The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News


Letter from the Editor

Photo by Asa Lory
Photo by Asa Lory
There are chains that bind us, invisible cords stronger than the densest metal, to which only our minds are impervious. We think unmentionable thoughts, yet remain silent.
The stories that follow aim to change that. They beg to open discourse on previously quieted topics, whether because of illegality, stigma or potential for conflict.
We explored what it means to be “taboo,” settling on stories that commonly occupied the quiet corners of hallways, privately exchanged by students of RBHS. We discovered, yes, society stops us, but more often we shackle ourselves in our relentless attempt to bridge the disconnect between who we are and who we think we should be. We found the teenage struggle for self-awareness and the constant tug to conform with societal norms reversed the supposed growth of knowledge. This coming of age that should increase understanding and add experience is, instead, the final vow of adult silence.
We saw ourselves bound by rules of our own devising, locked into this harmful hush.
Some of these rules are ancient; some are as young as we are. All are equally restricting. They forbid open discourse by condemning them tot he most intimate of conversations if talked about at all.
In the Age of Information, we thought this hypocrisy too much to bear. In this issue of Southpaw, we hope not only to tell the stories but to foster discussion about the topics as well.
These topics are ones that may be uncomfortable to discuss openly, but the staff of Southpaw does not believe this lessens the importance of the discussion.
We hope to convey these stories through a whisper that will be louder than the torrents of tradition. Shame, discrimination and embarassment cannot hold up against the power of an open mind.
Maria Kalaitzandonakes

I Forgot to Remember to Forget

Photo by Maria Kalaitzandonakes

Some nights senior Clarissa Newman* lies in bed, haunted by her memories of one afternoon six years ago. Her breath comes too quickly, and her heart kicks in her chest. She remembers the pain of a brick slamming into the back of her head, but that was just the beginning of the brutal attack. After a stranger dragged her to an abandoned alleyway, he not only stripped eleven year-old Newman of her clothes, but also of her dignity when he raped her.

Before the rapist left, “he kicked me hard enough so I couldn’t move for a while and he ran. And I didn’t know what to do at that point because, I maean, that just happened. And I was like, ‘Wow. What do I do now?’” Newman said. “So I just sat there and stared at the wall. I couldn’t cry yet. I guess it didn’t really sink in exactly what I was dealing with. I was just like, ‘That sucked,’ and I got up, cleaned myself up and walked home and didn’t tell anybody.”

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, Newman is part of the 15 percent of victims sexually assaulted under the age of 12, as well as the 54 percent of all rape victims who do not report the crime. She is not the only one. Bonnie Cassida, now in her late 40s and the pastor at Bethel Church, is one of four women featured in a short video released in 2010 titled “I am a Survivor of Rape.” Sexually assaulted on prom night her senior year in high school, Cassida knew immediately she had to keep it a secret from most people in her life.

“My initial reaction was, ‘I hope my parents don’t find out,’” Cassida said. “I think if my mother had found out, she would have blamed me … my mother would always warn me about what bad girls do, and how they get into all sorts of trouble. I just kind of knew from what [my mother] had said that she was not the person to go to. I immediately tried to cover up the story then.”

Cassida attended high school in a small town in North Carolina in the 1980s, where the term “rape” carried a suppressive connotation blaming the victims rather than the perpetrators. While Newman kept silent because her grandfather had just passed away, Cassida held back her story because she knew her community would immediately judge her. Whatever the reason, 54 percent of victims keep silent, and 97 percent of rapists walk free for the choice they made; instead, the trauma and scars of being sexually assaulted trap their victims.

“It’s interesting how [rape victims] often want to cover it up and keep it quiet, when really, it’s the person who did it who should be the one who wants to cover it up or keep it quiet,” Cassida said. The rapists “should be ashamed, but … the victims take on all the guilt … It’s backwards, but it’s what we do.”

In the months after she was raped, Newman didn’t trust human contact. She blamed herself for what happened, she said, and quickly learned how to shield herself from things normal eleven year-olds shouldn’t have to know about.

“I size people up as soon as I meet them, like, ‘Can they overpower me? How can I get around that if necessary?’” Newman said. “I might be an overly cautious 60 year old woman in my soul,but I don’t care. I’m alive.”

Colleen McDevitt, producer of the video “I am a Survivor of Rape” and program and development director of, tries to help victims through her website that serves as a forum for discussion. She began the site after seeing the effects of her high school friend’s rape experience. Growing up in Eldon, Mo., McDevitt said she could sense the suppression of the subject.

Rape “was just one of those things that wasn’t invited to talk about” in my hometown, McDevitt said, “and it’s part of why, years later, when I got to college and I found out this happened to some of my friends and is still happening, [that] it wasn’t just a one-time deal and sexual assault is really common, even thinking back to my friend, that’s why I wanted to do the website.”

McDevitt’s website comes at the heels of her short documentary, which placed third in the Hearst Journalism Award program in 2010 and was subsequently picked up by CNN news. The effect the documentary had on the audience – including one victim (not Cassida) featured in the video who used it to tell her mother she had been sexually assaulted – was inspiring to McDevitt.

“It was just really powerful to see the impact of that video. For CNN to pick it up, I was like, ‘You know, [the video] was nothing special. If I can do it, so can other young people,” McDevitt said. “I think in general, young people are just braver to bring up and talk about crazy issues in our world, partly because … we have access to more information than we’ve ever had before.”

When she was studying psychology in college, Cassida approached her professor and told him about her experience, but far from reaching out to help her, he didn’t know what to do. Nowadays it’s different, Cassida said. She notes people, such as her husband Graham Higgs, department chair of Psychology and Sociology at Columbia College, are more adept at giving victims the help they need.

“Professors now are given classes and … if you have a student in crisis, Mizzou has a wonderful system there in place you can refer them to,” Cassida said. “And we just didn’t have that back then. And a lot of things have changed. I don’t think I heard the term ‘date rape’ until the late ‘80s. … People have talked about date rape enough so that it’s not unheard of, whereas back then rape had to be when a stranger came and grabbed you from behind a bush.”

In reality, around 90 percent of rapists are people the victims know, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation. While people close to Cassida — including her boyfriend at the time — said they could do nothing about the incident because he was “a close friend,” victims have another outlet now. With the recent surge in availability of communication tools, more people can discuss touchy topics they might choose not to face-to-face, McDevitt said. RBHS counselor Jane Piester also believes access to the wide range of communication can help victims of sexual assault come out and talk about their experience.

“I know there have been journalism articles … about students that have shared experiences that have happened to them,” Piester said. “I think there are a lot of reasons a person wouldn’t want to report it but if they can certainly hear there are others that have told and have gotten help, they would be more willing to get help for themselves instead of suffering in silence.”

While the talk about sexual assault has evolved since Cassida and McDevitt’s high school years in the early 1980s and 2000s respectively, the stigma surrounding sexual assault is still there. For some victims, talking about their experience is not the problem, but instead, the reaction from the community.

“There’s that whole, ‘I don’t want you to have to deal with that,’ [be]cause some people will treat you like … you’re fragile,” Newman said. “You don’t have to treat me differently; I’m the same as before.’ … It’s definitely hard [to talk about rape] for people, but … you can mention death without the whole room going silent and no one talks about it.”

Although people may feel uncomfortable discussing the topic of sexual assault, it is something that happens to someone every two minutes in the United States, according to R.A.I.N.N. However discomforting it may be to discuss the touchy subject of rape, the community and society of a young generation today has the chance to take a stance and make a difference, McDevitt said.

People have to understand that discussing sexual assault is “not about hanging your dirty laundry out. It’s about understanding that stories are what make us humans,” McDevitt said. “And sometimes stories are hard to tell. But it’s hard to be a human, and there are difficult stories that need to be told, too.”

By Daphne Yu

*name changed upon request

Close the Stall

Photo by Paige Kiehl

Sitting in Honors Anatomy with her peers, senior Sumidha Katti’s group veered slightly from discussing the different parts of the skull to a frequently talked about subject among the female sex: menstruation.

While Katti and the other two girls shared remedies for reducing the pain of cramps, from ginger tea to heating pads, the sole boy in the group kept as far from the conversation as possible. The answers to his worksheet suddenly became a lot more interesting.

Katti said this response from guys is common. The strangeness and “grossness” of the female menstrual cycle is unappealing to males, so she said they seem to go out of their way to avoid it.

Guys “view girls as proper and not doing gross things,” Katti said. “I feel like guys think girls are supposed to be perfect all the time, like perfectly dressed, well-mannered. And [they think] girls don’t fart.”

Dr. Nicole Campione-Barr, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said society views bodily functions as “necessary, but private,” giving them a negative view.

“Because we have a social convention in our culture to not speak of these things in general public settings,” Campione-Barr said in an email interview, “it is considered wrong to do so.”

Although discussing bodily functions often bothers guys, somehow bathroom humor is entertainment while girls often find the humor unnecessary.

“It’s just kind of stupid sometimes,” Katti said. “If [the humor] is too much, it’s like, ‘Really, you know better than that,’ but they don’t.”

Even if something bathroom-related happens to guys, it never seems to be as big of a deal. While senior Chas Barbee was hanging out with some of his friends, they laughed to the point of tears about bodily functions.

“I ended up sharting my pants,” Barbee said. “This happened like three months ago, so I was 18, I was mature. I wasn’t a little kid. I pooped my pants.”

Barbee said he was embarrassed when it happened. There was a moment of silence at first, then they all started laughing again. He had to clean himself up at his friend’s house. Even though he is fine with sharing his story now, he thinks if a girl had been in the same situation, it would have been grosser.

“In a guy’s perspective, girls using the bathroom and stuff like that is kind of gross because they’re ladylike, and they’re supposed to be clean and nice,” Barbee said. “Guys are supposed to be the complete opposite, and when girls talk about that stuff, it kind of grosses them out.”

Barbee said if his experience happened to someone he didn’t know very well, he would have been even more disgusted. Because it’s such a personal issue, it can be “very unattractive and not cool.”

Campione-Barr said boys in particular think passing gas and bathroom-related incidents are funny, especially since so many movies and TV shows geared towards that audience use “bathroom humor.” Therefore, they use that kind of humor with their guy friends.

“Those same boys who discuss it with their buddies probably wouldn’t discuss it with their grandmothers, because they would likely think it was rude and disgusting,” Campione-Barr said. “Similarly, girls may discuss issues of menstruation with their mothers or other girlfriends, but would likely be uncomfortable sharing this information around boys/men because of their lack of knowledge and understanding on the subject.”

Even if bodily functions make people uncomfortable, every human being, and people within the same sex, all have them. They are a part of life, and Campione-Barr said it is society’s decision to choose what to tolerate.

“None of these issues are inherently wrong to talk about,” Campione-Barr said, “but our social conventions have dictated to us where discussion of this is appropriate or inappropriate.”
By Maddie Magruder

Life is hard to disguise

Photo by Asa Lory
Photo by Asa Lory

Two months and two thin lines were all it took to change senior Jasmine Morrow’s life forever. Standing in the bathroom after two missed periods, she waited, holding her breath and a $50 pregnancy test she’d purchased from the store. Trembling, she watched for the lines that meant pregnancy, the lines that meant a child, the lines that meant an uncertain, troubling future. The two lines slowly emerged, and the then-15-year-old broke into sobs.

Morrow said she had no idea what to do next. She’d gone through several other pregnancy tests a month before, and each had said negative. No baby. Nothing to worry about. But now there was no longer any question and no way to hide the news aching inside her head.

“I didn’t really want to tell my mom,” Morrow said. “I was terrified. I just kept it a secret for a week, but because I knew I needed the prenatal vitamins,I eventually told her. But I cried. I was scared.”

The ambush of events that followed was even harder than Morrow expected. Friends were shocked and abandoned her in her crisis. Her boyfriend was frightened and overwhelmed. Her mother suggested she have an abortion, and her father stopped talking to her, calling her “a disgrace.”

Then came the onslaught at school. Within weeks, classmates and peers began whispering, staring, smirking and turning their eyes away.

“I told some of my closest friends,” Morrow said, “and they ended up telling people,who told people so the whole school found out before I was even at three months. … People just stared all the time, and people would talk. They’d be like ‘Oh, you’re too young to have a baby,’ and obviously I knew that. But there was nothing I could do about it.”

Morrow discussed options with her family and supporters. Abortion was unacceptable, she said; she couldn’t imagine it when her baby “didn’t do anything wrong.” Adoption was an absolute last resort; she’d watched her brother give away his child for adoption several years previously and never wanted to see it happen in her family again.

Two in every 100 women aged 15-44 have an abortion every year,according to the Guttmacher Institute, while, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, around 14,000 adoptions occur in the United States annually. Morrow was stuck at a crossroads, analyzing these two options. Both directions screamed danger — she would either lose her child forever or face degradation in the eyes of society.

U.S. Studies teacher Katherine Glover understands this dilemma better than most. At the age of 16, Glover discovered she was pregnant and went off on the same emotional roller coaster as Morrow.

“I think initially I was shocked and scared and embarrassed,” Glover said. “I had some friends who just thought that I should have an abortion, or that if I was going to have [the baby], I should try to keep it hidden until I absolutely had to tell people that I was pregnant. … My parents were unsupportive and in some cases hostile and openly very derogatory or criticizing.”

After much debating, both Morrow and Glover eventually decided to keep their children. Neither single mother felt their age determined their ability to parent. People in their 20s and 30s feel just as “overwhelmed and … scared as I did,” Glover said.

The two young mothers, decades apart,paved their way through the highs and lows on the “little things,” the moments when pregnancy seemed more a gift than a curse. Glover found comfort in poetry and music, while Morrow developed a sense of independence, teaching herself how to thrive on her own.

“One thing I think I learned a lot was if you’re going to make adult decisions,” Morrow said, “you have to be an adult about it.”

For her this meant getting out of bed every morning and walking into the doors of a crowded high school, where quick lips spewed feverous gossip. Morrow ignored the whispers that she still hears today: “That’s her, that’s her, with the baby.”

Glover, too, kept her chin held high, her face forward, refusing to acknowledge that curtain of following gazes. There was no way to hide her pregnancy from society.

“Most of society reacts negatively whenever you’re young, you’re not married and you’re waddling around with a giant pregnant belly,,” Glover said. “Me, being pregnant at 16, there was no way I could hide the fact that I’d had sex. And with that, people would automatically say that ‘This is what you get for being immoral.’”

However, Glover believes religious affiliation and immorality aren’t the only reasons that ascertain why teenage pregnancy is so frowned upon. It also has to do with a society that doesn’t want the burden of another problem child.

“People assume I [was] a bad mom,” Glover said. “That getting pregnant when you are 16 automatically equates to ‘You won’t be able to raise your child. What are you going to do, work at a gas station for the rest of your life?’ So then people see it not just as your problem anymore,but as their problem and something that the entire society has to deal with.”

Yet Glover proved herself to be a determined teenage mother. She completed high school and moved on to college, where she tirelessly balanced time with her daughter with time bent over books, graduating with a degree in education. Partying and long-term relationships were shoved aside, so that Glover could focus on a healthy lifestyle for her child, RBHS junior Hallie Galvin.

“I definitely inhibited most of [the] things that [my mom] would have done in her life,” Galvin said. “Like if she hadn’t of had me, she would have gone to a different college, which is sometimes frustrating. Because even though she doesn’t say it, I still know that stuff.”

But Galvin said the young, unmarried pregnancy has meant a stronger bond between her and her mother.

“My mom is really strong-willed and really pushes herself in life,” Galvin said. “She’s been really successful as a single parent and was actually there for her children whereas a lot of single parents can’t be because they’re trying to give their children a better life in the future and not necessarily in the present. So I feel like my life was better than most kids with single parents.”

Throughout her pregnancy, Morrow clung to a vision similar to Glover and Galvin’s reality. This idea of mother and daughter, bonded and together, permeated her mind as she endured 10 long months of pregnancy — 10 long months of mood swings, morning sickness, taunting peers and doctor’s visits. It wasn’t until Dec. 15, 2011 that she finally saw that vision come to life.

Morrow went into labor about 2 a.m. and was rushed into the hospital. Initially refusing an epidural because of her religious beliefs, she remained seven centimeters dilated for four hours, sitting in excruciating pain. Her heart rate began to drop steadily, though, and finally she caved to the idea of having the epidural. After serious complications with the birth,the doctors performed a Caesarean section and Morrow’s daughter, Isabella Michele Marie “Bella” Yanis, was born after 25 hours of labor,on Dec. 16.

“I just couldn’t believe she was real. She seemed like a baby doll,” Morrow said. “It felt good. You automatically have a bond from the start, when you first hold her. It was a great moment.”

Ever since the birth, Morrow worked to provide for her daughter. Recently, she obtained a job at McDonald’s, and she and her boyfriend decided to split Bella’s “bill,” each parent paying half for baby supplies, meals, etc. Still, the financial issues pose a definite risk for Morrow and her family. According to the National Campaign to End Teen Pregnancy, approximately 25 percent of teen mothers go on welfare within three years of their child’s birth.

But Morrow remains optimistic. Relying on a strong Christian faith, she is determined to raise Bella well. She plans to attend Columbia College next year, major in psychologyand become a psychologist or counselor. She wishes to spread awareness about how to avoid teen pregnancy,by telling her story and making regular visits to high schools.

Fortunately, Morrow’s work is already started for her. Dr. Stephen R. Jorgensen, Professor and Dean of the College of Human Environmental Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said teenage pregnancy in the United States “is at an all-time low ever since we started keeping track … around the 1950’s.”

The teen pregnancy rate “is still high compared to other countries around the world,” Jorgensen said. Twenty-two percent of women in the United States reported having a child before age 20, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In England, this number was 15 percent, Canada 11 percent, France six percentand Sweden four percent. Jorgensen believes this disparity is because of U.S. media, where sexual material is virtually unavoidable. He also says that sexual education from a young age is lacking in America, and therefore teens are left ignorant of contraceptive methods.

“We could talk about a number of negative consequences [of teen pregnancy],” Jorgensen said. “It starts with infants born to teenagers are more likely to be of low birth rate, there are more birth injuries, they have more negative health outcomes at birth and then later on as developing infants. … Children born to teenagers have educational outcomes that aren’t as good as children not born to teenagers … They have fewer opportunities in life in terms of long-term income and occupational placement.”

Yet neither Glover nor Morrow say they would go back and change a thing. Glover sees her pregnancy as something that helps students open up to her, while also providing her with a daughter she adores. She said simply that the birth was “God’s planning and the path I was intended on.”

Morrow, as well, sees every day with Bella as a blessing. She’s learned to bypass the “haters” who judge her past mistakes; in her opinion, their disapproval is a small price to pay for her daughter.

Bella is “everything to me,” Morrow said. “I would give up anything in the world: my job, my car, anything just to have her. I used to hit my stomach, and she would kick back, and at that point I knew that we were going to be close, but I never knew that I would love her as much as I do. It’s just indescribable. When you become a mother, it’s just something that you can’t describe.”

By Lauren Puckett

Nothing wrong with me

Photo by Patrick Smith
Photo by Patrick Smith

If people have a bad day, they’re depressed. A little moody? Bipolar. Always have to put their phone in their right hip pocket? O.C.D.

People use these terms jokingly. But for students living with mental illnesses the words hold a heavier meaning.

Junior Sarah Poor has attention-deficit disorder, and said teenagers don’t take mental illnesses seriously enough, even more common ones like hers. She takes medication for A.D.D., which she said helps her focus in school. But by the time the medication wears off, she has a hard time concentrating on homework.

“People act as if anyone that gets in trouble during class has A.D.D.,” Poor said. “I’ve even heard people say, ‘That was such a stupid answer. Do you have A.D.D.?’ to someone else in class. Stuff like that actually hurts. A.D.D. doesn’t make you stupid.”

Poor said kids talk about A.D.D. as if every other person has the disorder, and they don’t usually expect the ‘smarter kids’ to have it.

“I’m in EEE,” Poor said. “The funny thing is I’ve never been accused of having it, and yet kids talk about it like every other person can have [A.D.D.].”

Kestrel Homer, the assistant director of the psychological services clinic at the University of Missouri-Columbia, saidin an email interview, that kids talk about A.D.D. because it is a more recognizable disorder and has received more attention in the media, with diagnoses among citizens growing in the last decade.

“It is another ‘trendy’ disorder. It seems like there are a lot of parents who think every hyper rambunctious kid has a disorder, when really they’re just trying to be a kid,” Homer said. “Some parents also ‘doctor shop’ to try and find someone to diagnose their child with A.D.H.D. It’s a disservice to individuals that actually have this disorder when other people are out kind of ‘crying wolf.’”

But Homer noted oftentimes the way students approach the subject can be hurtful to someone struggling with a mental illness. 46 percent of 13-18 year-olds have a lifetime prevalence of some mental disorder on a wide and constantly increasing specturm, from mood and eating disorders to A.D.H.D. that they have to deal with on a daily basis.

Homer said numerous disorders have been classified in the past decade. However, because of the lack of understanding about the disorders, people often treat mental illnesses lightly, ignoring the serious at hand.

Senior Kelly Richardson has two brothers who suffer from mental disorders. One has Asperger’s syndrome and one has clinical depression. Richardson said people generally avoid conversations on mental illness because they don’t understand their severity.

“I wouldn’t talk about it,” Richardson said. “I feel like if you talk about it with other people,you get kind of a feeling of pity. It’s almost like nobody wants to know, and nobody wants to talk about it. You don’t really want to talk about things that serious.”

Similar to cancer and heart disease, psychological disorders are also diagnosable and treatable medical problems, according to However, Richardson believes when teens find out that someone has a mental disorder, they look at that person with sympathy. Although her friends don’t treat her any differently, she said acquaintances and strangers might.

“We had to write college essays in A.P. Lit., and I wrote mine about having a troubled home life for a while,” Richardson said. “And I could tell after people read it, they treated me differently for a while. They feel pity for you.”

Homer said teens are starting to gain independence and explore their identity in a period of their life where it’s difficult to be different, especially in a positive light.

“Historically, mental illness has been a very negative thing,” Homer said. “We used to institutionalize people, and people were treated like criminals. We used to give lobotomies and cut large chunks of people’s brains out. In that sense we have made a lot of progress, but there is still a very negative association to mental illness.”

But Richardson said though people feel uncomfortable talking about mental illness, it’s much harder for people who have to deal with it. She said sometimes it’s hard to understand what’s going through her brothers’ heads.

“Asperger’s is a very high functioning form of autism,” Richardson said. “We didn’t know he had it for a long time. But there’s a fine line between being odd and having something wrong with you.”

Growing up with her brothers, Richardson learned the impact a few careless words can have on someone. She knew for a while her brother with Asperger’s syndrome was different. But people can’t always tell someone has a mental illness by looking at them.

“The main thing I’ve learned from the past two years is that everybody has a story, and everybody has problems in their life,” Richardson said. “You don’t know about them, so being nice and kind to everyone, even if you don’t know them, is the best thing to do because being mean can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

When Richardson moved to Columbia two years ago from a smaller town, she hung out with her brothers quite a bit, especially her brother who is clinically depressed. She said they were best friends, but it was hard to be happy while they were hanging out, watching movies and talking, because her brother was sad all the time.

“He would tell me that some days he just didn’t see the point anymore, that he just wanted to give up,” Richardson said. “And those nights I would try to stay up with him all night to make sure he’d be all right. But he would insist that I’d go to bed. And I’d spend the whole night tossing and turning and praying that when I got up in the morning he’d still be there.”

Homer works with suicide prevention in youth and said it is much more common in teenagers than most people realize.

“For every one student that dies from suicide there are between 100-200 attempts,” Homer said. “That is a lot of individuals making suicide attempts with no one knowing that they made an attempt or how much they are suffering.”

For Richardson, the hardest part was watching her brother come to terms with his depression. She said kids who are depressed act as if they don’t have a problem because they’re in self-denial. This was true for her brother who couldn’t admit to himself that he was depressed.

“To admit he was depressed and he needed help is almost admitting you’re not good enough,” Richardson said. “So I think pride had to do with it,and the shame of not being good enough.”

Homer said a lot of mental illnesses goes untreated. She thinks many of the adults she talks to that were depressed in high school never received help because “we live in a very independent society as a whole,” and as a teen, “it’s especially difficult to admit you need help. I think mental disorders go untreated because of the stigma attached to mental illness. Some parents do not take their children seriously when they express a need for treatment of some kind.”

But Richardson said when her brother finally came to terms with his depression, he talked to their parents who took him to see a physician and psychiatrist.

“He started antidepressants, which helped a lot,” Richardson said. “But the hardest part is to admit that you have a problem and need help.”

Although Richardson thinks people will be better able and more willing to talk about mental illness as they mature, she also thinks it’s “too heavy of a topic” for even adults to discuss. Mental illness is avoided in conversation by “basic human nature” she said because people have their own stressors to deal with.

“Nobody always wants to hear about other people’s problems,” Richardson said. “They’ve got their own problems.”

By Ipsa Chaudhary

The Color and the Shape

Photo by Maddy Jones
Photo by Maddy Jones

A teacher first told senior Jevron Hendrick he was obese in fourth grade. It didn’t come as a shock to him, he said, because he didn’t know what the word meant. Even when he understood he was dangerously overweight, he still wasn’t perturbed.

“She was a mean teacher; it was something I would have expected,” Hendrick said. “I knew I was big, but I just went on doing what I wanted to do.”

Hendrick is part of a growing group of students who are far from average size, being either larger or smaller than the norm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 to 15 percent of youths in Missouri are obese, Hendrick among them.

This, combined with his race, Hendrick said, causes people to have preconceptions about his attitude before they even meet him.

“Especially here, everyone’s like, ‘Ooh, you’re so big. You’re my new best friend. You’re my bodyguard,’ ” Hendrick said. “A lot of people do know me here; a lot of people say before they knew me they were scared of me or something, but once they get to know me, I’m a nice person.”

Junior Nick Hardeman is like Hendrick in one way; he’s far from common on the size scale. However, he’s small rather than large. Hardeman said he stopped growing in fourth grade, and “people started to notice and point it out.” Going through middle school and junior high, people would talk over him, he said, because of his size.

“I was really behind. It felt like I was still a kid and everyone else was growing up and I was just not maturing, I guess, as much as everyone else,” Hardeman said. “They kind of blew me off and said ‘Oh, he’s short.’”

Straying from the norm on size can lead to discrimination, Career Center teacher Nathaniel Graham said. Graham has intimate knowledge of both sides of the issue, as he lost 160 pounds in 16 months starting in February of 2009. He said the public accepts the discrimination that comes with size.

“You can see it in society where you’re judged on how you dress, judged on how you look. Aesthetics and, generally speaking, the overweight person … to put it bluntly, the obese person is not viewed favorably,” Graham said. “The discrimination happens all the time across visible lines and we just roll with it. Very few people will stand up and take a stance at it. Food ­— people have hard addictions with food. And it’s rough.”

Both Hendrick and Hardeman agreed their peers barely noticed the discrimination they experienced, and bothsaid it didn’t really bother either of them. Hendrick in particular said he almost prefers the ‘big guy’ stereotype, if just to overturn it.

“It doesn’t matter to me. It’s just what society has led them to believe, so I’ll just have to show them otherwise,” Hendrick said. “If they’re scared of every big black guy they see, it’s not going to be good for us nice ones because people just want to assume that we’re bad.”

Because of football, Hendrick has dropped 40 to 50 pounds during his high school career, and he said he’s received many compliments on how good he looks. However, Graham said the stigma of being overweight can linger for far longer than the fat.

“Some people that hadn’t seen me for a while were absolutely astounded, just in the change over a few months,” Graham said. “There were certainly some comments directed toward me, but people that knew me, I would still get the, ‘Oh, are you going to eat that? Really? You know, you lost all that weight. You’re really going to go eat a cookie?’”

Because his size is less easily changed — it’s difficult to gain height — Hardeman said he mostly accepts teasing in stride. Hardeman said doctors aren’t quite sure why he never grew — whether it’s a hormonal imbalance, a pituitary gland disorder or just natural shortness is still up in the air. However, Hardeman said his size has become less of an issue since he entered high school, thanks to finding some good friends.

“With show choir everyone accepts me because everyone’s weird in their own way,” Hardeman said. “People respect taller people because they’re a bit intimidated, and I’m smaller, so they aren’t intimidated at all by a little kid.”

Hardeman said with the support he’s gotten from show choir, his size has become a advantage. He feels his size allows him to be easily unique, unrestrained by regular rules.

“In a way, being smaller than everyone else has given me some sort of confidence,” Hardeman said. “Not everyone is the same size, and being short has made me feel like I don’t have to be like everyone else. I can stray from the norm and be my own person.”

Graham said in 2009 he had had enough, citing health concerns — being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease among other illnesses according to the CDC — as the main catalyst for change.

“I started in September, after my birthday I went to Weight Watchers, and really what I picked up from their program was conscious eating. And then the following February, I dropped the weight,” Graham said. “I love food, and I always will. I love it, I love it. But it was very different coming here. My family remarks all the time when we go to restaurants, like the volume and the selection on a buffet or the butter on dishes.”

Hendrick said he’s not uncommon, and he’s right. A 2011 CDC survey found that up to 35 percent of Missouri’s adults are obese, and as part of that population, Hendrick said when he meets a person for the first time, he gets pigeonholed. However, he said the chance to change someone’s ideas about an entire group of people is worth its weight in gold.

“I know a lot of big black guys who are mean, but it’s kind of a negative stereotype, and I don’t want people to be scared of me. I’m not a scary person,” Hendrick said. “Everyone deserves a decent shot; not everyone’s the same, and I feel like if I change that, people will give other people a chance.”
By Adam Schoelz

The Tolerance Deficiency

Photo by Aniqa Rahman

In proud, reverent tones, people often proclaim America to be the “Melting Pot,” a place that beckons to diversity, then embraces that diversity as its own. But a slightly more analytical look at America today could undermine that wide-eyed view and re-evaluate the actual distance America has traveled from the homogeneity it once used to boast.

America’s Pledge of Allegiance reads: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In public schools across the nation, students stand up reluctantly, place a hand over their hearts and half-heartedly mutter the Pledge of Allegiance, and in a rapidly diversifying society, after “one nation under,” it is increasingly common to hear voices trail off, senior Emily Thomas said. Thomas believes there’s a discomfort in claiming to be a “nation under God.”

“I know [the Pledge of Allegiance] is tradition, but it doesn’t necessarily align with everybody’s beliefs,” Thomas said. “There are plenty of people out there who don’t believe in any God, or believe in multiple Gods, or don’t believe in the Christian deity, which is obviously what’s being referenced in the Pledge of Allegiance, and I think it isn’t really fair to make people say things they don’t necessarily believe.”

In fact, Congress passed the bill adding the words “under God” to the Pledge in just 1954. This was during the frantic age of “anti-Communism,” in an attempt to link patriotism with religious piety so that the purity of religion would elevate the self-proclaimed “devout Americans” above the “Godless Soviets”, according to This attempt to link patriotism with religious piety in order to elevate the American people above others is seen frequently in American history. Ten years ago, in 2002, once-a-week recitation of the pledge became mandatory in Missouri public schools after the pride-shattering attacks of 9/11, though students can still opt out on religious grounds.

Although by now, most states have made the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance optional for students in public schools, six states (Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas) still force all students to say the entirety of the Pledge, regardless of religious affiliation.

But junior Alicia Hoagenson says that in today’s society, the word “God” has no place in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“If you want to have religion in school, you should go to a private school, not a public school,” Hoagenson said. “I don’t think that any form of religion should be allowed in a public school because every student is different.”

Junior Jackie Gajda, like Thomas and Hoagenson, also takes issue with the use of the word “God.” Gajda says she believes in some kind of energy, but not a God and, therefore, stopped pledging her allegiance in 6th-grade.

It isn’t a coincidence that Gajda, Thomas and Hoagenson all believe the use of “God” in a Pledge recited in public schools is out of line. They share in common their practice of minority faiths. Gajda is a Mahayana Buddhist, Thomas is a Unitarian Universalist and Hoagenson doesn’t have strictly defined beliefs.

All three agree society often looks down upon minority faiths. U.S. Studies, Sociology and Psychology teacher Greg Irwin believes these far-from-accepting views are now projected on a much larger scale for everyone to see, he said, because of the public disrespect shown to Mitt Romney during the course of the Presidential primaries because of Romney’s practice of Mormonism.

Hickman High School senior Cecelia Davis, a Christian, not only sees this lack of respect shown to minority faiths, but has felt it personally as well. When Davis was 13, her mother converted to Paganism. The switch jarred with Davis and she began to confusedly explore faiths. When she tried practicing Wiccanism like her mother, the backlash was instant and malicious.

“I had a raw egg thrown at me at a birthday party. It was all in good fun, according to them, but a couple of my friends heard them making fun of Wiccanism, calling my mom a witch and giggling about it,” Davis said. “They used to ask me if I was going to put a spell on them. I remember people calling my mom a devil-worshipper, telling me that she would go to hell, or calling her crazy for believing in magic.”

Incidents like this happened overwhelmingly in junior high, but Davis says she still hears cruel comments about her mother, even in today’s supposedly accepting society. While the practice of Wiccanism in the United States has been increasing over the last decade, according to, its number of adherents is still a distinct minority in the U.S. The cruelty directed towards the faith is still disproportionately large.

Thomas also feels like society often times forgets to teach people that there are religions out there to explore besides the dominant three —­ Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. According to the 2012 U.S. Census Statistical Abstract, three quarters of Americans responded that they practice the Christian faith alone.

“When you think of religions, you think of Christianity, Islam and Judaism,” Thomas said. “But there are so many different belief systems out there. I don’t think you should have to be one of the main three religions or nothing important; I think people should be educated just as much in Hinduism or Buddhism as they are in Christianity.”

Thomas says she feels this discrepancy between religious focuses at school. In her Advanced Placement European History class, for example, she said the curriculum assumes that students have a strong prior understanding of and background in Christianity.

“I do know some stuff [about Christianity], because as a part of the religious education at the Unitarian Universalist Church, you learn about all religions,” Thomas said, “but I don’t really know that much, and I’ve never read the Bible or anything, and those that aren’t knowledgeable about the Christian faith are kind of like, ‘What’s going on?’ in class.”

Educators and their ability to voice their opinions on religion is another gray area in determining the extent to which public schools should allow religion. While many assert that public school teachers are unbiased in their classrooms, junior Jacob Winton says he has been in classrooms with a definitively biased air.

“I’ve had teachers who expressed their religions,” Winton said. “For example, one time during the end of December, we were singing Christmas songs in class. It was just a little uncomfortable for the people who were not Christian. The part that bothered me, though, was when I was asked to sing the dreidel song for the class because I’m Jewish.”

Though these sorts of experiences in school go against the fundamental principles of separation of church and state and signify a discrepancy between the tolerance America boasts and the tolerance it actually holds, Winton maintains that exposure to religion in school can be beneficial to students.

“I think that in school, religion shouldn’t be totally ignored because it adds to the experience you get,” Winton said. “I love learning about other religions from my friends. But I don’t think anything religious should ever be pushed in schools at all because you never know who’s going to affected and how.”

By Urmila Kutikkad

Shallow Deep Love

Photo by Paige Kiehl

Every society has secrets: the ones that everybody knows about but nobody likes to talk about. This one slinks through the fuzzy monitors of open computers and the pages of magazines, between late night text messages and hidden paperback novels.

Ninety-three percent of boys and 62 percent of girls have exposure to Internet porn before the age of 18,according to “The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth” by Chiara Sabina, Janis Wolak and David Finkelhor (CyberPsycology & Behavior, 2008).

Prior to Internet popularity, kids had to wait to steal their father’s “Playboy” magazine or mother’s “Victoria Secret” catalog, but as the Internet has made pornography increasingly accessible, erotica has increasingly penetrated the minds of teenagers. As pornography becomes more and more common,the age of viewers also drops, currently sitting at an average age of initial pornography exposure at 11 years old.

Senior Tony Sun said nowadays, teenagers watching pornography has become an accepted societal norm. It has become a joke among friends, and teenagers don’t see pornography as a serious thing, Sun said. The phrase, “Oh, everybody watches it,” has become justification for others to begin viewing it.

“If you watch it, you watch it,” Sun said. “If you don’t, people think you’re lying.”

Though teenagers may view porn as a joke, the fact remains that society doesn’t openly discuss it. Chemistry teacher Gregory Kirchhofer said the stigma against pornography is a continuation of that against sex.

“We are held back from topics about sex, and [porn’s] just as taboo a topic as general sexual health or sexual activity or preference,” Kirchhofer said. “Porn falls into the same category.”

Because of the stigma against porn, the Internet serves as a perfect forum for it. Porn is not only extremely accessible, but also allows users to remain anonymous and physically unaffected, while still getting the euphoric sensation equal to drugs, according to the article “Internet Porn: Worse than Crack?” by Ryan Signel on

Pornography leads to masturbation in most cases, which releases naturally occurring opioids, having essentially the same effect as the drug heroin. The difference, however, between literal drugs and pornography, is that while a person can stop inserting drugs into their system, the pornographic images remain branded into the brain.

According to, porn addicts are defined as those who spend 11 hours or more per week looking at porn. Merriam-Webster defines the word addiction as a “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.” But porn has not been proven to perturb its users with withdrawal, nor has it been classified as a “harmful substance.”

“Its not an addiction. [It is] a hobby,” junior Luke Darrough said.

Darrough believes there is a line between watching porn and having it become an addiction. He said it begins to turn into more than just a hobby when “you would put off certain events to” watch porn. “Just the same thing that would classify an addiction to any drug.”

But porn’s mere addictive qualities are not where the problem stops. Rather, it is the repercussions of those addictive qualities that have the most detrimental effects on society. Currently, 56 percent of divorce cases involve one person having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites according to

Pornography has become a growing wedge between couples because it leads to a change in one’s sexual “appetite.” Repeatedly viewing porn negatively affects a person’s sex drive because pornography satisfies all “cravings” and desires, leaving little to no need for human intimacy: an intimacy, which is crucial in healthy marriages and relationships, according to “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children” by Victor B. Cline, who has a doctorate in psychology.

For Sun it’s important to keep porn and relationships separate in order to maintain healthy relationships.

“Porn should never replace another person,” Sun said. “It’s like grapes and a steak dinner. So porn is like grapes. Everybody loves eating grapes; you can get full off of grapes. But a steak dinner is still a steak dinner. But I don’t want to go home and eat a steak dinner every day, but it’s still nice to have variety in my life. It should never be like you turn the other person away to watch porn.”

Pornography lacks the emotional involvement ideally found in relationships. This creates a separation between the two, and one cannot replace the other. After a long relationship with porn, people can feel dissatisfaction with human intercourse, according to “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children.” This is not only because of the increased time it takes to be aroused during human intimacy, but also because of the unrealistic precedents set by pornographic content.

Porn is notorious for being fake because the majority of men and women in pornographic videos are cast because of their abnormally large and enhanced body parts, Sun said. Watching these videos gives unrealistic expectations of sex and what it should look like, when in reality, few aspects of the people and sex in porn are true. Not only are the actors enhanced, but Sun also thinks the situations encountered are extremely unlikely and exaggerated.

“I think what’s really important when you’re watching porn is to be able to differentiate a video from real life. … It’s like the plumber shows up: ‘Oh, I heard you had your pipes,’ and like 10 seconds later he’s got his d— out,” Sun said. “But that’s an incredibly unrealistic expectation of real life.”

Pornography also affects much of the way that society sees the roles of men and women. Often times in porn, men objectify women and porn portrays them as sex objects, condoning the subordination of women in society.

Pornography “is very destructive,” junior Kira Kirk said. “I’m not OK with the way women are treated or thought of in porn, which is why I stopped watching it.”

In addition to showing imbalanced gender roles, porn also gives a skewed view of sex itself. Kirchhofer said the way pornography portrays sex leads to false expectations. It represents sexual acts for the purposes of filming and involves Photoshopping, fluffing and enhancing to make things look more appealing.

“Probably a big part of the detriment is the skewed view that people are seeing that [porn] is what sex is about,” Kirchhofer said. “We don’t talk to our kids about sex in general, so [porn] is the only exposure they get.”

Though porn has many negative effects and its viewing should be exercised with caution, it’s undeniable that it is very present in society and is used for a number of reasons, including “stress-relief,” as Darrough said.

Porn “may provide some sexual outlets for some people,” Kirchhofer said. “And if it is just providing that, and not causing a problem with their life, then I guess that’s positive.”

Regardless of the negatives that are intertwined with porn, teenagers continue to watch it, and porn continues to remain a whisper in society.

“If you can recognize [how unrealistic porn is], in my opinion, that’s the first step,” Sun said. “And then act on the fact that [those situations are] not ever going to happen, and that you can’t treat women like that, then it’s like you’re just watching another movie that just happens to have more sex and less plot than anything else.”
By Trisha Chaudhary

A Matter of Perspective

Photo by Maria Kalaitzandonakes

Police arrest someone for a marijuana offense every 37 seconds, culminating in more arrests each year than for “all violent crimes combined,” according to the Washington based Marijuana Policy Project.

In Washington state, lawmen are supporting the legalization of marijuana, in agreement with lawyer John McKay when he told sheriffs and police chiefs in the state that it was a travesty to take away personal liberty for “something that much of the community thinks is not a crime.”

But at RBHS, travesty or not, the legal implications of getting caught with marijuana are enough to deter teenagers from the drug or at least from to keep them from openly talking about it.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime called cannabis “the most widely used illicit substance in the world.” In the United States, marijuana is the fourth largest cash crop, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Domestic Eradication/Suppression Program. In Missouri alone, the value of marijuana-associated assets seized was more than $250,000 in 2005. In 1997, marijuana had a reported street value of $43.8 billion, and annually, the pursuits to outlaw the drug cost the government an estimated $10 billion.

While these statistics seem to augment the prevalence of marijuana smoking, figures on the number of teens smoking reveal that in 2008, less than half of high school seniors had tried marijuana in their lifetime, according to the NIDA. Just five percent of 12th-graders said they smoked daily.

Still, the NIDA reported perceived risk of and disapproval of marijuana use declined among 10th graders, which the report said may be related “to the increasing public discussions concerning medical marijuana.” Changes in attitude and beliefs are concerning because they can “drive changes in drug use,” the NIDA said.

Former Columbia Area Career Center student Zoe McDermit believes medical marijuana will become legalized in her lifetime. She said this will change public opinion about the drug overall and will drive up the number of marijuana users.

Marijuana has “never been legal in the entire time we’ve been alive,” McDermit said. “A lot of people, I think, would smoke if it wasn’t illegal. … No one really feels comfortable talking about it because there’s always that underlying thing of, ‘It’s not bad, but I could get in trouble.’”

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program places marijuana in with the likes of heroin and cocaine, especially emphasizing its role as a gateway drug. Yet researchers at the University of New Hampshire found life factors are more related to whether a teenager will use other illicit drugs and that race was the strongest predictor of future marijuana use.

The confusing myriad of contradictory findings can support all takes on marijuana. But for high school students, guidance counselor Samuel Martin said predisposed assumptions and personal experience with the drug play larger roles in a student’s opinion on marijuana.

Some students are “already at a point where they have this conviction,” Martin said, “or this belief that there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing, so they’ll just keep doing it.”

When a kid gets caught, Martin said he focuses on what led the student to smoke at all, rather than his or her views on the drug itself. Some start smoking out of curiosity, he said, but he has found that many also smoke to cope with stress.

“I try to talk about the reasons why that behavior’s occurring,” Martin said. “Sometimes people self-medicate so you really have got to deal with what’s the issue. So I try to deal with the symptoms, as a counselor. That helps me to focus.”

Senior Ricky Shinkle believes smoking is a social endeavor. Marijuana seems more popular because even if one does not smoke, he or she likely knows someone else who does. This supposedly wide network of marijuana smokers creates a lot of social pressure, he said, to fit in with the crowd.

Marijuana “is so widely used now that it’s actually harder to fit in, if you don’t smoke, in a lot of groups of people,” Shinkle said. It “can instantly give you common ground with someone. It’s something you can talk about; it’s something you can do together. It’s a way to make friends.”

For McDermit, smoking is less a social event and more about achieving “a level of consciousness.” Smoking can give her inspiration, she said, for example, to draw for “hours and hours and hours” after smoking a bowl, versus struggling futilely for that same amount of time.

“When I’m sitting down and I’m high, there’s a completely different aura than when I’m sober,” McDermit said. “When I smoke, I feel more inwardly conscious about my train of thoughts and my consciousness.”

However, McDermit said she is wary of getting caught. She feels safer smoking in her own home, she said, and avoids bringing the drug to school. She said weed’s only disadvantages come from its legal repercussions.

“The fact that it is taboo is making it more dangerous,” McDermit said. The illegality “is what messes up people’s lives.”

Shinkle also believes that marijuana has its advantages, but said the drug is not valuable in a school setting. The educational environment is “the worst possible place” to “intentionally slow your mind down,” he said. Even outside of school, Shinkle is against legalization because of marijuana’s effects on productivity.

“On a large scale, it would decrease productivity,” Shinkle said. “For an entire society to be indulging in that … I think it would be very bad for a society to legalize it.”

The stereotype of heavy marijuana smokers as lazy deadbeats halts some students from smoking, Martin said. But the stereotype “isn’t just randomly made up,” he said. Anecdotally, he said he has seen a lack of motivation in marijuana smokers.

“Just culturally what we view as heavy marijuana smokers doesn’t fit an image most students want to embody,” Martin said. “If you’re a recreational [smoker], you wouldn’t want to be associated with this image of a super hardcore person.”

McDermit said some of her classmates deemed her “a bad kid” when they found out she smoked. But she said marijuana is not limited to these supposed “bad kids.” Martin said kids who get caught with marijuana do not fit a given label.

I “have seen everybody from pretty much every background,” Martin said. “I’ve seen AP kids … seen athletes, seen black kids, seen white kids.”

On the first offense that a student is caught at RBHS, Martin refers the student to the Drug Education and Alternative Learning Program, which involves after school sessions that focus on “the situation that got the student into the suspension,” as well as “their plans and hopes for what they would like to get out of the DEAL program.”

Martin said in his six years as a counselor, he has not seen any kids get caught again after going through the DEAL program. While he admits these kids may still be smoking, he does think the program can take even the daily smoker to “a better place.” Martin also has conversations with students who admit their drug use to him. Recently, he debated with a student whether marijuana had any drawbacks at all. They discussed the legal ramifications of the drug, he said, as well as use his own background to share anecdotal evidence. Martin said as a counselor, the best he can do is provide students with information and hope that information will change their perspectives.

“You want to see kids make good decisions,” Martin said. “But … just because a kid makes a poor decision today … doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doomed to be failures in life. I just try to stay hopeful.”

Additional reporting by Maria Kalaitzandonakes

By Nomin-Erdene Jagdagdorj