Imagine if you suffered a brutal attack as a young teen. You survived, but you bore scars of your attacker up and down your arms.
Perhaps you’d be ashamed or embarrassed. Or perhaps you’d see them as reminders of what you endured.
As part of the healing process, you’d likely be counseled to work through those feelings. Perhaps you’d find a way to accept them as another part of who you are, as one piece of a complicated life story.
Now imagine your attacker was your own brain; the scars were evidence of self-harm.
What might it feel like to have your school – adults with years of knowledge and training – tell you that these scars should not, could not, be seen by your classmates.
In fact, if you want to attend school, you must wear long sleeves. And you must sign a document agreeing to these conditions.
Would you, as a young teenager, want to stand your ground, do battle with a school administration over your rights to wear short sleeves? You’ve been at war with yourself. You just want to go back to school.
That’s why Taya Kampe, a 9th grade student, signed just such a letter in order to be allowed reentry into Penticton Secondary school in British Columbia.
Unsure of how her peers would react, she hid the school’s directive along with her arms for nearly a month.
On Friday, Taya finally explained the situation to some of her friends. Not only did they rally around her, but they also called bullshit on the messed up dress code.
In fact, her friends, including 10th grade students Brooke Hauschild and Oliver Jansen, organized a petition to free Taya’s arms.
With a wisdom not always shown by teens, Brooke and Oliver understand the school administrators acted unwisely in an effort to protect the students. While they aren’t throwing the school under the bus for their misguided actions, these teenagers see the inevitable harm that comes from asking students to hide the truth of their situations.
By raising their concerns about Taya’s experience to the school district, they are hoping to shift the conversation on tough issues such as self-harm, beginning with the dress code petition, which specifically asks to “support our rights as students not to feel ashamed for having scars.”
Hell, isn’t that what everyone wants? To move through life openly and not feel ashamed for the scars our pasts have left on us?