The county School Board recently tightened its attendance policy to make it tougher to skip classes, but some HHS students say the change goes too far.
The policy revision approved last month and apparently aimed at students who arrive to school late or check out early is proving to be a real head-scratcher for students, staff, and teachers.
Under the change, if a student misses less than 3 hours and 16 minutes (that’s check in before 11:16 a.m. or check out after 11:44 a.m.), the absence is counted “unexcused” unless the student has a doctor/medical note.
A parent note isn’t enough anymore if the absence falls within the time parameters set by the board. So a simple tardy - arriving soon after the morning bell - will now require a doctor's note to be excused.
However, if the absence is for more than the 3 hours and 16 minutes, it is considered an “all day absence” and a parent note is all that is needed for it to be excused.
Confusing, we know. But a small piece of paper taped above the counter in the school front office helps boil things down a bit. It states, in bold letters, “A parent note may only be used to excuse a full day of absence.”
The policy switch has its supporters.
“It’s encouraging students to bring in doctors' notes and to come to school,” HHS attendance clerk Cheri Glor told The Ville News. “If you’re not in school, you’re not learning the material.”
Others, though, think the School Board changed the policy without enough consideration. They say unexcused absences affect students’ status for exam exemptions and school activities, and revisions to the policy shouldn’t be done without a lot of input and discussion.
“They’re basically saying they’d rather have kids miss a full day of school instead of them just missing a single block or two,” remarked senior Jalen Sands. “It’s ridiculous and makes no sense.”
Fellow seniors Haley Gentry-Hawkins and Alexias Ehiemua shared her sentiments.
“I can understand that they’re trying to cut down on people skipping, but it’s unfair,” Ehiemua said.
Gentry-Hawkins added, “You can’t always schedule a doctor’s appointment the day you are sick. You don’t always need to go to a doctor for your sickness.”
Story by Kiya Whitlow and Isabella Logue
A security breach with the ACT website delayed students at HHS and other Tennessee high school from taking the high-stakes test this week.
On Friday (Sept. 28) - four days before the scheduled ACT test date in Tennessee - an email to HHS faculty and staff announced that the test would have to be postponed because of the breach, which occurred in another state.
All of Tennessee and multiple districts across the country had to halt tests.
At HHS, where every student was to either take a practice ACT or the real test on Tuesday (Oct. 2), the delay affected students and teachers, who had to adjust their lesson plans.
“I am disappointed that the schoolwide ACT got cancelled because I think the practice ACT is a very valuable teaching tool for teachers of underclassmen,” said math teacher Jennifer Kotler.
“All students need to understand that the ACT is a test that you prepare for all throughout high school and not just cram for your junior year,” Kotler added.
HHS officials have said the entire school will still take the ACT – either as practice or the real thing – on the rescheduled date, which is expected to be either Oct. 16 or Oct. 30.
Story by Daniel Keatts-Thompson and Bella McBride
September has been a roller coaster of rotten weather, from heat indexes nudging 100 to gray skies spewing rain. Fortunately, things are about to change – and just in time for this weekend’s homecoming festivities.
The first push of autumn weather will arrive over the new few days, according to the National Weather Service, with sunny days in the 70s, cool nights in the 50s, and a big dip in humidity.
The turnaround should make for crisp, near-perfect conditions for Friday night’s homecoming football game with Wilson Central (Sept. 28) and Saturday night’s homecoming dance in the auxiliary gym.
It would seem that even Mother Nature is rooting for the Commandos.
Story by Isabella Logue, Kiya Whitlow and Bella McBride.
Random drug testing of student-athletes wrapped up recently at HHS.
Attempts to reach Athletic Director Dr. Ron Sarver for the results of the testing were unsuccessful, so details are sparse. But baseball coach Mike Hendrix said the tests are held each year during the fall and spring sports seasons.
Some student-athletes interviewed by The Ville News last week said that they understood and agreed with the school system's random drug testing policy, but they also said that students who are not athletes should be tested as well.
Story by Sloane Wright and Brinson Martin
HHS counselors raised awareness of teen suicide earlier this month as part of national Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 9-15).
The counselors handed out pamphlets including one titled "Friend's Guide to Suicide Prevention," which offers advice on how to reach out to peers who might be suicidal and potentially save their lives.
According to the suicide prevention group The Jason Foundation, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24. The foundation also reports that more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease - combined.
Debbie Sheets, a counselor for the group STARS (Students Taking A Right Stand), said she hopes the pamphlets and other materials help teens who are struggling.
The counselors were also available to speak with students one-on-one. "Students who needed to talk more in-depth could," Sheets said.
Story by Eryn Petty and Lillie Franks
The miraculous play by freshman football players Luke Manning and Jameson Wharton that ended up on ESPN's SportsCenter back in August is still gaining attention.
A video of the play, in which Manning throws a touchdown pass to Wharton with no time left on the clock to give the Commandos a 10-6 win over Blackman, has reportedly made SportsCenter's Top 10 with millions of views.
Coach Jack Littlejohn said that while he is glad the play has gained attention, "I would feel better if we had won another game since then, but we haven't."
The team's record is 2-3 with their next game Thursday (Sept. 27) at Wilson Central.
Story by Elena Giordani and Johnny Espinoza
Homecoming Week (Sept. 24-29) is in full swing with dress-up days, powder-puff games, a parade and pep rally, a big home football game and, to cap it all off, a dance.
Festivities begin Monday with hippie/ tie dye dress up day. Each day this week will have a different dress-up theme. Tuesday is construction worker day, Wednesday is rapper/rocker/ country day where students can dress up like a favorite musician, Thursday is meme or Vine day, and Friday is class color day in preparation for the second-block pep rally.
The first powder-puff games (freshmen vs. juniors and sophomores vs. seniors) will begin 4:45 Tuesday in front of Ellis Middle, with the championship scheduled for the same spot at 5 on Thursday.
A parade will kick off 6:30 Wednesday at the Streets of Indian Lake.
Friday will be the homecoming court at 6:30 followed by the football game with Wilson Central at 7.
Finally, on Saturday, there will be a homecoming dance from 8 to 10 in the upstairs gym. Admission is $5, and tickets will be on sale all week in the cafeteria. Attire is semi-formal.
The dance is making a return this year after a two-year absence. Instead, there was a Fall Ball in October. But this year, Fall Ball was dropped and the dance was moved to Homecoming Week.
“Fall Ball has always been kind of a random dance,” Andrew Crockett, senior class treasurer, said Thursday. “It’s not that the attendance was low, we just think the attendance will be greater with a homecoming dance.”
One thing missing this year is the bonfire, a homecoming tradition at HHS. But this time, Crockett explained, there were issues with scheduling that made it really difficult to have the fire. He expects the bonfire to return next year.
Even without the bonfire, there is certainly something for everyone during Homecoming Week.
“Homecoming Week is going to be filled” with events, senior class Vice President Jacob Howard said.
Story by The Ville News staff
Club Rush is coming to HHS Thursday and Friday (Sept. 20 and 21). The event will be during all four lunches in the gym hallway.
Spanish teacher and Club Rush coordinator Jessica de Araujo Jorge said Club Rush is an opportunity for students to learn about the different clubs and organizations at HHS.
“Students set up booths and they have pamphlets or posters or scrapbooks that show any activities that students have done in the past and what they plan on doing for the upcoming school year,” she said.
HHS offers a variety of clubs, including several new ones. One new club, Sparks After School, is sponsored by librarians Angie Woods and Pamela Hodgeman and meets the first and third Wednesday of each month.
“The Sparks After School Club is going to be about making kids be the best they can be,” Woods explained. “We’re going to do lifestyle classes, book club, we’re going to have people come in and talk about careers and just overall to make whoever is a part of the club branch out within HHS and spread positivity.”
For a complete list of clubs at HHS, visit the school’s website and select the “Clubs” tabs.
Story by Rianna Waters and Kiya Whitlow
HHS teachers have a new book club, and their first selection is a student favorite.
Started this school year by Assistant Principal Lisa Jaskot, the club will begin reading The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas in early October.
The HHS student book club is already reading this novel, but Jaskot decided the book would also be a good choice for teachers because it promotes multiculturalism.
The Hate You Give shows how racism manifests itself in violence and police brutality and how the character Starr Carter uses her voice to fight it.
“As our population begins to change, we too must change and be aware of our students’ lives outside of the building,” Jaskot wrote in a faculty email about the new book club.
About 15 percent of Hendersonville’s population is non-white, making cultural diversity and pluralism important to HHS students and teachers.
“We all became educators because we care about students no matter who they are, where they come from, or what their backgrounds are,” Jaskot wrote.
Autumn Starr, an HHS student and library senior project worker, said, “Teachers need to read those type of books to know how to relate to students.”
Engaging in books relevant to today’s problems is a more effective way to connect to students than reading older, classic books, Starr said.
Jaskot wrote in her email that she would like the teacher and student book clubs to do a "culminating activity" when they finish the novel.
Story by Gracie Eastman
Students in the Criminal Justice II class recently created models of famous riots in U.S. history, and juniors Peter Livesay and Nick Moss won the class competition for best model with their depiction of the 1967 Detroit riots.
Teacher Regan Cothron paired the students and let them select a riot to recreate in a shoe box. The students also had to give a presentation to their peers who then voted on the best project. The students were only given a few days to complete the assignment.
“If they have to teach other students about their riot, they take it more seriously and they kind of become experts on it,” Cothron said.
Livesay and Moss received 18 votes out of 97 cast (several 2nd block classes viewed the models and cast votes). The juniors said the Detroit riots were actually their “last option” as the one they originally wanted, the Los Angeles riot of 1992, was already taken.
Moss said the project was an effective way of learning about famous riots. “I think it was better because we’ll retain more information,” he said.
The Detroit riots lasted five days and ended with $45 million in property damage. The riots led to the deaths of 43 people and the arrests of 7,200. More than 2,000 buildings were destroyed.
Almost all of the riots presented dealt with racially charged incidents such as the Cincinatti riot of 2001, the Seattle riot of 1999, and Charlottesville, Va., riot of 2016.
Story by Rianna Waters and Isabella Logue
A nationwide craze among teeagers has become a health and disciplinary issue at HHS: e-cigarettes.
More than a dozen students have been caught on campus with electronic cigarettes so far this year, and School Resource Officer Kyle Pierce estimates that the actual number using the devices is much higher - perhaps a third of HHS’s 1,600 students.
“Most do it in class when the teacher is out of the room, that is really where a lot of it happens,” Pierce told The Ville News recently.
E-cigarette violations are handled like any other tobacco violation on campus: Students caught face out-of-school suspension and, possibly, juvenile court.
The most popular brand of e-cigarette among teens is Juul, so much so that smoking one is commonly called “Juuling.” A Juul resembles a USB flash drive and releases less smoke than a regular cigarette, making it easy to conceal. A California teen told NBC News that students “take a hit, sucking on the device as they would a cigarette. Then they blow it into their backpacks … or into their sweater when the teacher isn’t looking.”
Many at HHS say it is not unusual to smell the smoke in the school bathrooms or locker rooms. The nicotine pods that go inside the e-cigarette come in flavors like mango, fruit medley, and creme brulee, so the smoke often has a distinct, sweet smell to it.
“People are doing it every time I go in the bathroom,” said a senior who served a three-day suspension last month for possessing a Juul. “It’s very common.”
A group of girls was recently caught smoking e-cigarettes in the girls' locker room. Wellness teacher Stacia Dean said she was “disappointed” and vowed to sit in the locker room as long as necessary to prevent it from happening again.
School officials have even found e-cigarettes, which run by rechargable battery, accidently left charging around the building.
Financially, the devices are within reach of many teens. The cigarette itself cost around $60, and the nicotine pods run about $5, the same as a pack of regular cigarettes.
“Students usually get them online by falsifying their date of birth and get the package at their door without their parents ever realizing,” said Debbie Sheets, a counselor with the drug and alcohol awareness group Students Taking A Right Stand.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this month that teenage use of e-cigarettes has reached an “epidemic proportion.” The agency also put Juul and other manufacturers on notice that they have just a couple months to prove they can keep their products away from minors or face consequences, including the removal of e-cigarettes from the market or limits on the sale of certain flavored products.
Retailers who sell the devices to minors are also being hit with warnings and fines.
The F.D.A. estimates that more than two million middle and high school students were regular users of e-cigarettes last year, and the trend seems to be on the upswing.
“It’s sad because underage smoking was at its lowest in history and then Juuls turned up,” Pierce said.
Many teens believe that electronic cigarettes are not as bad for their health as regular cigarettes, Sheets said. In reality, she maintains, e-cigarettes contain just much or more nicotine as regular cigarettes and are highly addictive.
“Nicotine is equivalent to heroin in terms of the power of the addiction,” Sheets said. “It’s going to be something that’s very difficult to stop.”
E-cigarettes are also worse for the lungs than regular cigarettes, according to Pierce, who said long-term use of the devices lead to “popcorn lungs,” a pitting in the walls of the lungs that makes breathing progressively more difficult and that does not clear up after the smoker quits.
Sheets, Pierce, and other school officials are trying to educate teachers and students to the dangers. The district held a training session for teachers at the beginning of the school year, and emails with the latest information have become commonplace in teachers’ inboxes.
“It all started as a trend, and now it’s socially acceptable,” Pierce said. “If you don’t do it, now you’re looked at like, ‘Well, why not?’”
Story by The Ville News staff