By Susan Petroni
September 3, 2014
A couple of Framingham High students have created Students Advocating Against Stress, a movement, which includes a Facebook page and a petition, asking Framingham High School to take action on what they say is an unhealthy amount of stress students are put under each school year.
The change-org petition comes as another school year begins, and Framingham High has yet again failed to take any measures to protect its students from the unhealthy stress and lack of sleep that they go through every day, said one of the group’s founders Jake Binnall.
As of midnight today, Sept. 3, 70 students had signed the change-org petition.
The student-led movement wants the community to stand behind the next generation of adults and help them by signing the petition and holding the School Administration accountable for protecting its students from such unhealthy stress.
As of midnight, more than 120 students and parents had become fans of the Facebook page - Students Advocating Against Stress.
“My friend Thuy (Hoang) and I co-founded it because we hate seeing all of our friends, year after year, go through such unhealthy stress and see it break them down,” said Binnall.
“The students backing this are a very diverse group of students that all have inspiring and touching thoughts to share on the issue,” said Binall. “The very fact that the students of the school have taken the initiative to start this movement testifies as to how passionate they feel about this issue and just how bad the situation is.”
“I feel an incredible amount of stress day to day as well as lack of sleep due to the amount of school work and extracurricular activities I was recommended to take. The work load can be extremely strenuous and take hours to complete one subject. I’d love to help more FHS students to have much more manageable work loads that allow them to still be mentally healthy,” wrote Megan Amico.
“My sophomore year, I was struggling with a lot outside of my education. However, the workload and pressure filled atmosphere at (Framingham High) worsened my anxiety. I was in a partial hospital program for about a month in total. When I got back, the workload had tripled. The school did not offer proper support and tutoring services. I didn’t finish my final exams until early July. While 9 and a quarter hours of a sleep are recommended for adolescents, I get 6 on average,” wrote one student, in signing the public petition.
“Whether you realize it or not, we are only kids. We are 14-18 year old kids who are sleeping 2 hours a night just to make sure that we get a B or higher on our math test. We are teenagers who skip breakfast, lunch, and dinner so that we can hastily finish up our three pages of history questions...” wrote Alex Leombruno.
“The first week of school has just ended and I’m already feeling a but overwhelmed with work,” wrote Olivia Osei-Kuffour.
“’I’m signing this petition because I’m a sophomore, and the amount of stress I was under as a freshman was often times truly unbearable,” wrote Olivia Green. ”I completely understand that as students we need our education and we need to practice curriculum, but I don’t think students should be put under so much pressure by certain teachers that they develop actual mental disorders in their high school years.”
And the students’ stress is not just high school angst.
Framingham Town-Wide PTO, in collaboration with the Community Health Forum, hosted three community meetings in which the results of The MetroWest Youth Risk Behavior Survey Project were shared and discussed. High stress levels among students were an area of concern that was noted, said Framingham TWPTO co-president Kim Comatas.
According to the latest MetroWest Health Foundation’s MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, 14.8 percent of Framingham middle school students and 29.4 percent of Framingham High students said that life was stressful in the last 30 days.
“it’s a good idea to bring awareness to how much stress a student really does go through in a school year, said senior Anna Murphy.
One way students deal with the stress is attempting suicide. Six percent of Framingham High students have attempted suicide in the last 12 months, according to the survey. Last year, one student did kill herself at Framingham High.
But suicide attempts were not the only ways students were dealing with stress.
- 18 percent of Framingham High students participated in self injury activities
- 15 percent considered suicide
- 25 percent had depression symptoms
“We are expecting our students to achieve high levels of success personally and academically but at what cost emotionally and physically?,” said Comatas.
On August 25th, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended starting school at 8:30 am or later.
“This may be a cost effective solution Framingham could explore in an effort to help our students and their families,” said Comatas.
“I myself have experienced this stress and although I don’t necessarily agree with all stipulations of the petition, I believe students should be given tools and methods to manage stress, and maybe even have some of it alleviated. It is important that this generation get the mental health crisis under control, or else we will have even larger problems in the future,” wrote student Christina Eirem on the petition.
“Since starting this a few days ago, I’ve had countless students come to me thanking me for trying to make a difference, and while Thuy and I did start this, we should be thanking each and every student who puts themselves through these unhealthy conditions, not because they have to, but because they want to lead good lives, and the school should thank them by protecting them from these unhealthy conditions and take action,” said Binnall.
“Framingham High School has a history of being a leader in the state, and that is why we are appalled that the school has done nothing to protect its students from undergoing such an unhealthy amount of stress, as many schools are starting to do,” states the petition.
The petition organizers are proposing Framingham High take action towards stress-preventative rules and protocols, such as:
- Students should be advised not to take more than 3 APs a year to avoid overloading themselves. Clearly this choice is up to the student, and this is merely a suggestion.
- Weekend homework should be strictly limited to absolutely necessary work
- Tests should be given on a cycle to avoid having multiple tests in one day. (Ex. English tests on Day 1, Math Day 2, etc.)
- Summer work should be limited to reasonable amounts and work that is necessary
- Study periods should be recommended for upperclassmen
“These ideas are exactly that, ideas, but we feel that if other schools are working to prevent stress, then Framingham High School should take these steps as well,” wrote the petition organizers.