Hello, my name is Kaitlyn and I am a freshman in high school. I am interested in studying criminal justice. Today, I want to talk about the importance of having safe spaces at school and why schools should treat students as whole people.

This topic is important to me because it’s not easy to turn everything off the moment you walk into a classroom. I’ve had situations where I felt like I was not treated like a whole person because my teachers expected me to put aside everything else that was going on in my life and just come to class ready to learn, but sometimes you can come to school really stressed. Stress can come from a lot of places, like homework, quizzes, deadlines, or things going on in your personal life.

One time, for example, my friend and I had a big disagreement over something, and it caused us to stop talking to each other. I was worried about how I was going to talk to her again. Because she was my best friend, I had nobody else to talk to about this but her, so it was just sitting in my mind the whole day. So when I got to class, that was all that I could think about. When I tried to focus, those thoughts interfered with my trying to learn. I just wanted to be alone and just lie down and cry.

These are feelings that I cannot really share with my teachers because there is nothing they can currently do about it. They just continue to teach. But when I am stressed and cannot focus in class, it impacts my learning. It is hard to do classwork if I have a lot on my mind. I can’t think straight, and that means I can’t do my work well. When I can’t focus, my grades start to drop, and then I get more stressed because I need to get that grade back up.

What students need when they feel this way is a place to be alone and calm down. But there aren’t really places to be alone at school. The bathrooms are filled with students who are skipping class or smoking. During breaks between classes, the hallways are crowded, and during lunch, it’s loud and there are people all around you. Although we do have guidance counselors, they are usually there to help you with academic questions, not personal things, and there’s no privacy because they end up telling your parents about the conversation. Currently, my only option is to ask for a bathroom pass so I can take one lap around the school and go back to class. That helps sometimes.

But what would really help is if schools had safe spaces because sometimes students need a physical place they can go to calm down when they are stressed, have a lot on their mind, or just need room to cool down so they can learn again. A safe space could be a physical room or area of school. There could be cushions to sit on and small activities to do. Maybe there could be other student [mentors] there that we can talk to about how we’re feeling, because sometimes that’s easier than talking to an adult. Creating safe spaces will be beneficial for students, not just to calm down, but down the line, for their grades and academics.

I know that not every school might have the room for a physical safe space, but at the least, I want schools and teachers to know that we need them to help us just a little bit. We want to have good mindsets to learn. But sometimes we need time to process our emotions and calm down so that we can get back to work and be successful.

Thank you for your time.

Kaitlyn on Why Students Need Safe Spaces at School

“Sometimes we need time to process our emotions and calm down so that we can get back to work and be successful.”  —Kaitlyn

“When I am stressed and cannot focus in class, it impacts my learning.”  —Kaitlyn