The Video: Emily Gipson, a student at Lebanon High School in Tennessee posted a Youtube video in response to a student at the school’s suicide. The video takes the form of free-verse poetry and really hits home about some of the issues high school students face every day. The video is titled “Welcome to Lebanon High School,” but this could describe the majority of high schools across the country.
What Happened: The video was made in a classroom after hours. Emily says she got permission from two coaches at the school. When the video unexpectedly went viral, she was called into a meeting with the principal and assistant principal where she was given in-school suspension for attempting to incite violence. According to the principal, Emily didn’t have permission to make the video and should have done it at home.
Our Take: Emily is right. The issues she brings to light are not isolated to Lebanon High School, they are problems that most public high schools face. Emily got in trouble because she thought outside the box, spoke up, and said things that embarrassed school teachers and administrators, but her voice should not be silenced and her critiques should be taken seriously.
The public school system rewards followers, but not leaders. It rewards students who sit quietly and do what they’re told, and it punishes people who think outside the box or don’t conform.
Here’s the problem with that: No one ever became great or famous or made a difference by conforming and being a follower. If you are exceptional, or want to be exceptional, the public school will not know how to handle you and will squelch you. That’s just a cold, hard truth that needs to be addressed. We’re failing our students by not allowing them to actually grow wings and fly.