Students: LHS Has Bullying Resources, but You Have to Ask

January 19, 2019 GMT

LOWELL -- A number of students at Lowell High School say their school does have resources for bullying and mental health.

But students have to ask for help. And that second part can be hard, they say.

Students offered their thoughts on these subjects in the days after The Sun detailed the story of Anna Aslanian, a 16-year-old Lowell High School student who took her own life three days after her birthday in October after being bullied.

Natia Molina, a freshman, said she doesn’t believe bullying is prevalent at Lowell High, but issues of mental health like anxiety and depression can be a big -- often invisible -- challenge.

“It depends on if that child actually seeks out help or if their friends or so-called friends seek out help for them,” she said.

At over 3,000 students, the school’s size makes it difficult for the counselors or administrators who are available to have “one-on-one” meetings with everyone, Molina said.

“Instead of them having to talk to a counselor and wait half an hour to just have a small conversation with them, like, I think there should be a little bit more of a check-in process for them,” she said.

Evan Caverly, a 2018 Lowell High School graduate, said he faced bullying as a student.

“Once they hear about (bullying), they go right to the root and they nip it in the bud. ... But here’s the thing: they have to hear about it,” said Caverly. He is involved in Lowell Education Justice Alliance and the newly formed Citywide Parent Council.

Bullying does happen Caverly said, but he doesn’t fault the school. The high school’s large student body makes it impossible for administrators and teachers, who he praised as some of the best, to notice everything.

Caverly said he reported his own bullying and it was resolved, but having that conversation isn’t easy.

“It’s a very hard thing for a student to go up to an adult and say, ‘I’m being bullied,’ ” he said.

Caverly found support in the school’s Show Choir and encourages others facing challenges to get involved in an activity at the school.

When Caverly reached a leadership position in Show Choir, he said he tried to pass on the message he needed to hear during tougher times.

“Something I would always tell the students in my Show Choir, ‘You are enough.’ ... Because I know how it feels,” he said.

Junior Kaijana McKinney recalled seeing a heated moment between two students in a hallway. One was threatening to hit the other student, who did not know English, she said.

She and other bystanders intervened, a practice she said students at Lowell High School are willing to do.

“I was like you guys just need to talk it out,” McKinney said.

She said this situation was resolved without administrators getting involved. When issues are reported she and her sister, freshman Kimora McKinney, said house deans sit students down and “talk it out.”

Fedlin Alcenat, a senior, said he believes the school handles bullying well -- with one caveat. Some teachers see bullying and don’t identify it as bullying. They think it’s students joking around, he said.

“Some of them really care about bullying,” he said. “Some of them don’t realize it’s actually (bullying).”

Senior and class Senator Sara Ngare said she doesn’t see bullying as a widespread problem at Lowell High School, but as news of Anna’s death slowly spread on campus, people became more aware of mental health.

“I don’t feel for me I can go to a teacher and talk to them about how I’m doing and what I’m going through ... but I hope that could change in the future,” she said.

Ngare said a friend who approached a guidance counselor about mental health was told to contact a hotline for assistance.

“Hotlines are helpful, but guidance counselors were created to be a shoulder to lean on for students, but I don’t think we’re getting that from guidance counselors,” she said.

Ngare said she has also seen changes at the school. A new student group focused on mental health, Student Voice, was recently started by the administration. Ngare and senior Alicys Perez said they have also heard conversations about introducing a mental-health awareness day -- a relaxed day where students can focus on their own well-being.

“I think it’s amazing,” Ngare said. “I think it’s awesome that my school’s doing that.”

Perez and fellow senior Nathan Cress also said they haven’t seen issues with bullying at the high school.

“I’ve never experienced it, but I’m sure there is,” Perez said.

Cress said information about mental-health resources are shared during an annual television program shown at the school.

He said he knows students who have sought help from the school for mental health and benefited from the assistance through appointments and follow-ups.

″(They) personally talk to students when they need to talk,” he said.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins