Are We Progressive Or Do We Just Think We Are?

Abigail Mengesha, Newspaper EIC

When Mr. Lundie finished up his last year as principal, we were all eager to see who would be replacing him. Many of us guessed that it would be Gary Thompson, the assistant principal at the time. Before Lundies’ retirement, we got to meet who our new principal would be for the next year, Aleshia Armour, an accomplished assistant principal at Smoky Hill High School who lived up to her reputation. The Clark Atlanta and Indiana State alumna did many things at Smoky Hill High School such as mentoring the sisterhood club at Smoky. Nardos Beyene, a senior at Smoky Hill High School, shared her experience on what it was like to have Principal Armour as a mentor and assistant principal at her school, “Ms. Armour was an outstanding figure for me and other girls in the sisterhood club, and we loved having her at our school.”

None of you are new to the events that have been going on surrounding the matter of our Principal Aleisha Armour. Even though we pride ourselves in being a welcoming, inclusive environment; we met Principal Armour with quite the opposite. From the moment she got here she has been subject to online bullying and everyone blaming her for things she didn’t even have anything to do with. When I interviewed students on how they feel about Principal Armour, Wisdom Jones a senior said, “I don’t think she’s the problem, it’s the fact that she’s trying to rush changes.” Hillary Toure, a senior as well, had some comforting words, “It’s hard for her to come into a situation and try to take over when students are accustomed to a certain routine. Students are mad at her for the dumbest things, even though these things would be implemented at one point. I honestly feel like she doesn’t deserve the backlash.”

A more recent event that has taken place and divided the school is a Change.org petition created by someone with the name of “Amie Carnwell” urging for the ‘Removal of Principal Armour’. At the time of publication, about 758 people have signed the petition and the number goes up by the day. Under ‘reasons for signing’ people are making disgusting comments about her, rather than policies they don’t agree with. One user commented, “#She is the reason I dropped out” and others made comments that are too vile for print, regarding Ms. Armour’s appearance. This is an ad hominem argument: instead of arguing why she’s a bad principal or how she’s demonstrating poor leadership, they resort to attacking her.

Sure you may not agree with the bathroom/hall passes, and that’s fine. But there is a clear cut line between attacking a person verses attacking their policies. When talking with students, the common reasons why they dislike Principal Armour is the bathroom passes, the administrative leave of a teacher, Jay Bennish, and the speed bumps. The bathroom passes have indeed restricted students from using the bathroom, but from the words of Principal Armour, “I’ve told teachers that if students need to use the bathroom, to allow them to go.” Certain teachers have exaggerated, saying that they only have one bathroom pass for each student and others implying that if they run out of bathroom passes, they will get in trouble. So even though I might not like the bathroom pass rule, it’s teachers abusing their power, because they have unlimited bathroom passes, so those teachers should be reported, instead of single-handedly attacking the principal. As for the issue of Jay Bennish being put on administrative leave, that is a very sensitive topic many students are upset about. But after doing more research I was informed that principals don’t have the authority to fire a teacher who has been working at a school for 10+ years, it’s solely something the district decides. As for the speed bumps, they were built over the summer, before Principal Armour arrived so she had no say in that issue. I’m sure other issues have contributed to students being upset with Principal Armour, but there’s a way to voice our concerns without resorting to bullying.

Overland being a majority-minority school, we would think that our mentality and way of thinking would be different, but we are all subjected to the institutionalized discrimination and sexist mindset that is embroidered in our brains. Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s something we do subconsciously. All of this hate that Principal Armour is getting leads me to believe that she is only facing retaliation because she is a black woman. With 98% of all teachers in the U.S being white women we don’t see diversity in schools. We are conditioned to think that women aren’t capable to run a school because most of our principals and administrators holding the positions of power have been men. So to be a woman principal is already hard, let alone being black too. Since the establishment of our country, there has always been a discussion of race and sex because our society was built to benefit one group of people over another, white men. White men have all the privilege, in a system that was created by and for them, white women only face a disadvantage because of their gender, black men face racial discrimination because of the color of their skin, and black women are left in an uncomfortable situation of facing adversity because of their race and gender. In an interview with Principal Armour, she said something that has been resonating with me, “I read a quote, I don’t know who wrote it but I want to make sure it’s clear it’s not my words. The world is always gonna say that black women are too loud because the world never intended for us to have a voice.”

But a question I want to pose and a discussion you should have amongst each other is, why do we only respect male authority figures and not women? As a black woman are you treated with less respect once you are in a position of power? This is a very complicated subject with many layers that intersect. But in the end, we have to ask ourselves, we have one mark in human history, do we want to leave the world contributing to hate or trying everything in our power to make it a better place.