Letter to the Editor: ‘We won’t back down until our grades are up’

December 2, 2018

(Editor’s Note: A petition was created on Google Forms by two sophomores regarding the permanent closure of the online gradebook during school hours. The gradebook found on Genesis, the portal where students can access their grades, was announced closed on Nov. 19 after a trial period from Oct. 1 to Thanksgiving. The opinions expressed in this letter are not necessarily those of The Smoke Signal or its staff.)

Dear Editor,

Hundreds of students have seen it. So have dozens of teachers and faculty members. It’s one of the biggest topics of discussion at PV. It’s the Genesis petition, and I am the creator and head organizer of it.

When the program first began on October 1st, we figured that Genesis would come back soon during school, and it wasn’t a bother. But after a while, not being able to check our grades during school got a bit annoying, but we were hopeful that the program would end soon. But an email changed all that right before Thanksgiving break, and many students’ nightmares became reality – Genesis was going to stay closed during school. Forever.

That’s when we came up with the idea to create a petition and do a walkout in protest of the gradebook shutdown. At first, there were very few supporters, and we even considered canceling the petition and acting like nothing ever happened. And then it took off. Within the first 48 hours, we received over 325 signatures, with a total of 400 signatures as of writing.

When we got that final email, the district claimed that “the data collected” led to their decision to keep Genesis closed. But what “data” are they referencing? The number of logins? Grades? Random numbers? Regardless, our data shows otherwise – especially when more than 1/3 of PV students disagree with the plan.

A clause in the petition states that if we don’t get Genesis back during the day, a walkout will be organized. This was the conclusion of great debate amongst ourselves, as well as supporter feedback. Originally, the petition was a walkout sign up sheet. Not many people were happy with that, and it was reflected within our numbers. Our current plan details that if and when we reach the desired number of signatures (600, which is half the school), we will go to the administration. But, if they refuse to give Genesis back during school hours, then a walkout will be organized. We hope it doesn’t have to get to that.

Some people have asked, why are you making such a big deal about grades? It is so much more than just grades. It’s about the rights of students. It’s about our opinions. It’s about the pressure this school puts on us to get good grades. We’re obviously not in a “learning-focused culture”, and taking away Genesis during school won’t help us “find a balance”. Students should do their work during the school day, and not worry about grades once the final bell rings. After 2:53, it’s time for clubs, sports, hanging out, and spending time with your family – not logging onto Genesis and stressing out.

We understand that not everyone agrees with our ideas, and we’ve listened to many, many people through face-to-face conversations, emails, and social media. We will always accept criticism, and we have gotten plenty of constructive criticism that is helping us improve our movement. What we will not accept, however, are attempts to discredit the movement. We will not accept childish attacks by both students and faculty members because they believe that the petition is a “dumb idea”. Standing by while only a small group of people make such a big decision is “dumb”. We will also not accept attempts to compare this petition to the #NeverAgain walkout in March or the more recent Movement of Unity. In no capacity are we trying to make a political statement or unite the school against hate. We just need the school to know that everyone truly has a say.

Because what could the district take away next? Twitter? YouTube? Emails? And who’s going to stop them if we don’t stand up?

There are some people who are hesitant to stand up. They’re worried that they might get in trouble for signing the petition. If people are too scared to say how they feel because they fear consequences, then something is terribly wrong with the way our student body thinks of the administration. It’s okay to have an opinion that goes against the district’s views on learning.

Turning off Genesis during the school day is one of the worst decisions the district could’ve made. But they want you to think otherwise. The district wants you to think that it’s okay that the gradebook will always close at 8 AM, even when there’s a delayed opening. The district wants you to think that it’s okay that the gradebook will always open at 3 PM, even if there is a half day. They also want you to think it’s okay that Genesis is closed during lunch and Pascack Period, because everyone knows that checking grades might be a distraction from popcorn chicken or one of Mary’s sandwiches.

We aren’t part of any Class Council. We aren’t part of the Executive Council. And while we have received support from numerous Class and Executive Council members, we need PV to realize that this is a truly student-led movement. We’re not looking for the help of the administration. We’re not even looking for their approval.

To end this letter, I’d like to share some comments from several students, who will remain anonymous in order to protect their identities.

“There is not a single type of student that benefits from being left in the dark about their grades. The administration wants to show off their ‘creative’ idea for reducing their students’ focus on grades. However, what they are really doing is making kids panic during the school day even more than they would’ve. The school has made up a nonexistent problem in order to prove to the world that they can come up with innovative solutions, to the disappointment of all of their students.”

“We want Genesis back, and we want it now.”

“Grades should be up so I know what teachers I have to go to if I get a bad grade, so I can fix the problem right away.”

“I just want to see my grades.”

“The faculty thinks that grades are a distraction from class and students were checking it way too often and at the wrong times. However, if you think about it, no student is going to remember to check their grades at home when they could’ve just spent 5 seconds in class doing so to get it out of the way. Hopefully, we can access Genesis again how we used to be able to. I don’t think a single student agrees with the decision to restrict this, and that should definitely be taken into consideration.”

“If I could sign this more than once then I would.”

The Genesis pilot program has crashed and burned. Our movement is looking for a solution to this mess, and there’s no stopping us.

Because we won’t back down until our grades are back up.

(The petition is available at https://goo.gl/forms/o0LNYy69qvPqMB2l2).

– Christian Downey, PV Sophomore and Creator/Head Organizer of the Genesis Petition

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