When Times Get Rough


Matthew McGovern, Editor

When a community is faced with hardship or tragedy that instills fear or panic amongst its members, it becomes easy to focus on those events, and not how to help others cope with them. The people who perform such atrocities become the center of the attention. Instead of directing their effort toward healing the community, educating others, or helping the victims, many seek some sort of revenge on the person who has caused so much pain to others.

We at Cypress Creek have approached our own unique hardships since the beginning of this year. With the help of our fellow students, teachers, and administrators alike, we’ve been able to show perseverance and strength when times get rough.

I sat down with our principal Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles and we spoke about the many events that have impacted our school recently (two in particular).


Mr. Ritsema

As almost all teachers, students, and administrators know by now, Cypress Creek’s Assistant Principal Kyle Ritsema was arrested. The charges against him have been reported widely enough and will not be addressed in this article. Personally, I’ve felt as if some teachers have avoided the topic of this entire situation and I’m sure that I’m not alone. My teachers haven’t all been as open as I would have liked in talking about the arrest of Mr. Ritsema. When asked about whether or not teachers have set a line in classrooms regarding the subject, Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles responded that, “There’s a line and there isn’t a line. When the first report came out about his general arrest, teachers were advised to have a conversation, because students are going to ask questions, but there does need to be a re-focus back onto education.” That re-focus on education is one that needs to be known and understood by students. As close and compassionate as a teacher may be, students cannot forget that their purpose for showing up at our school daily is to make sure our education is our top priority. Yes, they were advised to help us to cope with the situation and have some conversation, but at the end of the day, their job is to help us focus our energy on learning. Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles stressed the importance of continuing the conversation regarding Mr. Ritsema, “the school directory includes the names of counselors for each grade, the school social worker, school psychologist, and all of the student services staff. They are always there to help and listen to concerns that we, as students, have on a daily basis. Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles spoke on the fact that some students may feel as if all information on the situation may not be given to the students by school staff. “We knew what was said in the SchoolConnect [phone call home]. At this point, and in this instance, whatever you read in the paper is more than any information I could ever give you. We’re all on the same page.” Her words speak for themselves. Teachers, students, administration, families, and the public all have the same information being given to them. We’re all one and the same with what we know and what we will continue to learn regarding the entire situation.


Stoneman Douglas Shooting and Protests

The other main issue many students have been concerned about is how safe they feel in school, especially after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14th. “Afraid” is one word that I would use to describe the feelings of many of my peers in the wake of the shooting. That fear is not seen as wrong by anyone. As difficult as it may be, Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles has tried to take as positive of an approach as possible throughout the past week. “Empowered. Students should feel empowered. It’s the first word that came to my mind after what we saw yesterday (the student class walkout/protest). Since I’ve opened the school, I’ve wanted to hear students. You’ve got to talk to me. You’ve got to talk,” said Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles when asked about how students should feel at this point in the year. With so many options, platforms, and outlets for students to voice their opinions not only in school, but through social media, we should feel empowered. Doing so in an appropriate manner is an idea that is widely supported by teachers and administrators at Cypress Creek. For students that feel as if there is a lack of communication between administration concerning the safety of students, Mrs. Nettles added, “…There are adult topics, and there are things in place as a school administration and as a school district that keep what we say confined. But there are many things that if you wanted to know we talk about, you could.” Many times, employees of schools have a lot of talk behind the scenes about keeping us safe. As hard as it may be for Principal Hetzler-Nettles and other school administrators to tell us what they talk about, there is a level of transparency and open communication at our school that many other schools don’t have. Mrs. Nettles took the student concerns that were brought to her during school lunches last week to a principal’s meeting. She encourages students to tell her and other administrators what they could be doing to make the school a better environment and how to make it safer.

Moving forward, the mindset of students should be one of positivity and empowerment, as expressed by Mrs. Nettles in our interview. One of the last things she added was, “If there’s one positive of these situations, it’s that they may help to open up lines of communication between students and adults. You have to focus on the positives.” Positivity in moments like these and staying together as a pack (as Mrs. Nettles loves to say), become increasingly to our well-being. Moving forward, these hardships may come to benefit our school, and all schools collectively, if we all work and stay together.