Students lose chance to bond

At the beginning of a school-wide assembly for unity and solidarity the day after the hammer attack, about 30 students got up and left to take the AP Chemistry and Environmental Science exams.   

I am not upset with these students.  However, I believe that going ahead with the exams was still a
mistake. 

After initially canceling the three AP exams scheduled for that day, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts reversed course as more information became available. She announced at the beginning of an all-school assembly at 8 a.m. on Tuesday that students would have the option to take the AP if they felt they’d be able to focus. 

I understand that some students had studied for days and weeks in order to get the 4s and 5s that colleges need to see.  I also can relate to the feeling that the best way to cope with such a direct attack upon our community is to proceed with life as it was planned before.  It makes sense too that some people did not feel deeply affected. 

Some who feel affected want to indulge in the basic need to discuss their emotions.  Others don’t.  As Huybrechts said in a speech to the juniors a week ago, there is as much variety in responses to tragedies as there are different people responding. 

Whether you want to fault the administration for allowing the students to go through with the exam, or if you want to hold the students responsible for deciding to take the exams, it does not matter. 
The important thing is that regardless of who is at fault for the students taking the AP, they still did. 
Tuesday was the perfect day for the reinforcement of community.  Never before has something like this happened on our campus. Never before has our sense of trust, security and community in the school been so flagrantly violated.  To me, Tuesday was a day to grieve and recover.  Together.   
 
The test takers simply may not have felt affected.  But I think even those students lost out on something that day by barricading themselves into Hamilton gymnasium and Chalmers Lounge.  Those students could’ve learned a lesson by the inspirational way that the community came together. Whether intentionally or not, those students ostracized themselves from the community.  While they wrote essays, we wrote cards to the victim.

Yes, Harvard-Westlake is renowned for molding its students into the nation’s premier college applicants.  And our annual lofty scores on the College Board’s AP tests are a hallmark of our collective successes. 

But for at least one day, all of that needed to be set aside.  As President Thomas C. Hudnut said, “We are more than a community.  We are a loving family.”  And on this Tuesday the family needed all of its members together.

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