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The Shoestring News Brief #2

Student journalism, strike update, and Indigenous People’s Day

Not infrequently, The Shoestring finds itself in the position of having too many stories coming in that we just don’t have the capacity to cover. As we’ve done once before, we are choosing to highlight some of these stories in a ‘brief’ this week. It’s exciting and frustrating to be in this position, and it helps us to imagine a version of The Shoestring in which our capacity better matches the level of activity in our underreported-on Valley. If you feel inspired to make a contribution today, the stories that might have fallen through the cracks next month could end up as published articles instead. — Brian Zayatz

Three ARMS staffers on leave after student journalists investigate alleged lack of support for trans students

Last week, Amherst Regional High School’s student publication, The Graphic, published a lengthy investigation quoting families and staffers from the town’s middle school alleging patterns of transphobia among two guidance counselors and an adjustment counselor. All three have since been placed on leave while an official investigation takes place.

Among the allegations in The Graphic’s investigation are that two of these staffers held a private prayer circle during which a witness alleged that one of them, a guidance counselor, said: ‘In the name of Jesus, we bind that LGBTQ gay demon that wants to confuse our children.’” A student and parent described a spate of escalating incidents of bullying throughout which that guidance counselor was allegedly unsupportive, leading the student to be briefly hospitalized and to withdraw from school altogether.

The Graphic reported that the three staffers, in nearly identical emailed statements, denied all the allegations in the report.

Springfield childcare worker strike resolves

Teachers and educators at the nonprofit Springfield Partners for Community Action ended a three-day strike last Thursday after they said they secured immediate pay increases, better dress-code policies and an agreement to continue negotiating around pay and paid time off when the state budget is finalized this summer. 

In a statement, the daycare workers — organized with United Auto Workers Local 2322 — said they collectively decided to end their strike “with parents and children in mind.”

“We love the kids,” Jahara Gabriel, a teacher and union steward, said in a statement. “A lot of this has been happening for longer than these kids have been here. We’ve seen them grow, we want to see them through and see them graduate. This was an incredibly difficult decision and was made more difficult by management’s refusal to meet our demands and instead continue, day after day, to force us onto the picket line.”

Last week, The Shoestring sat down for an interview with striking educator Haysha Morales, who said the strike showed the community that teachers need to stand up for one another. 

“I hope that this just shows other daycares that it’s very important to stick up for yourself no matter what, even if it takes a strike — which it’s sad that it had to get to that,” Morales told The Shoestring. “Do it so people can see that you need to get what you want and what you deserve.”

Amherst elementary students advocate for state’s indigenous communities

Fifth graders at Fort River Elementary School have been busy partnering with State Sen. Jo Comerford and Rep. Mindy Domb to advocate for changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Massachusetts. 

“Fort River students have a powerful legacy of activism and are powerful forces for positive change,” Comerford said in a press release written by the students. “I’m proud to file this bill and to partner with Fort River students. I work for these students and will continue to prioritize the Indigenous Peoples Day legislation.”

The students are also focusing efforts on the rematriation of land at Lampson Brook in Belchertown to the Nipmuc people, and hope state legislators will take up this issue as well. 

“Although returning Lampson Brook would not fully repay the Nipmuc for years of wrongdoing, by doing this, we could mend the relationship between the Nipmuc and the community a little,” student Ilona Hazlip said.

Other students are also working to gather supplies for refugees resettling in the area, and to raise awareness of the “obstacle course” of building a new life that refugees find when arriving in the United States.

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