When Akbar Cook started as vice principal four years ago at West Side High School in Newark, the situation was dire. Cook, 42, said the school was seeing two or three kids every summer killed because of gun violence.https://t.co/DzGnKRqPUT
— NewarkPublicSchools (@NPSvoices) August 22, 2018
West Side High School Principal, Akbar Jones, knew that being a school leader was hard but he had no idea how difficult the job would be. Jones found himself devastated that every summer some of his students were being killed. In addition to his students losing their lives, Jones discovered that some of his students didn’t want to come to school. He knew that it was time to make some changes.
New Jersey Principal Learned That His Students Were Not Coming To School Due To Being Bullied Online:
Principal Akbar Cook was tired of his students being killed. He was heartbroken over their deaths and he wanted to make some changes.
I needed to find a way to save them, Cook told The Washington Post. It really affected me having my kids killed.
To make matters worse, Cook learned that many of his students weren’t coming to school. Cook said about 85 percent of students who attend the school are chronically absent with students missing three to five days a month. Something was going on and Cook wanted to get to the bottom of it.
When West Side High School received metal detectors, it was an effort to decrease the violence in schools. As students walked through the metal detectors, one student in particular was informed by security guards that her bag would be searched. This angered the student as she was trying to hide a secret.
She was homeless that weekend and didn’t want anyone to know, Cook said to The Washington Post.
After one of Cook’s students tried to hide the fact that she was homeless, he wondered if more students were having home issues. Once Cook and school administrators started calling the homes of the students to figure out why they were often not at school, they discovered that one of the main reasons for their absences was that they were being teased for showing up in filthy, stained clothes. Student Nasirr Cameron even witnessed classmates being teased for their appearance.
I’ve seen kids in the back of the class talk about kids in the front of the class and how they smell and how their clothes look dirty, student Nasirr Cameron told CBS Philly.
Love this story! The principal at @NPSvoices Newark Public Schools West Side High School went above and beyond to ensure the dignity of ALL his students! #stopbulling #changemaker https://t.co/I65DMJlZ6q
— Creative Global Schools (@CG_Schools) August 22, 2018
To Combat Bullying, High School Principal Installs Laundry Room:
Principal Cook learned that many of his students avoided school because they were being bullied on social media for having dirty clothes. Kids who could not afford to wash their clothes faced intense teasing when they showed up in dirty outfits. Classmates sometimes snapped photos and tagged the students on social media.
They were posting on Snapchat and Instagram about how their classmates were coming to school with dirty clothes on, like posting a pic of a student’s dirty collar, Cook said. I knew we had to do something. These are kids, good kids who want to learn, that are missing three to five days a month because they were being bullied because they were dirty, Cook explained to CNN. I even changed the school uniform to darker colors so they could go more days without cleaning them, but even with that, students were struggling to have them look clean enough to attend.
Cook felt he needed to do something so he reached out to PSE&G, New Jersey’s utility supplier, in order to secure $20,000 in funding to install five washer and dryers in a converted football locker room. The room has five washers, five dryers and a growing stock of detergent donated from around the country.
We are trying to teach them to navigate their pride, Cook said. My kids are fighters — they just need good ways to fight for themselves, and then take pride in what they can do.
This is beautiful! Salute to Principal Cook and his administrative team for finding the problem and providing a solution