing all of the usual and necessary things: what happened, where did said incident happen, when did it happen, who did it, who saw it.

Who saw it? This question might throw you off guard, maybe you’ll think No one saw it, are they still going to believe me or Everyone saw it, and no one did anything to help me, and you can’t interrogate an entire school about something they probably never gave a second thought. 

Now, after filling out a description of the said incident to the best of your ability, the “caring” face across the table will look at you sympathetically and reassure you that they are going to help you, that they are going to look into the report you filed, and that you don’t need to worry anymore, that you’ll be ok from now on. At this point, you will probably believe him, he’s the assistant principal, and you’re just a freshman, why wouldn’t he help his student?

Walking back to class (they don’t offer the luxury of a golf cart back to class) you feel better, and hopeful, you’ve reached one of those rises on the ride, right before the drop. If you’re lucky, you might even go the whole rest of the class period feeling that way, but you probably won’t make it to your next period like that. Almost instantaneously, someone will come up to you during break or lunch, and ask, “Why was *insert your harasser’s name here* pulled out of last period? Did you snitch or something?” And it will catch you so off guard, you might forget to blink, or even breath, you’ll just stop, dead in your tracks.

Here comes the stomach-churning drop. Over the course of the day, people will come up to you, people you haven’t spoken to in days, and ask you why you snitched, what did YOU do to get him pulled out of class? But, you have to just brush it off, maybe scoff and tell them you have no idea what they’re talking about, you don’t know him, you’re not a snitch, right?

A little later, you’ll probably hear from a friend or classmate what happened: the man in the golf cart came to his PE class, he told him to get his stuff, get changed, and come with him; as students and teachers looked at each other confused, he followed directions and walked out. You will never know exactly what happened in that same assistant principal’s office that day, but you will hear the outcome, and you’ll wish you never said anything at all. 

He got a day of suspension, sort of, it was halfway through Friday, so really they just sent him home early. The next week we were back in English together; the only thing that had changed was he stopped stalking me. And the worst part was, in class and in the quad for the next weeks and months and years, people would ask me what I did to him, it still stings every time it’s brought to my attention because they always do it with a smile on their face. 

“What did you do to him Amaia? Don’t you know it was just a joke, don’t you think you’re overreacting?”

Students have the federally protected right to an education free from discrimination and harassment under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Under federal law, I should have been protected, protected from the mocking of my peers, from him, from all of it. But I wasn’t. He was put back in classes with me that same year, the year after, and now this year. He has been put in groups alone with me, my teachers were never notified, I was alone, and despite what Mr. Assistant-principal said, I wasn’t okay. 

The worst feeling was the betrayal. I was betrayed by every “trusted adult,” by the assistant principal, by those who were supposed to help me, and I know I am not the only one. 

We are told to use things like the StopIt App, and the administration to report and be guided through those steps to justice. We are told that Casa Grande is here to support us through our journey into adulthood, every step of the way, but that is a lie. 

The system that is designed to support us is failing us. And they don’t even seem to care. 

People in power who care have the responsibility to do something, so why haven’t you?