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#395: Scared of School
Articles on school avoidance, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and cow milk
Happy Thursday, Loyal Readers. Thank you for being here.
This week’s issue features three articles about education. Which got me thinking: Many of you are educators, and so am I, and when this newsletter launched nearly eight years ago, the majority of articles I highlighted were education-related. Now the reverse is true: I’m focusing much more on race and culture, rather than education. I could get into a big explanation as to why this is, but I’m much more interested in what you have to say about this subject. What do you think?
And now, on to this week’s selections. The lead article explores the causes and impact of school avoidance, which has skyrocketed since the pandemic. The second piece reports on the increase of anti-LGBTQ verbal harassment, challenging the assumption that progressive states are providing a safer environment than “Don’t Say Gay” states. Rounding out this week’s newsletter is a story about a young woman who is battling her school administration’s policy on cow milk and fighting for her right to free speech. Even though all three articles discuss tough topics, they’re not all doom and gloom. You’ll find glimmers of hope and good people striving to make a difference. Hope you like the articles — let me know if you do!
💬 HIGHLIGHTER HAPPY HOUR: You’re invited to HHH #20 at Room 389 in Oakland next Thursday, June 1, beginning at 5:30 pm. There are two free tickets left. HHH is a joyous informal gathering of kind, thoughtful members of our reading community. You’re one of them, so it’d be great to see you there. Don’t worry: There isn’t a quiz about whether you’ve read all the articles. Plus there are prizes galore.
Jayne Demsky didn’t know what was going on with her son. No matter what she did, he didn’t want to go to school. The anxiety was too much. At first it was one day here and there. But then the days became more frequent. Pretty soon it was weeks, then months. “I would describe it as hell,” she said.
If you’re an educator, you know what I’m talking about. Ever since the pandemic, more and more students are experiencing school avoidance. “It’s scary because it’s not voluntary at all. It’s just kind of happening to you,” one student said. I’ll sit in the car and tell myself to go in, but my body won’t carry me inside.”
Journalist Adrianna Rodriguez does a good job highlighting the complexities of school avoidance. For instance, it’s not easily diagnosed, it’s not the same thing as anxiety, each kid’s experience is different, and schools are still learning to deal with it. I appreciated learning that anxiety may not necessarily be the cause but rather the effect of school avoidance, and the most important time to intervene is right at the beginning, before the problem festers and deepens.
➡️ Read the article | USA Today | 11 minutes
2️⃣ Scared of School
It’s easy to blame Ron DeSantis for making things hard for LGBTQ kids in schools. But the problem is nationwide, according to this detailed report by GLSEN and The Trevor Project, which shows that anti-gay and anti-trans harassment and bullying are not limited to the “Don’t Say Gay” states. “There is no state in the nation,” survey data concluded, “where fewer than 93% of LGBTQ students reported hearing homophobic and transphobic slurs in school.” The greatest increase in slurs come from adults: for example, up 400% in California and 600% in Massachusetts from 2019 to 2021. Why is this happening? The hundreds of state bills stripping protections from LGBTQ youth certainly do not help. But the authors also suggest that while American adults are becoming more accepting of queerness in general, they want to make sure their kids stay pure and straight.
➡️ Read the article | The 74 | 9 minutes
3️⃣ Milk Shake-Up
Marielle Williamson goes to high school in Los Angeles and thinks cow milk is gross. She and her friends prefer plant-based milk. So does Generation Z as a whole; they drink 20 percent less liquid milk than the national average. So do more Americans in general; 42 percent of households bought plant-based milk in 2021. Two powerful groups, though, are not getting the memo: Big Dairy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Schools must offer cow milk in cafeterias to get federal funding, so when Marianne asked to distribute literature to promote the health benefits of plant-based milk, school administrators said sure, but only if she also shared pro-dairy messages. Marianne said no way, and now she’s suing. (I think she’s going to win.)
➡️ Read the article | Washington Post | 10 minutes
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