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OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS & VIEWS : Attitude Adjustment : Equality and Respect Are Top Requests by Students

March 10, 1994|STEPHANIE GRACE and SARAH UBER and SHARON SHEN | Stephanie Grace, Sarah Uber and Sharon Shen are students at Villa Park High School. This article first appeared in the student newspaper, the Oracle. Results of the student poll were tabulated by students Angela Bergmann, Laura Fauteux, Mae Hsu, Jennifer Maresh and Kara O'Brien.

Disrespect has many faces, a survey of students at Villa Park High School found. It can show itself in an attitude, a remark, a look.

When asked how disrespect is most often expressed, students said 49% of the time it is verbally, 35% of the time through body language and attitude and 16% of the time physically.

That finding was among results of a schoolwide poll that sought to determine student attitudes about the state of dignity and respect on campus. The survey was conducted in English classes in November and December.

Students surveyed said they most wanted to be treated equally. They said signs of equal treatment include "fairness," "no favoritism," "not being put down" and "not being judged by stereotypes of religion or race."

"I believe being treated with dignity is not being treated especially good or bad. I expect to be treated just like everyone else, with the respect every single human deserves," Jonathan Gibbs said.

Surprisingly simple actions show respect, students said.

"Respect isn't always displayed correctly," Dan Russell said. "You should show respect to those who deserve it, not because they own a letterman's jacket or the best car or (have) the most money."

Laurie Viet agreed: "Dignity is being treated with the same respect other people receive. It is having your ideas listened to without judgment."

Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. "I consider being treated with dignity (to be) giving someone space when they're down and just basically being friendly," Steve Roach said.

"If someone holds the door for someone else, that is respect," Shawn Webber said.

Similarly, small and perhaps even unintentional remarks can take a heavy toll. Comments were reported to make up half of disrespectful behavior either witnessed or experienced by students. Examples frequently mentioned include name calling, talking back and racial slurs.

Also, comments that are intended to be funny can be offensive. Girls especially feel insulted when, as Kryss McKeon-Cawley said, "guys use us as playthings, and they don't think we have feelings."

A perceived attitude and body language can also send powerful signals of disrespect. "Rolling of eyes," giving "bad looks," "walking away," "not listening" or simply "ignoring" others come across as degrading, the survey found.

Overt physical behavior amounts to only a small percentage of the concerns expressed in the survey. However, strong condemnation was registered against spitting, pushing, vandalizing and smoking.

"Graffiti and other vandalism makes me sick. Why would people want to (make) cities look like trash?" Ryan Chevalier asked.

As Colin Hall said: "I feel running around school behaving like monkeys while using bad language shows a lack of respect for others. Most want school to be a calm, cool, learning place, not a jungle gym."

Many students felt that nothing can be done to increase the level of respect and dignity given to students on campus. They cited "tradition," "habit" and "that's just the way it is" as reasons.

Although there is no easy solution, if approached on an individual level, conditions may gradually improve, students said.

Small steps suggested include "listening to others" and "forgiving their faults." Jennifer Shen suggested students should "refrain from embarrassing one another."

Or, as Ayala Younger said: "I think that people have to trust others more and think about what they say or do beforehand."

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