‘We have a right to feel safe’: Student petition to fire Richland High teacher has nearly 2k signatures
RICHLAND, Wash. — A local student at Richland High School (RHS) is spearheading a petition demanding the district terminate a teacher accused of making comments in a class excusing sexual assault, leaving some members in tears.
The allegations are against Jack Long, an English teacher and freshman volleyball coach.
Sophomore Anãya Young, 16, said even though she has not been taught personally by Long, she believes it’s her responsibility to be the face and voice of fellow affected students because she “has the courage” after they were “not being heard” by the school’s administration.
“He has already planted the seed that it is okay for boys and girls alike to have violent hurtful thoughts about their peers and then to act on them,” Young said. “That women are asking for it. That anyone who shows even a little bit of skin deserves it. He’s made it clear that he has no regard for us.”
So she created the Change.org petition two weeks ago, writing, “Jack Long, A teacher and volleyball coach at Richland Highschool, has made it clear he does not support victims of sexual assault and rape… Please sign this petition to have him fired, his rapist-like mindset and commentary makes students and teachers alike feel unsafe and endangered.”
The petition, which has garnered almost 2,000 signatures, was flooded with comments against Long, including one saying, “this creepy old man has a history of being homophobic, racist, sexist, and a rape apologist… This man and the staff that allow this to happen are creating a toxic environment for students.”
Another comment reading, “Mr. Long has been reported to the school by just me alone 3 times that’s not to mention the many others who have reported him for being inappropriate in class yet nothing is ever done he needs to be banned from teaching.”
But a spokesperson for the Richland School District (RSD) said that neither the district nor the school has any record of formal complaints against Long which they define as a “written complaint.”
They did, however, confirm in a statement that “the staff member made inappropriate comments to students in one class.”
“Hearing it makes me realize just how unsafe me and my peers are. It makes you realize just how little the school cares for us,” Young said. “To know that someone with that dangerous of a mindset is spreading that mindset is very, very scary for past victims.”
Young added that she believes the lack of consequence on the district’s part is “failing every single student that has ever walked in that building,” noting school should be a safe space for all.
“We have a right to feel safe, we have a right to be protected, and they are not upholding that at all,” Young said.
One of Long’s past students, Amanda Phelps, said she was shocked when she heard the news.
“He’s funny, kind, compassionate, helpful, and positive. When I saw that he was accused of those things, in my head, I was like, ‘no way,'” the ’13 RHS graduate said. “He was one of the teachers that I would least expect to say something.”
Phelps said she views Long as a “father-figure” who is a close friend of her family’s since her father still works at RHS.
“He was one of my favorite teachers, just one of those teachers that makes an impact on your life,” Phelps said. “I was honestly sick to my stomach, like it breaks my heart, just because I know him as a person and I’m a daughter of a teacher.”
She added that Long is a human who makes mistakes and while he should be punished for making the comments, she believes that termination is “extreme.”
“He made a mistake but there is such thing as forgiveness and I hope that people can take it that way and just forgive because we need more love and forgiveness in the world,” Phelps said.
Phelps noted that she “applauds the students who said something because that does take bravery.”
“I hope the students feel validated and heard because that’s also important,” Phelps said.
The statement from RSD said that Long was made to apologize to the students “under administrative oversight” but Young said it isn’t enough as “an apology doesn’t fix a mindset.”
“I truly honestly believe that he needs to be terminated. Not only is he an English teacher who is pushing these thoughts onto very vulnerable and malleable minds but he is also a freshman volleyball coach,” Young said.
Young said that the online backlash she’s been receiving for weeks is just fuel for her to do the right thing.
“It’s more important than ever for me to make this stand,” Young said.
RSD’s statement to KAPP-KVEW reads in full:
Richland School District has received messages about the staff member and the conversation in question. Administrators have investigated the incident and determined the staff member made inappropriate comments to students in one class. Under administrative oversight, the staff member has apologized to the students who heard the original comments and he will need to work to regain their trust. Administrators will continue to *monitor the staff member to ensure the incident isn’t repeated.
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