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Student Who Helped Organize Protest Suspended

Andreana hit with five day out of school suspension.

 

Berlin High School senior Lisa Andreana was given a five day out of school suspension and there is a possibility she will also receive an in school suspension upon her return.

Andreana helped organize a sit-in to protest the non-renewal of World Language teacher Mrs. Deborah Cassidy. She and her mother were notified Tuesday night that she was suspended.

Andreana is not sure if other students also have been suspended because she is out of school.

She admits that the beginning of the sit-in was not handled well by the students. She said some students yelled profanities and were acting out but the students quickly got down to business and started writing lists of why teacher Deb Cassidy should have her contract renewed.

"We tried to do a good thing and what we got was a lot of negative reaction from teachers and administrators," Andreana said. "The people who say what we did was negative are small-minded in my opinion. There is a lot more to the world than the halls of high school and if one doesn't sometimes take a stand for what they believe then they will continuously get walked all over. The administration said they wanted to work with the students to hear our concerns but I honestly think everything we said will fall on deaf ears."

Andreana also said she is hesitant to say anything else because she fears retribution by the teachers and administrators.

"I talked to (Student Resource Officer) Officer Germain and he said we weren't doing anything illegal but we needed to tone it down and we did," Andreana said. "They want us to make an appointment to see Mr. Kennedy and he has continually blown off meetings and doesn't talk to any of the students. He walks around the halls talking on his cell phone. I think he is more politician than educator."

 

Kathy Perretta February 29, 2012 at 11:28 PM
So...freedom of expression is now a suspendable offense at Berlin High? Was anyone injured during this "peaceful" protest?? I applaud these kids for standing up for what they believe in. Their protest was not violent, it sounds as if the administration at the high school needs a reminder of why they were hired...suspending this young lady is nothing more than bullying and intimidation. I'm really re-considering my decision to send my son to this school.
Kathy Perretta March 01, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Funny, but my son missed none of his classes and knew nothing of this protest until later in the day. It should have been addressed by the principal and ended there, rather than escalating to this level. While I agree that any teacher's job is between that teacher and the board of ed, I believe that squashing the intelligence and bravery of a student who chose to stand up for something she believed strongly in is in fact a "learning experience", she's learning at a young age that you have to pay the consequences when you speak your mind. I would rather my son learn to stand up for himself and have compassion for others rather than go along with the main stream just because it's easier.
Tori Prokop March 01, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Mr. Harnett would have never let this happen because he would have listened to us in the first place. He was much more personable, at least in my opinion. It is unfortunate that it took this peaceful protest to get our principal to be more accessible.
Nick Santangelo March 01, 2012 at 02:50 AM
It seemed as if it was completely necessary to escalate the situation to a sit-in before the administration paid any attention to the opinion of the students. It is unfortunate that this had to happen to Lisa just because she voiced her opinion. I applaud Lisa's actions and hope this situation opens people's eyes to the situation going on at Berlin High.
Mike Miller March 01, 2012 at 02:56 AM
In my opinion, suspending someone for being open minded and for expressing their rights is totally rediculous. I also don't think that this makes the situation any better, as it only generates more bad feelings towards the administration of the school.
Thomas Toby Pietruszewski March 01, 2012 at 03:38 AM
This is quite unfortunate, and a tad bit ridiculous. Also she seems to be correct in her assumption that the complaints will fall onto deaf ears. The school claims its somewhere that a voice can be heard, yet the minute someone speaks up they're shut down. Personally I don't see whats wrong with a peaceful protest and the organizer who had good intentions certainly should not be punished for getting people to take up her cause with her. The school reacted too harshly to students standing up for Mrs Cassidy.
Tyler Feger March 01, 2012 at 03:54 AM
First of all gotta say, I'm seeing some insightful observations from the students, Nick, Tom, Tori, Mike. Great feedback and I agree with all of you. While it is unfortunate that Lisa was suspended, the blame always has to fall somewhere. I feel said the whole protest actually did more harm than good. It made several of our teachers leave the school; be it in emabrassment or other things, it lowered our stature in the eyes of the administration and called unnecessary public attention to the school. Honestly, it was not news worthy. In fact it is barely our business, much less than to share it with the media and subsequently the rest of the state and world. If it was just a sit in and the kids conducted themselves in a civil and appropriate manner, rather than write "F*** Kennedy" on the walls and tee shirts, it would have gone over better with administration and the opinions of the students would have been much more respected. But, instead, we attracted negative attention to ours school and shamed ourselves in the process. It is an embarrassment how we acted, and unfortunately the result was the suspension of Lisa Andreana.
Alexander Pietruszewski March 01, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Berlin High -- "Where a voice can be heard" But also where over 140 students, along with over 500 supporters go largely ignored.
Jack Tomascak March 01, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Mr. Kennedy made a statement today at the end of the school day. He has offered, to students, open and easy-to-make appointment times for up to eight students at once to talk to him about any issue or point they would like to make. These times are from 7AM to around the beginning of school and immediately after school, every school day (when he is in the building). His current priority is the students' well-being.
Nicholas Galotti March 01, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I live in another state and follow Patch because I grew up in Berlin and still have a few ties to the town. Up until this point I thought it was an interesting story to follow and no side was in the "wrong" or in the need of "blame". Now it is very clear by the actions of the school administration that they don't know how to work with students. They could have had a very different result if they talked to the students earlier and explained the budget process, hiring process, etc in detail. Instead they pushed the students away causing them to build a larger base as a side effect. Suspension is not a solution to a peaceful protest. If I were the principal I would be worried about my job due to how high profile a non-issue has become and due to his actions it is now a real issue.
Kevin D'Aquila March 01, 2012 at 03:58 PM
I'm also an alum now living in another state. Suspension aside, I won't comment on who is right and who is wrong here -- there are always two sides to every story. In the end, it sounds like there's a need for improved transparency and communication. What does the suspension accomplish? From an uninformed outside viewpoint such as my own, it comes across as an attempt to "make an example" of a single student, so as to discourage behavior that the administration takes issue with. Well OK, but what behavior is being discouraged? Is it graffiti? Obscenities on t-shirts? Skipping class? If so, it doesn't make sense to only see a single student suspended. This is a strong action, and it suggests that the behavior being discouraged is peaceful protest...and strongly discouraged, at that. If so, I have a problem with that. I think a lot of people will have a problem with that.
Dtran March 01, 2012 at 07:58 PM
It took a protest to get a principal to make his priority about the students? It's past half way into the school year, a little late.
Karen Silva March 01, 2012 at 08:23 PM
under freedom of speech we CAN burn the American Flag and it IS legal BUT AT BERLIN HIGH YOU CANNOT EVEN HOLD A PEACEFUL PROTEST. Maybe Kennedy needs to work in another less free country because I think that he forgot that he is in the freest land in the world--WHAT WILL HARVARD AND YALE THINK OF HIS ACTIONS-will this affect students who apply to IVY League or other colleges coming from a suppressive oppressive school is not a good start at getting accepted to the best colleges. KENNEDY HAS SINGLEHANDEDLY tarnished BHS's reputation I WANT HIS RESIGNATION AND I THINK THAT HE SHOULD ALSO CHANGE HIS NAME because he does not deserve to share his name with a great president who supported the freest country in the world. If you agree just type in your own comment that Kennedy should submit his resignation so that the students at BHS can better distance themselves from his way of thinking <3
Karen Silva March 01, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Below are some educational tools on the subject of freedom of speech ...if a teacher or school official accuses you of having done something wrong and wants to suspend you, you have the right to a hearing so you can tell your side of the story. This right was recognized in 1975 by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case called Goss v. Lopez, which involved some high school students who had been suspended without a hearing. If you're facing a suspension of any length of time, you have the right to notice of the charges against you. "Notice" means being told exactly what you did that was wrong. You also have a right to a hearing before a person or people who're impartial -- they don't have any kind of attitude towards you, one way or the other. If you're facing serious punishment, like suspension for more than 10 days, then you have the right to be represented by a lawyer, who can call witnesses; to question or cross- examine your accusers and the witnesses against you, and to have a record made of everything that happens at the hearing for you to use if you want to appeal the decision. read more here http://www.lectlaw.com/files/stu02.htm
Karen Silva March 01, 2012 at 10:50 PM
federal courts have shown a willingness to err on the side of more expression rather than less when it comes to regulating when and where students may congregate to engage in speech activities. In Roberts v. Haragan, 346 F. Supp. 2d 853 (N.D. Tex. 2004), for example, a federal court held that "to the extent [that a] campus has park areas, sidewalks, streets, or other similar common areas, these areas are public forums, at least for the University's students, irrespective of whether the University has so designated them or not." http://thefire.org/article/9211.html
Karen Silva March 01, 2012 at 10:52 PM
As stated in the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker vs. Des Moines, neither “students [n]or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” We are not limited in what we think and students should not feel intimidated when expressing what they believe. Students should realize that they are not limited in their freedom of speech and there are not many restrictions holding them back from expressing their ideas with their communities. The First Amendment guarantees Americans’ right to freedom of speech, but it also protects them from being intimidated by the government. Students have even more freedom than adults when it comes to protesting through the written word. The thing holding students back may be that they think protesting, either through gatherings or written word, will not cause change. What they do not realize is that their actions will make an impact, and making an impact, no matter how big or how small, is change in itself. http://palyvoice.com/node/29801
Karen Silva March 01, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Q. What about schools, universities and lobbies of public buildings? A. Lobbies are not always open to speech activities. However, if they are made available for political campaigning, artistic performances, etc., they must be made available for other similar free speech activities. Note that sidewalks abutting but not on school or other property are public forums – see previous question. Public schools (secondary and below): The government can prohibit protest activities by nonstudents on school grounds while school is in session if the event interferes with school activities (such as too much noise or too many people). Public colleges and universities: Generally, protest activities on the public areas of stateuniversity property are entitled to broad First Amendment protection. Private schools: Private schools are private property – see next question. www.acluga.org/docs/protest.handout.pdf
Jack Tomascak March 01, 2012 at 11:38 PM
The protest was not shut down and it was not restricted by any member of administration or other authority figure. It went off without any hitches, so you cannot say that one "cannot hold a peaceful protest" at Berlin High School. I have been involved in a few less-than-high-profile protests at the school in the last few years and have never faced interference by administration. Although I was not involved in this aside from briefly observing, this was no exception. The resources provided below are fantastic; however, I'm sure that the school would not suspend a student simply due to holding a protest. Other factors that would probably not be disclosed to the public almost certainly went into the suspension.
James Ostroski March 02, 2012 at 07:25 PM
While I agree with the idea of a sitin to protest something a student believes in I also agree with the administration in suspending the student who organized the protest.If the student was getting nowhere when trying to meet with the principal then she should have gathered other supporters and gone to the Board of Education meeting and voiced everything there instead of just opting for the protest.The Board of Ed is comprised of elected citizens of Berlin that is trying to do whats best for the schools.The principal has to answer to the Superintendant of schools who in turn has to answer to the elected officials.In any situation including a job there is whats called the "chain of command" and obviously this was not followed if they never attended a meeting with the elected officials. Mark this as a learning experience where a person has to follow the right way of doing things
Karen Silva March 06, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I think a very important thing that we should always remember is stated below in one of my favorite quotes of all time “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou IN THE AGE OF BULLYING, CHILDREN BRINGING GUNS TO SCHOOL, CHILDREN DYING, CHILDREN COMMITTING SUICIDE AND/OR CUTTING BECAUSE OF BULLYING--THIS STATEMENT IS NEVER MORE IMPORTANT THAN NOW--If we take away the teachers that had the best communications with and mentored our children how will that affect the way that they feel and act as a result of those feelings . I just hope and pray that Berlin High School never gets on the list of schools that have experienced such tragedies all because we did not hear the voices of our children

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