Teacher, student respond to controversial article

After the Omaha World Herald published “Blunts in the bathrooms, skipping all the time,” Central students and teachers had a myriad of reactions. Some agreed with the article’s descriptions of misbehavior and chaos, relating their own classroom experiences this year. Others, like senior Isabella Manhart, found the article overgeneralizing and harmful. 

“I was very upset by it,” Manhart said. “I feel like a lot of the quotes were taken out of context and saying awful things specifically about our school.” 

Manhart was interviewed in mid-March for the story, which came out in early April and immediately became a topic of discussion within the Central and OPS community at large, with voices both agreeing and disagreeing. 

The story described a myriad of behavioral issues that have arisen before, during and after the pandemic in schools. With numerous teachers across the country announcing their exit of the profession and a stark rise in adolescent mental health issues, it is evident that teenagers and the spaces that serve them are facing major problems. 

Science teacher Alexis Madsen discussed the article with her freshman students. 

“Our students are aware of how we’re looking to the public right now,” Madsen said. 

She used text-tagging to discuss with her students the language in the article and the causes for the issues, tying it into science by discussing cause and effect of pandemic schooling. 

“We looked at this piece, looking at if it were evidence-based or opinion-based, we talked about if it was fair to make generalizations about OPS,” Madsen said. The piece opened up a conversation about how schools have been affected in the last year. 

“My students talked about how mad they were at the world, they’ve dealt with death, isolation, being around people does just get them really anxious. As a teacher I empathetically know that kids are struggling with PTSD, and how I can support them.” 

Madsen specified that schools all over the country are facing issues, not just OPS and public schools overall. 

“I felt like the story was specifically trying to make OPS look bad because they didn’t bring in perspectives about any other districts,” Manhart said.  

Manhart wrote a letter to the editor expressing their disagreement with the article’s presentation. At the time of this writing, it has not yet been published by the Omaha World Herald. 

“OPS had not done the best in the past couple of years, but OPS kept the mask mandate for the longest, so they’ve been trying and been bashed on consistently when we’re trying to meet needs that are vastly different than other districts,” Manhart said. “There’s a lot of nuance that was not given space in that story.”