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Students exercise free speech

Mrs. Sugarmon teachers her U.S Government class.

Mrs. Sugarmon teachers her U.S Government class.

Mrs. Sugarmon teachers her U.S Government class.


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Students sit in classrooms every day, but when it comes to making a change, their voices are often forgotten. Mrs. Sugarmon, a U.S Government teacher, had her students write letters about the issues they had with their school. A collection of these letters were later published in the Commercial Appeal. The topics of the letters focused on issues within the education system, either on a state or district level. Her students also had the opportunity to take a trip to the state capital to speak with legislatures about various issues in Tennessee ’s educational system.

Taylor Crawford (12) saw the field trip as an opportunity to learn about how decisions are made; however, she was unsure if government officials would listen to the voices of students.

“Adults in our state government may think they are more apt to make decisions about our education because of their experience, but I think that since the education system evolves we may know more about its current state. They should ask us what we think we need to happen or needs to be improved on,” Crawford said.

On the district level, however, it appears that students have a greater opportunity to have their voices heard.

Jordan Donald (12) wrote a letter about the faulty air-conditioning units throughout the building, but he was unsure that it would even make a difference.

“It [the AC units] can be a distraction… I thought it would get overlooked,” Donald said.

According to Principal David Mansfield, administration is aware of the problem and have attempted to remedy the issues before the school year even starts; however, this is sometimes not enough.

The day after the letters were published, workmen showed up at school to begin working on the air-conditioning units in the East Annex. Despite the fact that multiple work orders had been placed before the letters were published, it is unclear whether the letters were a catalyst for the action. However, students’ voices may have brought more public attention to the issue.

“Since seeing that our letters have had an impact, I believe student voice can make a difference,” Donald said.

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Students exercise free speech