The Black & White Vol. 60 Issue 2

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the

B&W


the

B&W

Print Editor-in-Chief Kendall Headley

Print Managing Editor Tara Davoodi

Print Managing Editor Alex Schupak

Print Production Head Leah Goldstein

cover art by Leah Goldstein

theblackandwhite.net Issue 2, November 2021 Online Editor-in-Chief Lily Freeman Online Managing Editors Quentin Corpuel and Caitlin Cowan Online Production Heads Christina Xiong, Greer Vermilye Online Production Assistants Jeremy Kaufman, Nicky Gandolfo, wVassili Prokopenk, Adam Giesecke Print Production Managing Assistant Maya Wiese Print Production Assistants Emma Lin, Grace Adkins, Gaby Hodor, Elizabeth Dorokhina Photo Director Josie Lane Photo Assistants Rohin Dahiya, Charlotte Horn, Maddie Kaltman, Brandon Kim, Katherine Teitelbaum, Heidi Thalman Webmaster Matt Eisner Communications and Social Media Directors Grace Corbett, John McGowan Puzzles Editor Caroline Faust Business Managers Quinn Sullivan, Sarah Makl Business Assistants Bertille Aubert, Sean Higgins, Elie Rasevic, Will Vander Wal, Sawyer Makl, Dresden Benke

The Black & White (B&W) is an open forum for student views from Walt Whitman High School, 7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda, MD, 20817. The Black & White’s website is www.theblackandwhite.net. The B&W magazine is published six times a year. Signed opinion pieces reflect the positions of individual staff members and not necessarily the opinion of Walt Whitman High School or Montgomery County Public Schools. Unsigned editorial pieces reflect the opinion of the newspaper. All content in the paper is reviewed to ensure that it meets the highest level of legal and ethical standards with respect to the material as libelous, obscene or invasive of

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Print Copy Editor Aleydis Barnes Online Copy Editor Zoe Cantor Traffic Manager Matt Eisner Feature Editors Sasha Blake, Nil Ozdemir News Editors Vishnu Dandi, Claire Lane Opinion Editors Felix Leonhardt, Cate Navarrete Sports Editors Rafe Epstein, Cailey Thalman Feature Writers Jamie Forman, Lauren Heberlee, Simone Meyer, Kiara Pearce, Stephanie Solomon, Samie Travis News Writers Zach Poe, Sonya Rashkovan, Ethan Schenker, Samantha Wang, Alvar Wetzel Opinion Writers William Halward-Driemeier, Eliana Joftus, Norah Rothman, Sophie Hummel Sports Writers Gibson Hirt, David Lewis, Zach Rice, Alex Weinstein, Olivia Sonne Columists Skylar Chasen, Maya Goelman, Iman Ilias, Daniel Miller, Adam Nadifi, Rena Van Leeuwen, Danny Kotelanski Adviser Ryan Derenberger

privacy. All corrections are posted on the website. Recent awards include the 2019 CSPA Gold Crown, 2018 and 2017 CSPA Hybrid Silver Crowns, 2013 CSPA Gold Medalist and 2012 NSPA Online Pacemaker. The Black & White encourages readers to submit opinions on relevant topics in the form of letters to the editor, which must be signed to be printed. Anonymity can be granted on request. The Black & White reserves the right to edit letters for content and space. Letters to the editor may be emailed to theblackandwhiteonline@gmail.com. Annual mail subscriptions cost $35 ($120 for four-year subscription) and can be purchased through the online school store.


LE T TER FROM THE EDITORS Stories aren’t easy to write. From putting the first words on paper, to structuring paragraphs, to checking the AP Style Guide after every sentence, our articles can go through more than 15 drafts before they’re ready for publication. But choosing how to angle a story, how to approach it sensitively, how to conduct interviews with poise and respect — these are the aspects of student journalism that can prove more difficult than the writing itself. When damaging events affect our community, it’s our responsibility as journalists to inform the public — that’s held especially true during these last few months. In August, Whitman crew coach and social studies teacher Kirkland Shipley was arrested on charges of sexual abuse. For most in the Whitman community, the news was jarring, while for others — including crew athletes, past and present — it was traumatic. We highlighted the voices of these athletes who’ve fallen under intense external pressure while grappling with varying levels of personal trauma. Due to the story’s high-profile nature, it came with weighted concerns, but rather than stick-

ing to our comfort zone, one writer explored the culture of the crew team and athletes’ experiences with the coach. The issue of sexual abuse isn’t exclusive to just the Whitman community. One writer investigated the ways in which MCPS has attempted — and failed — to implement policies and procedures that reduce sexual assault and abuse by staff members. Systemically entrenched trends and policies require scrutiny and coordinated change — that’s exactly how activism from students, policymakers and parents successfully removed police officers from all MCPS schools this summer, transitioning them to patrols in our neighborhoods instead. We tackled transformative personal development, too. One columnist detailed his trip to Israel during the recent strife with Palestine and the insight he gained from experiencing not only a conflict but also a beautifully unique culture firsthand. One writer discussed how she reconciled her atheist beliefs with her Jewish identity, and another chronicled the life-changing stories and hidden meanings behind students’ tattoos.

As our staff dove head-first into the reporting, writing and editing process, we stayed cognizant of things we had to avoid, out of respect for interviewees and victims, and things we had to include, as a responsibility to our community. We want to thank our dedicated adviser, Ryan Derenberger, for guiding us through the challenges that we’ve encountered while pursuing these stories. We also want to thank our writers for continuing to investigate not only with persistence and thoroughness but with empathy. Another well-deserved thanks goes to our production team, whose creativity is a crucial factor in determining the tone and message of our magazine. As we get into the rhythm of the 2021-2022 school year, we must remember to ask more questions, speak up for others and overcome any obstacles we face with both grace and tenacity. Welcome back to school, Whitman, and welcome back to The B&W Volume 60. Best, Your editors.

photo by CAITLIN COWAN

Alex Schupak

Managing Editor

Kendall Headley Editor-in-Chief

Tara Davoodi

Managing Editor

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table of Fly away with us: Students train to receive their pilot licenses

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6

A farewell to Bethesda’s beloved sushi joint

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Seniors bring their passion for video games to YouTube

Students memorialize values with permanent tattoos

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Generations of Whitman girls crew members share their experiences on the team

Disregarding the law: Fake ID purchase seemingly ordinary for teens 4

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CONTENTS Issue 2, November 2021

A columnist’s Israeli experience: landscapes, cuisine and war

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MCPS adapts current SRO policy: Say hello to CEOs

Sexual abuse persists under the radar in MCPS

A writer’s simultaneous acceptance of heritage and rejection of religion

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Album reviews

Fall crossword: Music break

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A look into the high-flying hobby of academic aviators

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OL DS TE IN

by SAMIE TRAVIS

edged in the cockpit of a Piper Archer III plane, junior Carsey Eliason turns on the battery, alternator and exterior lights. She sets the fuel-air ratio to full and pumps the throttle a few times in preparation to start the engine. Then Eliason turns the key, firing up the engine to 1000 rotations per minute. She taxis to the runway and does her final preflight checks. She makes a radio call announcing her intention to take off, and pulls out onto the runway. As she speeds up, she leans on her right foot pedal, to combat the plane’s “left turning tendency,” which is the plane’s natural inclination to turn left when the engine is at full power. She accelerates to 40 knots. Then to 50. Once the speedometer hits 60 knots, Eliason pulls the yoke up, and just like that, she’s flying. For student aviators, flying offers a unique opportunity to completely detach from life on the ground. Few extracurriculars offer experiences as extraordinary as rocketing a plane through the air, thousands of feet off the ground. For some students, flying runs in their blood: Eliason’s paternal great-grandfather

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STUDENT PILOTS TAKE OFF

was a commercial pilot and her maternal great-grandfather was a World War II fighter pilot. “Being a pilot is in my family’s history,” Eliason said. “It’s a part of us.” Although Eliason has always had an interest in planes, she’s only been flying since last year, when her parents gifted her a “discovery flight” — an introductory flight with a certified instructor. The program, directed by the Washington International Flight Academy in Gaithersburg, included a 30-minute introduction to aircraft followed by a 30-minute flight. During Eliason’s discovery flight, she found that she loved the freedom that came with flying. She also recognized the challenges that came with maneuvering an airborne vehicle. “It’s kind of like driving, except when you’re driving, there’s forward, back, left and right,” Eliason said. “When you’re flying, there’s up and down too. That was definitely weird to get used to.” After that first flight, she signed up for lessons at the Washington International Flight Academy. As of October, she’s been training at the academy for nine months. For senior Grady Wiley, flying is an

extension of his childhood wonder. When Wiley moved to Bethesda at the age of 11, his new house was located right under the landing path of descending planes into Reagan National Airport, captivating his imagination. “I didn’t think about exploring flight or aeronautics until I moved around here and was constantly seeing planes fly over me,” he said. “Viewing different aircrafts every day inspired me to find out what it was like to view life from above.” Wiley has taken lessons at Aviation Adventures Flight School in Leesburg, Virginia since January of this year. He typically departs from Leesburg twice a week in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk to perfect his takeoffs, flight patterns and landings. Currently, he’s halfway through the required training necessary to receive his private pilot license. “When I’m flying, I realize that not many other people are experiencing what I am right now,” he said. “It feels rewarding to be able to control such a vast and complex piece of machinery.” Some students, like senior Peter Silvia, have already earned their private pilot license.


Boarding his first commercial flight to Florida as a first-grader sparked Silvia’s intrigue in piloting. It quickly became Silvia’s childhood dream to fly planes. Silvia began his flight training in August 2020 at Recovery County Airport in Gaithersburg. After months of training and practice flights, Silvia received his private pilot license in January. Training to get a private pilot license — the first pilot license level — is an extensive process. Candidates apply for a student pilot license, comparable to a learners permit, before they can take flight training lessons and must pass comprehensive aviation exams necessary to obtain a private license. The process to obtain a private pilot license can take anywhere from five months to a year. Participants have to sign up for an introductory training flight, and then they must receive a medical certificate from a special pilot medical examiner. In a physical, pilot candidates must pass strenuous vision and hearing tests. As part of their training, prospective pilots have to do “solos,” which consist of taking off, following a flight pattern and landing, all with no inflight assistance — although they’re usually supervised by a flight instructor from the ground. The next step in recieving a private pilot license is completing “cross-countries,” which entail flying an aircraft 50 miles or more from the original location and back. Eliason’s cross-countries take her in a straight line to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, then towards Frederick and finally her last stop in Montgomery County. At each of these destinations, she lands her plane and takes off again minutes later, typically after refilling the gas, as the plane only holds around three hours worth of fuel. To obtain a private pilot license, flight students also need 40 hours of logged flying, including a minimum of 10 hours of solo flying. Having completed many training hours through different conditions, Eliason has become more relaxed in the cockpit over the past year, she said. “I’ve definitely gotten better at landing since last spring because I understand the science behind how I’m actually flying and all of the different forces acting on the plane,” she said. “Once I could understand everything that I was doing, it didn’t really scare me anymore.” Silvia also doesn’t feel any unease in the air because he’s focused on the task at hand, he said. “Fears generally don’t come up once I’m in the air because I’m concentrating on what my mission is,” he said. “When you’re up at 3000 feet, you can see the Appalachian Mountains off to the side and sometimes if you’re flying at dusk you get a really good sunset. It’s a mystical feeling seeing the mountain range.” Wiley shares a similar view. “Flying in general for me is a good way to escape what’s going on on the ground,” Wiley said. “It’s a peaceful feeling.” Currently, Wiley is training to get his private pilot license before college, where he’ll conclude his training. He’s considering making a career out of flying either through commercial airlines or in the military. Similarly, Silvia hopes to turn flying into a profession, potentially as a commercial pilot, he said. Eliason plans to make flying a career in the future, too. However, now that school is in session, Eliason can only fly twice a week on the weekends; during the summer, she typically flies up to six times a week. Although Eliason currently rents her Piper Archer III, a small four-seater plane with low wings, she has dreams of owning her own aircraft one day, she said. “Once I graduate college I want to be able to buy my own plane,” she said. “I would buy an older plane so it’s around the price of a new car. I’ve already started saving for it.” No matter the plane Eliason is flying, the sense of freedom she feels in the air is unmatched. “When you’re flying you can look down and everything looks so small, and you think about people’s lives like they’re little ants on the ground,” she said. “It puts life into perspective; all of my problems and worries seem to vanish.”

“FLYING WHEN I’M

I REALIZE THAT NOT

MANY OTHER

PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING

WHAT I AM

RIGHT NOW.

IT FEELS

REWARDING TO BE ABLE TO

CONTROL

SUCH A VAST AND COMPLEX PIECE OF

MACHINERY.

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graphics by GRACE ADKINS

Students reflect on Bethesda’s favorite sushi restaurant by SAMANTHA WANG and KIARA PEARCE

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unior Grace Taylor is giddy with excitement as she approaches Yirasai. Taylor and her family squeeze through the small doorway of the renowned Bethesda sushi restaurant, walk past the iconic sushi bar and take time to view the decorated walls, covered in hundreds of faded photographs from the visits of previous customers. For the Taylor family, eating weekly at Yirasai is a longtime tradition — a tradition that will have to change when Yirasai moves locations at the end of this year. Kim’s Yirasai Sushi and Cafe plans to relocate to the Park Potomac Shopping Center from its current location at the Westwood Shopping Center by January. Mr. Yun Kim, owner of Yirasai, revealed the restaurant’s plans in an August interview with news blog The MoCo Show. For decades, Yirasai has been a staple food stop for the Whitman community, making the news all the more devastating. Many students hold the restaurant and the food close to their hearts, they said. Sophomore Louis

Macpherson is among the students who will miss Yirasai’s staple rolls, always just around the corner. “I’m devastated,” he said. “The sushi’s amazing — best sushi place in the area, hands down.” A contributing factor to Yirasai’s popularity was its location, say restaurant goers, primely placed only minutes from Whitman. The proximity — along with staples like delicious miso soup and special soybean rolls — transformed it into a favored destination for many team dinners and off-campus lunches. “I like how it’s walkable from where I live,” Taylor said. When senior Zak Owen heard about the relocation, he was upset, he said, as Yirasai is a part of some of his earliest childhood experiences. “The whole reason we even found out about Yirasai and started going is because it’s two minutes away from my house,” Owen said. “It won’t be easy to get food from there anymore, which is something I’ve done for years.”

For many frequent customers, what makes Yirasai so unique are the fond memories, preserved in photographs that line the cozy restaurant’s walls. For 17 years, Yirasai servers have taken pictures of families and friends at their request, capturing moments that many patrons come to cherish. Kim says that these pictures will still be showcased at the new location. “We’re not taking any more photos for this year,” he said. “However, once we get settled at our Potomac location, we are planning to resume photo-taking.” Multiple Whitman students and their families can be spotted in the sea of pictures, including Owen, a regular at the restaurant since the age of seven, Kate Snedeker (‘20), a constant Yirasai patron in high school, Clare Cunniff (‘19), who held pre-game and lunch Yirisai traditions and Lexi Fleck (‘21) a hungry Whitman varsity girls soccer player who was always craving sushi.

“The funny thing about the photo is that I’m wearing a green shirt with the Annoying Orange on it. I’ve gotten so many pictures from random people sending me the photo of me on the Yirasai wall.” - senior Zak Owen

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ds’ (‘19) in the ki is sister Bella at Yirasai. h d n a er th ory is mo Zak Owen, h ars, forming a core mem ye ry ta en elem


“The day that I got my picture taken, I was with my two best friends. One of the staff members walked over to some girls that we knew and held up a camera, and I got super excited because I knew that they were going to take their picture and put it on the wall. I asked the staff member if we could hop into the photo as well, and then the next time we went, we were all pictured on the wall.” - Kate Snedeker (‘20)

Kate Snedeker (pictured upper middle) and frie nds pose for a snapshot at Yirasai before dining.

“I remember being super excited to eat our favorite sushi and go to the game with my friends. We ate at Yirasai before almost every game, so even though this wasn’t anything new, it was still such a fun day.” - Clare Cunniff (‘19)

g a tasty meal.

ends after finishin

fri left) pictured with Clare Cunniff (far

“My friends and I were coming in after a big soccer game and all we wanted was some soybean rolls. Our photo was sort of taken spontaneously. We were looking at the photos on the walls and just decided that we wanted to be on the wall as well. We asked the owner and the next thing we knew, our picture was on the front door.” - Lexi Fleck (‘21) Samantha Rubin (‘2 1), (left to right) enjoying Jaclyn Morgan (‘21) and Lexi Fleck some soybean rolls soccer jerseys. while donning their

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ith fresh ingredients and reasonable prices, Yirasai earned its place at Whitman dinner tables by offering a delicious menu of rolls, sashimi, platters, bentos, appetizers and more. “My favorite is the volcano roll,” Owen said. “Spicy with fish, and crunchy as well. Their spicy items in general just have such a great kick and are the best flavor combos.” Taylor’s favorite item is the spicy crunch roll, while Macpherson has labeled Yirasai’s spicy tuna roll as “the best I’ve ever had.” The welcoming restaurant that’s occupied the

second floor of the Westwood Shopping Center for decades may be leaving, but the memories created there are as strong as ever, say students. For them, Mr. Kim’s sushi is more than food — it’s collective memories of good times. “I’m not really sure how eating at Yirasai became such a big tradition,” Snedeker said. “The sushi’s great, and the restaurant is almost like a little hole-in-the-wall place where you would always see people you knew. It was very much like a little community, and that made it a place where I felt comfortable going.”

9 Photos courtesy of KENDALL HEADLEY.


graphic by ELIZABETH DOROKHINA

Whitman seniors find success with new gaming channel ‘Cytonox’ By Simone Meyer

HOME

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VIDEOS

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t a small desk tucked into a dark corner of senior Alex Spencer’s basement, fingers fly across a keyboard. For hours, Spencer and senior Jack Martin hunker down at the desktop, recording each of their separate voice-overs, dissecting their errors and diligently reviewing their gameplay from their latest round of “Call of Duty.” The two seniors are longtime video game enthusiasts, but since 2020, they’ve also been YouTubers. Martin and Spencer’s interest in video games dates back to elementary school. The two met on the first day of kindergarten and have been inseparable ever since, Spencer said. After school and on weekends, the duo would play their favorite games like Super Mario Galaxy, Five Nights at Freddy’s and the original Mega Man. By third grade, Martin and Spencer wanted to venture past simply playing the games. Inspired by similar channels run by kids — mostly high schoolers — the duo considered making a YouTube channel as a hobby. However, the idea was never serious until Aug. 2020, they said, when in their downtime during the pandemic, Martin suggested they finally give video production a try. After an extensive debate over the “coolest sounding” channel name, Martin and Spencer created Cytonox — a YouTube channel that ranks the levels, series and “bosses” of video games they play. As of this winter, Cytonox has well over 1,000 subscribers. One of the most successful videos

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COMMUNITY

CHANNELS

Martin and Spencer have produced is also one of their firsts: “The Bosses of Batman: Arkham Knight Ranked from Worst to Best.” The video has racked up 29,000 views. It’s the fourth in a series covering “The Bosses of Batman,” where the Cytonox members analyze the best and worst aspects of each villain and the obstacles players must overcome in order to win.

It’s more authentic when you’re talking about your own experience shown on screen. Creating a brand new YouTube channel was a learning process for Martin and Spencer, who both admitted to making some initial mistakes. “I copied the exact speaking style of another YouTuber,” Martin said. “He was one of our YouTube idols, and that’s why we copied him. Everyone in our comments [said] ‘Oh it’s another DeModcracy copy.’ I wish I didn’t do that back then.” During one of Cytonox’s earliest videos titled “The Chapters of Paper Mario Ranked from Worst to Best,” Spencer ran out of storage on his laptop.

ABOUT

oI

“It’s the only thing I’d say I regret, because it turned out really badly,” Spencer said. “The recordings are super choppy because my RAM was totally occupied.” Cytonox uploaded their first video in the winter of 2020 with low expectations, but the video reached over 100 views in just two days. “We expected under 50 [views],” said Spencer. “ But it actually did pretty well.” This winter, a single Cytonox video on the “Metroid” series hit 67,000 views. Before filming each video about a new game, the duo must figure out how to pass every level, so their final take is free of in-game errors. This process can take 10 to 20 hours, depending on how familiar they are with the specific game, Spencer said. Martin and Spencer prefer figuring out their own path to beating levels without utilizing other YouTubers’ strategies. “It’s more authentic when you’re talking about your own experience shown on screen,” Spencer said. Despite the significant workload of filming, editing and uploading, the channel posts consistently on Wednesdays, and the two have never missed a deadline. According to Erika Spencer, Alex’s mother, the pair are careful when they run through games and get used to their unique challenges before filming. “I admire their determination,” she said. “Their work ethic has been really impressive.”


Before the gamers found their groove, they spent time scripting and editing their videos. In one instance, they stayed awake until the early hours of morning editing the video “The Bosses of Dark Souls II Ranked From Worst To Best,” just to stay on schedule. The script for the video was thirty pages long, and the video was ultimately almost an hour. “Editing was insane,” Martin said. “Alex and I stayed up until four in the morning on a school night. I got two hours of sleep — it was miserable.” Even though it was the most challenging video Cytonox had ever produced, it’s also the video they’re most proud of because of the effort the pair put into it, Spencer said. Since then, Cytonox has become considerably more efficient; Martin and Spencer prioritize, analyzing obstacles on their own first, and only then collaborating and combining their rankings into the order they publish in their recaps. Today, a typical Cytonox video requires around 4-5 hours of editing. The duo uses Davinci Resolve 17 — a program that combines color correction, visual effects and audio post-production — to finalize their work. According to Martin, he divides the tasks evenly with Spencer. “One of us never does more than the other,” said Martin. “For example, there’s a game with say 10 different bosses — I’ll edit the intro, then he’ll edit the first boss and I’ll edit the next one and so on to make it an even split throughout.”

With the amount of time required to complete each video, it can be hectic trying to juggle the channel with a busy schedule of school, extracurriculars and sports, Martin said. As a member of the boy’s varsity soccer team, which holds practice six days a week during its season, Martin often plays through video games and write scripts directly

...not many people have a friendship that has lasted that long. after school or on the weekends. Despite schedule conflicts, Martin still thoroughly enjoys creating and editing videos for Cytonox, he said. “It was always something we wanted to do,” said Martin. “We knew that once we did, it was going to be a tough process and a lot of work, but it would be fun.” Each successful video brings Cytonox new subscribers — but regardless of their quantitative accomplishments, the channel is a product of Martin and Spencer’s bond. According to Erika, Martin and Spencer’s complementary personalities aid in their

collaborative process. “They work very well together,” Erika said. “They’re very accepting and appreciative of each other.” Following graduation, Martin and Spencer plan to continue growing their channel and stay in touch, even while attending college. “It’s kinda neat — not many people have a friendship that has lasted that long,” Spencer said. “[Jack] is basically part of my family at this point.” Cytonox has big ambitions for the future, including surpassing 10,000 subscribers by the end of 2022 and eventually expanding their expertise outside the realm of video games. While the channel’s origin story is fairly recent, the friends’ journey has been a long time coming. The ambitions they dreamed up wouldn’t have come true without each other there, they said. Today, Cytonox is a tangible manifestation of their passion for video games. The numbers they draw aren’t their only source of pride, though: the two are appreciative of all of the people who choose to watch their videos, they said, regardless of the total number of views they score. “Creating Cytonox is giving Alex and Jack that taste of what it’s like when you really like something and you want to work on it,” said Erika. “You either know what that’s like or you don’t. And if you haven’t had something like that, you can’t really envision it.”

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by STEPHANIE SOLOMON

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nder the fluorescent lights of Rick’s Tattoos in Arlington, VA, senior Noah Sapiro eyes the art, designs and photographs that cover the shop’s walls. Sapiro sits down on a large leather chair and rolls up his sleeve in preparation to receive his first tattoo: the Hebrew words, “‫ ”הכרבל הנורכיז‬translating to “may his memory be a blessing,” on his arm. Slightly over a year ago, Sapiro had this tattoo completed in honor of a close friend who’d passed away. The tattoo is a traditional Jewish phrase used to honor the dead, keeping their memory and legacy alive, Sapiro said. “The way that I live is with a positive outlook on life, and I realize that just being able to know him in the first place, I should be grateful for that,” Sapiro said. “He was 15, not in a good mental state and ended up in the hospital. I got it for him.” Sapiro isn’t the only student who values the power of tattoos: While a taboo still exists against youth getting tattoos — and tattoo culture in general — several Whitman students have broken this notion in recent years to memorialize friends, signify personal battles or simply express themselves aesthetically. However, the process to ink up as a minor is much more complicated than for a legal adult. In Maryland, a parent or guardian must complete parental consent forms, and they also must be present during the tattooing process. Even with consent, many tattoo parlors refuse to serve patrons under the age of 16. At first, Sapiro’s parents weren’t on board with his choice. Upon further explanation of the significance of the tattoo — and the fact that his older sister had gotten a tattoo the previous year — Sapiro’s parents eased up, he said. Although the stigma surrounding tattoos has declined in recent years, many young people are still uneasy about getting inked up, Sapiro said. In 2017, Johns Hopkins reported that an estimated 10 to 23% of adolescents had tattoos. “[The stigma] is definitely from older generations,” Sapiro said. “It’s kind of just a stereotype: People with tattoos are ‘felons’ or ‘punks.’” Instead, Sapiro sees each tattoo as having a story behind it; as he gets older he plans on adding to

his collection to create a collage of memories from his life, he said. Junior Ryan Ellis also has a tattoo that holds great meaning. In June, Ellis got the cursive word “Two” on his right forearm, in remembrance of his late grandfather’s nickname — coined by teammates on his grandfather’s softball team in reference to his number on the field. “He unfortunately passed away before I was born, but I’ve heard so many stories about him that I wanted to get something to remember him,” Ellis said. “And even though I’ve never met him, it feels like I have a connection with him.” Ellis’ mom accompanied him to Bethesda Tattoo this summer and signed the parental consent forms. Even with the consent form, only one of the artists agreed to tattoo the minor. The first step for Ellis was selecting a font from hundreds of options, finally settling on a unique font created by his tattoo artist. Next, Ellis chose the placement of the tattoo, his forearm, and had the area shaved. Finally, it was time to go under the needle. “[Getting a tattoo is] like running a stick through your arm,” Ellis said. Senior Sarah Yang is another student familiar with this distinctive sensation: she has multiple tattoos. Yang’s favorite tattoo of hers is an outline of a lotus, located on her forearm, which symbolizes peace and beauty, she said. The flower is historically associated with religious concepts related to rebirth and enlightenment. Along with a strong admiration of floral aesthetics, Yang has been influenced by similar

Pictured above: One of senior Sarah Yang’s tattoos, located on her forearm. Photo courtesy of SARAH YANG.

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spiritual ideas over the past year and a half, she said. “Over quarantine, teens were branching out in ways of expressing themselves, which includes adding things to their bodies that aren’t traditional and aren’t conservative,” Yang said.

For senior Ryan Darby, tattoos help him remember personal struggles. Last February, he memorialized the day he was diagnosed with cancer in tattooed Roman numerals. “I got it because I felt like it actually meant something, and it shows who I am,” Darby said. “That day makes me who I am.” Darby was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2009. Exactly nine years after the doctors announced he was in remission, Darby got the tattoo at Bethesda Tattoo. He has plans for another tattoo: Roman numerals representing the date he beat cancer, he said. “When I told [my parents] why I wanted it and what it symbolized, they understood, because they were with

me on that journey too,” Darby explained. Last summer, when Darby spent time at the beach and pool, he received a fair share of judgemental looks. “Some people will come up and ask me what it means,” Darby said. “Once I tell them, I can see their facial expression change as they realize it’s something important.” While tattoos often elicit judgement, it shouldn’t stop hopeful students from getting one, Darby added. “Do whatever makes you happy, don’t let anybody else control what you want to do in life,” Darby said. “People are always going to have their opinions, but the only one that matters is yours.”

Pictured top left: Junior Ryan Ellis’ tattoo of his late grandfather’s nickname, “Two.” Photo courtesy of RYAN ELLIS. Pictured above: Senior Ryan Darby’s tattoo of the date he was diagnosed with childhood cancer. The tattoo expresses what he sees as a vital part of his identity. Photo courtesy of RYAN DARBY. Pictured left: Senior Noah Sapiro’s tattoo of the Hebrew words that translate to “may his memory be a blessing” to pay homage to a friend who had passed away. Photo courtesy of NOAH SAPIRO.

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Voices from Whitman Crew by Jamie Forman Content warning: This story includes explicit language that pertains to sexual abuse, verbal abuse, grooming and eating disorders.

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t their best, coaches act as leaders and mentors to those who look up to them. Teams expect them to foster a positive environment, where athletes feel encouraged to develop their capabilities both physically and mentally. As occupants of positions of power, these trusted leaders have the potential to instill into their team values like cooperation, drive and commitment. The best coaches inspire the students they oversee; they become vital to cultivating a healthy and productive team environment. Every community deserves that kind of coach — not every community gets them. For over 30 years, Whitman crew has offered students a chance to join a close-knit group and participate in a highly competitive sport. Crew has been one of the most successful teams in Whitman’s athletic history, with a

long record of top placements in nationally recognized races. No matter the season, pressure is always on to perform, place and beat their previous records. This past summer, rowers anticipated their return to the Potomac River. Riding fresh off of successful seasons on both the men’s and women’s teams — all of their boats had earned medals at Stotesbury, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious high school-rowing competitions, the men even reaching the B finals at Youth Nationals — the club was optimistic about its upcoming season. Former social studies teacher Kirkland Shipley was set to return for his 19th season as the club’s head coach. Then on Aug. 24, D.C. police arrested Shipley on counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student, and second-

“When we were still children on the team, we didn’t quite have the language to describe the environment on the team and understand that he was grooming people. At the time, I didn’t realize that it was sort of weird to have a coach that’s incredibly flirty or takes people out for drinks at bars after they graduated.” “He’d also pry into our love lives. I think that there’s probably an appropriate way to do it, and at the time it was helpful, because I was a 16-year-old who was navigating everything. As an older coach, [he] was a mentor and gave me advice. Looking back, he would pry and ask me uncomfortable personal questions.” “It was sort of an unspoken trend that we all noticed that he would pick a student, a woman, from every class and groomed them or built this relationship with them.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘07) “There was a moment of shock when I read the affidavit and read about how he would start the process of grooming these girls by allowing them to spend free periods in his classroom. He was doing that when I was at Whitman over 15 years ago. Thinking back, I can remember at least three girls who always had a free period in his room. I’m not sure if it started as having any sort of motivation behind it, but it sounds like it definitely turned into a way to manipulate people.” - Alumna from women’s crew team, early 2000s “My philosophy is, ‘Look, I didn’t do anything wrong here, this isn’t my fault that he’s a shitbag of a person.’ I’d like to see him in jail because what he did is wrong. I’m not going to give him more of my time because he doesn’t deserve it — at all. He doesn’t deserve to be on my mind every day. He’s that person I don’t want to think about.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21)

degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student. Shipley didn’t reply to an interview request through his attorney. For Whitman rowers, the excitement for the upcoming season was gone, replaced by disgust, uncertainty and a sense of betrayal. The announcement of the arrest spread through the community quickly, and shortly after, the Whitman Crew Boosters officially suspended Whitman crew’s fall season. As the affidavit that detailed Shipley’s alleged actions circulated among community members, the experiences, emotions and reactions from some of the women of crew were often overlooked. From both past and present members, here are the accounts those women wanted heard.

“I want the Whitman community to know that we were all hurt by his actions. We’re all horrified. I know, for me personally, that I’ll be very hesitant to trust another teacher or coach for a while. I’ll avoid his room. I try to avoid talking about what’s happened as much as possible.” “The past few weeks have been so hard. I feel like the whole team is being punished for the actions of one person. The blame can not and should not be put on us.” - Current member of women’s crew team “Some things that stood out during my three years on the varsity rowing team were that he called my teammates bitches, commented about our bodies — mostly our weight — and disregarded our worries about COVID safety. When we shifted practices to being indoors for winter training, many people were worried that they’d get COVID-19. One girl stood out as a spokesperson and contacted Shipley about their concerns. Shipley proceeded to separately text another athlete and me and said, ‘Are you actually concerned, or is [said girl] in her own head and looking for people to validate how she feels?’” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21) “I’m not going to lie, the team culture was fucking terrible. It was insanely intense, which it didn’t need to be. He made it seem like high school rowing was the shit, when it’s not. If you’re spending your entire day thinking about rowing, then you have a problem. I would give up any 2k PR, college offers or whatever medal to not go through that experience. Because of my time on the team, my college experience is so much harder. My senior spring, I lost 15 pounds and was miserable and hated the mean person I became.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21)

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“The blame can not and graphic by MAYA WIESE

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ccording to a 2021 review of research into sexual violence in sports published in the journal Frontiers in Sports and Active Living,

the intense environment of competitive sports enables abusers.

“Intense relationships between coaches and athletes seem to be a prerequisite for promoting young athletes’ success in sport. At the same time, such close relationships carry risks for negative dependencies, misuse of trust and commission of abuse … Some characteristics typical of elite sport may predispose coaches to commit abuse, such as gender and power relations, the need for physical touch, hierarchical structures in sport and trust and closeness between coaches and athletes.”

“He’d text all of us one-on-one about practices, but there were times that it was clear that he had a lack of boundaries. After I learned that he got arrested, I reread and analyzed everything that he texted me, and it’s disturbing how he was so clearly looking for a way to get closer to these girls.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21) “I had him as a teacher for two years. I had him as my World History teacher and AP Human Geography teacher. On Zoom, he would ask me personal questions in front of the class — seeming to make sure that other students knew that we were closer ... There were also a few times that he texted me after a lecture asking if I was bored during class.” “He would talk to athletes, so I would assume other coaches as well, about how bitchy one person was for calling him out, which was way out of line. He also texted me personally calling another teacher a dick.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21) “I‘d always heard little things, but it’d always been like cognitive dissonance for me. Either I could choose to believe something that somebody heard from a friend, who heard from a friend, who heard from a friend, or trust my judgment about this figure in my life who was a really important role model to me. Now it has made me question my entire life.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘17)

“He’d always pick favorites, and there was always this internal fight and questioning about why am I not the favorite? You have to foster a community where everyone feels valued, and that wasn’t the situation when I was on the team.” “It got to a point that we’d see Shipley more than our parents. At one point, we’d have at least seven practices a week, with both morning and afternoon practices. I think the fact that he was a person of authority that we saw so often — he took advantage of that not only mentally, but also physically.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘13) “It was a pattern for him — he always needed someone to put his attention to. I think that almost all of the people who didn’t go through that were almost completely oblivious to it because he was so charismatic and [rowers] feared being punished.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21) “[The team] would always spend a lot of time in his classroom. He would often encourage us to spend time in his room before school, after school and during lunch. While the athletes were in there, he would interrupt our personal conversations, often asking questions that somewhat forced us to confide in him. Once or twice, when I was there with multiple people, he encouraged them to leave, so that it was just the two of us alone in his classroom. I don’t know what to think about that now. Why would he let us spend that time in there? What were his intentions?” - Current member of women’s crew team

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rew is a pure, team sport. Rowers work together with the other athletes in their boat as one unit to create a rhythm, pick up boat speed and eventually win medals. With six or more practices a week, high school rowing is no small commitment. If strong emotional, social and mental support for athletes is missing, there may be dangerous results. In recent years, the varsity crew season has consisted of three main components: fall head-racing, winter conditioning and spring racing. During winter conditioning, the rowing team spends practices completing land workouts, which include running, weight training and indoor rowing on “ergs,” also known as rowing machines. Pieces on the erg are both physically and mentally draining — 2,000-kilometer tests, for instance, challenge athletes to reach, and sometimes exceed their limits. In addition to the physical struggle, there is an added level of competition between teammates to earn one of the limited spots on the boat. “It’s common for coaches to know the weights of the athletes, but it’s not helpful for the coaches to post or put team emphasis on the weights — it just creates a competitive and unhealthy environment,” said former Division I Syracuse rower and crew parent Kristin Bidwell. “Erg scores don’t usually transfer directly to how fast someone will pull a boat because a heavier person will hold more weight behind them on the erg, which can make them seem faster than what they actually pull, so knowing weight can help the coach factor that in.”

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“Rowing is a sport that, in its core, relies on the team aspect, and if that’s absent or toxic, then that’s the recipe for disaster. Disaster is what my senior year on the team was. Shipley simply never cared about us as people, only our well-being as it related to our rowing performance. It made it so our self-worth was measured by erg scores.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21)

“We periodically had meetings about what we could eat. I remember one year, they tracked and wrote down our heights and weights. This is obviously not good for high school girls, to weigh them and tell others what they weighed.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘13)


should not be put on us” “I’d always thought that I brought my stress on myself. I didn’t get stressed about anything else like I did crew and so it definitely had to do with the environment that he created. He’d write down everyone’s scores and post them publicly. If you don’t get a personal record on an erg piece, then you don’t get to go on the water. If you did any other extracurriculars other than crew, then he didn’t see you as highly.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21) “I was miserable all the time during my sophomore year but senior and junior year were worse. Junior year, I remember being so stressed every day that I would cry for about two or three hours just thinking about the next practice. There was this intense constant feeling that if I didn’t hit a certain split on the erg then we couldn’t succeed. [Shipley] expected us to go to a point where we couldn’t breathe, and he encouraged us to push ourselves to throw up and pass out, and I went to therapy for it. December-ish of my junior year, I got a bad injury so I took a short break from crew. I remember being so happy because I had no need to see a therapist anymore [for my mental health]. I had time to do all of my homework, my grades improved — but at what cost? I couldn’t walk or stand for more than five minutes. I wasn’t doing my physical therapy because I didn’t want to return to crew. I never felt uncomfortable [on the team] — it was just a constant state of stress, which looking back can be attributed to him.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21)

“There were instances where I was literally crying in pain during a workout, and [Shipley] would make it seem like not finishing wasn’t an option. I remember very vividly one erg piece during my sophomore year that put me out for a season and a half, because I had to go to physical therapy three times a week for my back. During that piece, every single stroke I took caused stabbing pains down my back and down my legs into my feet. After I told him, he harshly insisted that I had to finish the piece no matter what because I already started it, while also implying that I’d let the whole team down if I stopped. So I pushed my limits and finished the piece and after, I couldn’t walk for two days and spent them crying.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21)

“During the early spring of my senior year, we weren’t allowed to get on the water until every single person PRed on a 6k and a 2k on the erg. And for some people that comes easily, because you work all winter and that reflects positively on your erg scores. But for some people, that can be very, very difficult. He made people do five, six, seven or more 2ks in a row until they PRed — this fostered a toxic mindset.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘13)

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oxswain Sophie Tursi, a senior at nearby McLean High School in Virginia, has been involved in rowing since 2016. Although she characterized high school rowing as a competitive environment, she described her team dynamic at McLean as a group of “close-knit girls, who at the end of the day are there to support each other.” Coaches commonly use seat racing to help decide who should be chosen for which boat. During seat races, coaches pick multiple athletes to race against each other to determine who moves the boat faster. Tursi noted that her coaches are transparent with the conclusions they draw from seat races and give in-depth feedback on how to improve. This practice, however, was inconsistent on Whitman crew.

“I know a couple of people who had really, really negative experiences with him, where he’d like to ostracize them. When you’re a favorite, it’s very easy to sort of not pay attention to the people that are getting left behind. I think there was a culture where if [you] went with the program and said ‘yes’ to the Shipley show and everything that entailed, you were in a better position to get on a boat.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘07) “There is this weird dichotomy of ‘I love doing this, and I love my friends and getting exercise,’ but you also know that it might not be the most healthy situation mentally. At the time, you’re a kid and you don’t know mentally what you should be doing. We were always pitted against each other, especially with the competition between the boats.” “The environment made it so people in the C and D boats felt like they were worthless and absolutely nothing.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘13)

“At Whitman, Shipley would make seat racing seem so important and place such emphasis on the results, then would change or hide the results based on what he wanted. He got people really worked up and invested in what happened — people would be really sad, or angry or bitter towards other rowers. I didn’t realize how not-normal the seat racing culture was till I came to college and our coaches were clear and direct about who was getting switched. They also emphasized that seat racing results weren’t everything and it shouldn’t cause tension between rowers, which was definitely not present at Whitman.” - Alumna from women’s crew team (‘21)

Scan here for resources on assault and abuse: Jamie Forman is a member of the Whitman women’s varsity crew team.

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graphic by ELIZABETH DOROKHINA

FAKE ID CULTURE

CONTINUES TO RUN RAMPANT AT WHITMAN Some names have been changed to protect students’ privacy.

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small group of Whitman students line up outside a crowded bar in Bethesda. One at a time, they make their way to the bouncer, ID in hand. The first student walks up and confidently displays her New York driver’s license. After a quick glance, the bouncer waves her in. Adrenaline rushes over the next student as he hands over his ID. The bouncer scans the card — which claims that the student is 21 and from Rhode Island — and then bends it to check the validity of the card’s material. After a brief pause, the bouncer hands back the ID and lets the student through. One after another, the group presents their miscellaneous assortments of driver’s licenses from around the country. And just like that, the group is in. For many teens, obtaining a fake ID is not only a convenience but a rite of passage. For decades, teenagers have used fake IDs to gain access to alcohol — a practice that continues today. Senior Nicholas purchased his fake ID during his sophomore year. The ID allowed him to avoid the hassle of buying alcohol through someone else, which saved him money, he said. “There’ve only been two times when someone has questioned if it was real,” he said. “After I assured them that it was, they just believed me.” The origin of fake ID culture is widely

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attributed to the mid 1980s, after the federal government increased the national drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1984. The new drinking age limited college students’ access to alcohol, So many students turned to fake IDs, which display false personal information in order to fabricate a legal age required for the purchase and consumption of alcohol. High school students soon followed in these college students’ footsteps. In the mid ‘80s, one study by The National Institutes of Health found that 74.1% of high school senior men and 65.4% of high school senior women drank alcohol within the last 30 days. Whitman alum and current Whitman father Adam Chase (‘92) recalls how students frequently broke the laws regarding alcohol during his high school years. “Although I don’t quite remember how they got the alcohol, it was definitely present at field and house parties,” he said. Some parents have seemingly promoted the purchase of fake IDs. Senior Jessica explains how her parents — not her peers — have encouraged this behavior. “My dad was the one who told me to get it,” Jessica said. “[He said] I can use it when I go visit my older brother at college.” Senior Matt experienced a similar reaction from his parents. “My mom knows, but not my dad,” Matt

said. “When she found out she smiled, was very sweet, and told me ‘I remember when I got my first fake ID when I was younger.’” Other parents, however, are concerned about the dangers that come with owning a fake ID, such as legal punishments and alcohol abuse. Senior Kelsie decided to keep her fake a secret, worried about her parents confiscating it. “They would definitely take it away from me and probably ground me for a long, long time,” Kelsie said. Whether by a simple Google search or connections through friends, it’s increasingly accessible for underage students to buy fake IDs, senior Alex said. A common method for purchasing a fake ID is buying in groups for a discounted rate. Students prefer to buy with friends because as the number of people in the order increases, the price decreases, Jessica said. “My friends and I got them all in the same order,” Jessica said. “I got two copies of my fake for $55.” Certain students facilitate the purchasing process itself. Junior Elliot acts as a “middle man” between students and suppliers. “I saw the business opportunity and I took it,” Elliot said. “I collected the information and photos from the students. We hooked up with a local dealer in D.C. who's getting them shipped


from Mexico.” However, students often report that challenges arise not with purchasing IDs, but with their success rate. Talbert’s Ice & Beverage — an alcohol store in Bethesda — has a no tolerance policy for fake IDs. Talbert’s rule is evident as soon as you enter: A wall covered in confiscated fake IDs greets each customer by the door. “We are very vigilant — if an underage person presents us with a fake ID, we immediately take it away,” Talbert’s employee Toni said. “If they give us any fight, then we’ll call their parents or the police without hesitation.” Maryland law prohibits providing alcohol to minors and assesses fines and possibly liquor license suspensions for retail establishments that do. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, defendants in Maryland who show that they attempted “due caution” in determining whether a customer was of legal drinking age may have their charges dropped — a loophole that protects retail establishments when the IDs are convincing. An exception also exists in Maryland for parents who furnish alcohol at their private residence to immediate family only. However, not every store has the same policy as Talbert’s. Multiple students, such as Alex, note that certain liquor stores, smoke shops and bars in the area typically don’t ask students to show their cards, or they knowingly sell to minors for profit. “One time when we were checking out at one of those stores, the cashier made a point that he preferred cash rather than credit cards,” Alex said. “Credit cards can be traced, and parents can see where you made your purchases.” According to Maryland’s Transportation Code, section 16-301, it’s considered a misdemeanor to possess or use a fake ID, with consequences stretching up to a potential $500 fine and six months in jail. The punishments increase for those supplying fakes — if caught selling fake IDs, it’s possible to receive a $2,000 fine and a twoyear prison sentence. In addition to legal penalties, consequences can impact a student’s future, both academically and professionally. Students under the age of 18 face the risk of suspension and expulsion from school, sports teams and extracurriculars. Those convicted of a fake ID-related offense can also lose their driver’s license for up to six months for a first offense or a year for a second offense. Many students confidently accept the threat of punishment as a risk for the freedom that comes with a fake ID. “It is definitely worth it, but only if you’re smart about it,” Matt said. “I don’t think that it is worth going to jail for but if it gets confiscated then that’s just $50.”

Considering the effectiveness of fake IDs, some students question the worth of abiding by drinking laws. “I think that the drinking age should be lowered to 18,” Kelsie said. “If you’re old enough to enlist in the military, then why do we have to wait three more years to legally drink alcohol?” While most European countries have a drinking age of 16 or 18, the U.S. hasn’t followed suit. Matt believes that a similarly lowered drinking age would actually decrease underage alcohol use. “People want what they can’t have,” Matt said. “With the drinking age being 21, teenagers are more tempted to test the rules, but if it were lowered, then I think there would be less youth alcohol abuse.” In the U.S., youth alcoholism has persisted for generations. A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that out of more than 43,000 adults who developed alcoholism, 47% already met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence by age 21. In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study conducted among high school students, nearly a third of respondents reported that they drink alcohol, and 14% said they had “binge drank” in the last month — a habit defined by the CDC as a “pattern of excessive alcohol use." Consuming heavy amounts of alcohol can disturb a teenager’s brain development and cause memory complications, an inability to learn efficiently, trouble with verbal skills and even depression, according to the CDC. Some students believe that the widespread fake ID use is largely a product of glamorization by the media. Movies like “Superbad,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Catch Me If You Can” present how fake IDs and identity theft are ingrained into mainstream American culture, junior Brad said. “Everywhere you look, there are movies and TV shows of high schoolers drinking and smoking underage,” Brad said. “How can parents be mad at us for doing those things when those illegal actions are displayed so often?” Beyond the influence of the media, Matt notes that peer pressure and the fear of missing out are other underlying factors that can often motivate a student to purchase a fake ID. “There’s a sense of peer pressure that might make you want to get your hands on a fake,” he said. “If you don’t have a fake, then you can’t go out with your friends to bars and would have to stay home.” Although the consequences for breaking drinking laws can be steep, some students believe they only further motivate teens to rebel. “Underage people are going to drink no matter what,” Nicholas said. “The more limits and rules there are, the more we will want to break, so there’s no point in trying to limit us.”

“There’ve only been two times when someone has questioned if it was real. After I assured them that it was, they just believed me.”

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Reflecting on my time in Israel: My experience is more than hiding in bomb shelters

Last April, I took a risk: I unenrolled from Whitman and moved halfway across the world to Israel. I took a risk by moving to a country where COVID restrictions no longer applied, although I was still vulnerable to the virus. I took a risk by leaving my family to live in a region with a seven-hour time difference, one that would make our communication harder than it had ever been before. I took a risk by enrolling in an Israeli-American school where I only knew a single other student in attendance. There was one risk, however, that I never could’ve foreseen — war. My first month in Israel felt like a dream; counselors and teachers held our hands as they showed us the best of what Israel had to offer. I experienced the luxuries of a fascinating culture, one defined by mixed religions, ethnicities and traditions. I ate spectacular Middle Eastern food and traveled through beautiful landscapes covered with mountains and lined with beaches. I even got to experience in-person learning again, while my friends back home were still stuck on Zoom. In my many years of traditional schooling, I was never more inclined to learn in a classroom than I was in Israel. The human connection, which Zoom had lacked, made my

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The sun setting over the Kineret (Sea of Galilee) in the north.

On a water-hike in the northeast of Israel, the Golan Heights.

classes far more engaging, and my Israeli teachers better prepared me for the coming senior year in just nine weeks than a virtual Whitman had during the first three-quarters of my junior year. I thoroughly enjoyed all that my Israeli schooling system had to offer, but one class stood out to me the most. Every day, I’d begin my schedule with a two-hour Israeli studies course, where I learned about Jewish history, my history, through a thousand-year timeline that covered everything from the biblical era to the modern-day Jewish diaspora. And on days when I didn’t have school, I’d travel to historic sites across the country with my Israeli studies class to learn about events that took place — quite literally — beneath our feet. No class, no unit, no subject, had ever awed me as much as this. All of the risks I’d taken for the trip seemed to be paying off, but as May approached, news of the Sheikh Jarrah conflict in Jerusalem slightly unnerved me and my friends. Our Israeli peers reassured us that no violence would reach Tel Aviv, and that it’d be extraordinary if we were to be in any imminent danger. The next week, the extraordinary became my reality. And before I could process the rapid development of hostility between Israeli and


by DANNY KOTELANSKI

Palestinian forces, I found myself hiding in our campus’ crowded bomb shelter at 1 a.m. on an early Monday morning. During the following five days, I was regularly running to bomb shelters at the drop of a hat. Some days, bombs struck only miles from my school, interrupting classes or a game of pickup basketball with friends. On other days, sirens mercilessly woke me from my sleep and forced me to flee to the nearest shelter in the blackness of night. During those perilous days, I was confused and scared, but surprisingly, above all, I was frustrated. I was frustrated that our overnight trip to Jerusalem was cancelled. I was frustrated that our campus was put on lockdown. I was frustrated that I found myself tossing and turning, unable to sleep at night from the noise of intercepted bombs. It wasn’t until I returned home later in the summer, that I realized just how selfish my concerns were. While the violence in Tel Aviv died down after about a week, the war continued to ravage smaller communities. Cities in Gaza that didn’t have the protection of major Israeli cities and smaller Israeli villages that weren’t supported by the Iron Dome — Israel’s bomb-intercepting technology — were destroyed. Only dozens of miles south of where I stayed, countless people suffered. And during the same months that I went on an indulgent tour of Israel, hundreds of people lost their lives and hundreds more were displaced. I experienced the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I certainly wasn’t its victim. I felt like a local celebrity when I arrived back in Bethesda. Many of my Whitman peers were aware of my trip, and they were eager to ask me questions. While I was in Israel, it hadn’t occurred to me that the Whitman community was heavily debating the conflict I was seeing first-hand. As I traveled in and out of shelters, people I knew back home erupted in opinions and arguments about the war I was living through. This fall, I’ve often been approached by unfamiliar students with questions about my take on the conflict. While I understand their passion, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that more people don’t want to hear about the friends I made or the amazingly

diverse culture I explored. They wanted to hear about violence. Simultaneously, I’ve witnessed the people around me ‒ neighbors, friends and family ‒ form opinions for me and put words in my mouth. I had friends tell me I didn’t really spend time in any bomb shelters, and that I was never really in any danger. The opposite also occurred: I had people talk about me as if I were in far more danger than I actually was. Assumptions led to rumors, and soon enough, I was being told by outsiders what my experience in Israel was like. To them, my experience was solely defined by my encounter with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In no way am I pleased to have spent part of my time in Israel under such harsh conditions, but I am definitely appreciative of the knowledge they provided me. My experience allowed me to understand the complexities of a conflict I’d heard about for years but never truly understood. However, I’m also much more appreciative of the topics people didn’t talk about when mentioning my trip, the topics no one asks me about: my personal growth, my growth as a Jew and the friends I lived with for two-and-a-half months and still talk to weekly. I’m grateful for the hikes I completed, the cities I visited, the songs I sang and the foods I ate. I’m grateful for my new-found ability to understand so much more about Israel. Looking back, there’s not a thing I would’ve changed about my semester abroad. What makes an experience lasting isn’t just the good memories, the laughs and the times well spent, but also the challenges, the difficulties and the lessons learned. The life-changing risk that ended months ago is still changing my life now. That risk helped me find my identity as a Jew. That risk keeps me engaged in my local Jewish community. That risk intertwines my story directly with a conflict that I’ll continue to study — a conflict that can only be understood by seeking out new perspectives. The risk I took by going to Israel will continue to characterize and shape who I am for years to come.

My experience allowed me to understand the complexities of a conflict I’d heard about for years but never truly understood.

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E Photos courtesy of DANNY KOTELANSKI.

(A) The view of the skyline in Tel Aviv. (B) Inside the school’s bomb shelter at 3 a.m. on May 12th. A typical classroom was transformed into a shelter with specially built walls. (C) Before a Friday evening Shabbat dinner with friends from B Alexander Muss High School in Israel. (D) One of the fruit selling stands at the popular outdoor market in Tel Aviv. (E) Climbing up a rock during the “sea-to-sea” hike. The popular hike takes four days, trekking from the Mediterranean Sea to the Kinert. (F) Hiking Masada at sunrise. Masada is a historic Jewish city built on a desert hill during the time of the Roman Empire.

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School Resource Officers removed from MCPS F

or the first time in 19 years, when Whitman students returned to in-school learning this fall, Montgomery County police officers were absent from the halls. In Montgomery County Public Schools, and throughout the county, the debate over whether schools are safer with or without police on campus continues to unfold alongside parallel public health and political crises. In recent years, school districts have had to reconcile the growing number of school shootings with increased concerns about the relationship between the police and communities of color. In March, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich proposed a budget that eliminated funding for police officers in the county’s public high schools. The Montgomery County Council approved Elrich’s plan later in the year, ending the decades-long School Resource Officer (SRO) program. MCPS first established the SRO program in the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine school shooting, and the program had been active in MCPS high schools and some of the county’s middle schools since 2002. The Montgomery County Defund Policing & Invest in Communities Coalition, consisting of over 25 student organizations, had been lobbying since early 2020 for the removal of police from schools and for the transfer of SRO funds to new school psychologists, crisis intervention counselors and accessible restorative justice and mental health programs. “The SRO program would not have ended without their activism,” said Avery Smedley, MCPS alum and co-founder of activist group Students Toward Equitable Public Schools. In an effort to remove the SRO program, student leaders from groups such as Smedley’s, MOCO Against Brutality and MoCo Students for Change held weekly strategy sessions throughout the pandemic. Between the beginning of 2020 and March of this year — when Elrich proposed the cuts — they met with Elrich, the nine members of the County Council and the Board of Education in addition to testifying at hearings, holding

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by Lauren Heberlee rallies and conducting media outreach. “It was really a testament to the power of student voice and youth organizing because it is unheard of to have a successful campaign within one year,” Smedley said. “Oftentimes in school we’re taught that all the power is in adults and politicians, but I really hope students know the power they hold.” The power of these student activist groups was demonstrated when they successfully convinced Board of Education members to move away from the SRO program. “I’ve reviewed all of the research, and I know having law enforcement in schools hasn’t made schools safer,” Board of Education Member Lynne Harris said. “What we do know works, however, is supporting students, having better wellness resources available and having

“It’s not just about removing the harm from police officers; it’s about building a better, alternative system.” more people in a building who have training to recognize the signs of stress in peers and staff.” Data shows that an overwhelming percentage of in-school arrests by SROs involved students of color and special education students. In a report released by County Councilmember Will Jawando’s office, in the 2018-2019 school year, 45% of students arrested in MCPS were black, despite comprising only 22% of the MCPS student body, and 25% of arrests were of special education students, despite making up only 12% of the student body. According to Jawando, student arrests were mostly made due to physical altercations and low-level drug possession, neither of which requires a school to alert the police in the state of Maryland. In response to the disproportionate effect of SROs on minorities and special education students, Jawando initially proposed abolishing the SRO program in June 2020, when there was

a revenue shortfall in the county. But the path to eliminating the program didn’t come without hurdles, and Jawando’s first attempt failed on a 5-4 vote. “What I’ve been trying to push us to do is figure out a system where schools should be safe, supportive environments where kids are there to learn,” Jawando said. “There should be no threat of entry into the criminal justice system.” Jawando and County Councilmember Hans Reimer proposed legislation again in the fall of 2020 to end the SRO program. However, the bill became unnecessary when Elrich eliminated SRO funding through the county’s budgetary approval process. Still, the County Council did pass three appropriations amendments that Jawando had proposed; these amendments funded restorative justice training for the 1,400 staff members of the county’s 40 middle schools and expanded school-based and after-school mental health resources. “It’s not just about removing the harm from police officers,” Jawando said. “It’s about building a better, alternative system.” Jawando argued that although many SROs genuinely care about students, there are better courses of action to prevent school violence. “If police need to be called for an emergency, they’ll be called, and they’ll be there quickly,” Jawando said. “There are better trained adults, like therapists and security guards, that can deal with the range of issues in schools and support students without having the threat of an arrest or an interaction with a police officer — which can be very detrimental.” Junior Pamuk Altan-Bonnet, Co-President of Whitman for Change, a chapter of the MoCo Students for Change organization, became an advocate for the removal of SROs last year after hearing students from MCPS share their negative experiences with their high schools’ police officers. Last year, Altan-Bonnet participated in an “Advocacy Day” — an opportunity for students to meet with Maryland senators and representatives — where she spoke with state officials about reconsidering the SRO program in MCPS high schools.


graphic by EMMA LIN

“You start hearing about these accounts that were really mishandled with SROs with students of color and students with disabilities,” Altan-Bonnet said. “You start to realize that maybe they aren’t so necessary, and that maybe they should be removed.” County Councilmember Craig Rice, a longtime supporter of police in schools, introduced competing legislation to the Jawando-Reimer bill in the summer of 2020, but shifted his position on the matter after listening to student advocates. He announced his new stance at a joint press conference with Jawando in April of this year. “It took a lot of students getting involved, a lot of speaking and testifying to council members and a lot of community education and organizing for us to finally convince council members to take a stand and move towards removing policing from school,” said Kyson Taylor, founder of MoCo against Brutality and a senior at Richard Montgomery High School. Montgomery County police officers who currently patrol specific neighborhoods in the county’s 26 public school clusters will continue to respond to emergency calls from nearby schools. “School Resource Officers” will rebrand as “Community Engagement Officers,” with specific goals to build rapport and support within the communities of Montgomery County. “I think having a version of the CEO model, where the police can have a quick response to schools when absolutely necessary is good,”

Taylor said. “But making sure that in the agreement that’s drafted between the police department and the schools, they first turn to different people and methods before they call the police.” The Montgomery County Police Department still staunchly supports having police officers on duty in school buildings, said Commander Sean Gagen of the Second District precinct, which includes the Whitman cluster. Police officers who serve as SROs specifically volunteer to hold these positions and receive special training to work at schools. “It’s a hard thing for us — the portrayal of the School Resource Officer is extremely negative,” Gagen said. “People on the other side have made claims that somehow this is the ‘school to prison pipeline, that the only thing that we’re there to do is arrest people or take enforcement action — that was only a very small piece of what the School Resource Officer program is all about.” Over the past decade, school shootings in elementary and secondary schools have increased by 341%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the United States Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. Supporters of the SRO program fear an officer on patrol in the community may not get to the scene fast enough to neutralize an active shooter. “Not having an officer inside of each one of the high schools will cause a delay in an emergency response during a critical incident,” Gagen said. “That’s a fact.” Currently, the Student

Welfare Advisory Group, composed mostly of students and cochaired by Taylor, and the Reimaging Student Welfare Work Group created by the County Executive, are developing a new plan for school safety. They expect to share their recommendations this semester. “Our schools need to have at least one clinical social worker who can provide counseling services and therapeutic services when necessary,” Taylor said. “We also need to make a shift away from punitive discipline and implement restorative justice, which basically eliminates the use of suspensions and expulsions and centers discipline around addressing the harm that your actions have caused.” For Altan-Bonnet, new plans for community policing offer signs of hope and an opportunity to invite more stakeholders to the legislative process to help craft better policies. “At the end of the day, we’re going to be creative and involve students this time — and principals, and administrators, and police officers — to get a solution that works for everyone,” Altan-Bonnet said. “We’re all on the same team. We have to decide where we can put our resources to protect students in every way possible.” ic c/o

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A HISTORY OF OVERSIGHT:

SEXUAL ABUSE CASES PERSIST DESPITE MCPS PREVENTION EFFORTS by Lauren Heberlee

Some names have been changed to respect students’ privacy.

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n 2017, Montgomery County police arrested an elementary school teacher for touching children under their clothing while they sat on his lap. One year later, the police arrested a Montgomery County school bus driver for allegedly sexually assaulting special needs students. And just a few months ago, D.C. police arrested a Whitman crew coach and teacher for allegedly sexually abusing two female members on his team. As troubling as these incidents are on their own, they become even more concerning when revealed as part of a pattern of sexual abuse in Montgomery County Public Schools. For years, cases like these have been mishandled and brushed aside, allowing abuse to continue. Over the past decade, there’ve been nearly 70 confirmed cases of child sexual abuse committed by MCPS employees. In the 2015-2016 school year alone, there were almost 340 instances of alleged inappropriate behavior reported to child welfare officials. Of these cases, 26 resulted in termination or resignation. According to MCPS, a high volume of sexual abuse cases are reported today due to continual updates to county training. Greg Edmundson, Director of MCPS Student Welfare and Compliance, says that MCPS staff, students and families have a better understanding now of what abuse looks like and how to report allegations, leading to more reported cases. “Because of the training, we now know what the cases are, and we know how to report it much quicker,” Edmundson said. “But compliance training on child abuse and neglect, and anything along the lines of a code of conduct, doesn’t change a person’s heart.” In 2012, social worker Jennifer Gross, a Whitman parent and alum, first noticed the high number of MCPS employees arrested for sexual abuse. Having previously worked for Child Protective Services and as a therapist for convicted sex offenders, the volume of abuse cases in the school system troubled her, regardless of the district’s size. “MCPS had no employee code of conduct,” Gross said. “They had no training for parents. They had no prevention program for kids. They had nothing about child abuse and neglect on their website at all.” Gross reached out to the MCPS Board of Education to sit in on meetings related to sexual abuse.

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“I kept writing letters, and I kept copying more and more people on them,” Gross said. “But then a former school board member told me I had to go to the media, that the schools weren’t going to improve unless they were called out in the media. So that’s what I did. And that’s when MCPS started taking action.” In 2013, following several negative media reports featuring Gross’ findings, MCPS created an advisory group on child abuse. The committee, which included Gross, aimed to revise and strengthen the school district’s policies on recognizing and reporting cases. Additionally, MCPS developed a database in the summer of 2013 to track allegations of inappropriate conduct among its employees more efficiently. However, advocates for sexual abuse victims often disparagingly referred to it as the “infamous database.” They claimed that the database’s lack of transparency prevented the school district from being held accountable for investigating allegations, as it was unclear who oversaw the database, who knew about it and who could access it. The county eventually dismantled the database in the summer of 2015. “The database had over 200 people they thought might be abusing kids, but they never reported them to the police or CPS for investigation,” Gross said. In the school district’s ongoing efforts to prevent abuse, MCPS instituted an employee code of conduct for the first time in the 2016-2017 school year, along with new sexual abuse training for employees and body safety lessons for students. Currently, students in Pre-K through 12th grade receive personal body safety lessons in order to help them recognize and report suspected instances of abuse. According to MCPS, the lessons are catered to be age appropriate: The Pre-K through fifth grade curriculum focuses on understanding the areas of your body that are private and learning how to tell trusted adults, while students in higher

grades learn to define different types of abuse. “We have a team of 30 members from multiple offices who meet about 10 times a year to rebuild employee training,” Edmundson said. “We work with a company called Praesidium, a national expert in this work, and they review our training that we provide our employees. So I feel like our training is excellent.” While MCPS believes in the effectiveness of the safety lessons — presented to 11th and 12th graders at Whitman this September — others see faults in its design. “One of the things that’s frustrating is the lesson could be considered dated,” Resource Counselor William Toth said. “That’s some-

graphics by EMMA LIN


thing the county should look into potentially updating.” For junior Sophia VanLowe, the personal body safety lessons lack emphasis on how important the topic is. After attending the Sept. 21 lesson, VanLowe was disappointed that the information wasn’t presented in a manner that made it seem significant for students, she said. “The body safety lessons are ineffective and don’t do enough to teach students how prevalent and how much of a risk child sexual abuse is in MCPS,” VanLowe said. Despite the databases, guidelines, training sessions and safety lessons that have emerged over the past decade, certain MCPS staff members have remained employed after specific allegations were made but never investigated, Gross alleged. Memberships in state and local chapters of teachers’ unions, like the National Education Association (NEA) and the Montgomery County Education Association, provide teachers with legal representation if they’re accused of wrongdoing in the workplace. Moreover, collective bargaining agreements between the unions and MCPS prolong the process of firing members by requiring strong documentation of reason. While unions have protected teachers from unjust job terminations — including those rooted in false accusations and retaliatory firings for refusing a superior’s sexual advances, not unlike cases seen in the “#metoo” era — critics say unions can also insulate a teacher from accountability for misconduct by initiating costly court battles that can take years to resolve. In 2017, John Vigna, a teacher employed for over 20 years at Cloverly Elementary School in Silver Spring, received a 48-year prison sentence for the sexual abuse of four students in grades three through five. Nine years earlier, in 2008, the county gave Vigna a warning to stop putting children on his lap, something he frequently did, and after two additional complaints by students of inappropriate touching, he signed a written pledge in 2013 to avoid all physical contact with students. Due to the absence of a further investigation into his behavior, Vigna’s abuse of children continued until county police arrested him in 2016 when a new allegation emerged from a student who, after receiving a body safety lesson at school, realized she’d been the victim of sexual abuse. Only then, eight years after the first reports of inappropriate behavior, did the county put Vigna on administrative leave. “If you look into that case, he was abusing kids for probably well over 10 years,” Gross said. “The school knew, and they left him in the classroom.” MCPS claims that it maintains a rigorous review process for new employees. Before an employee is hired, Edmundson said, there’s an extensive process of screening, fingerprinting and reviewing the American Identity Solutions database. But despite these precautions, sexual abuse cases persist in the classroom. Mark Yantsos, once head of security at Richard Montgomery High School, engaged

in sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl during the 2016-2017 school year. The school system placed him on administrative leave until the county police later arrested him. Previously, Yantsos had worked in MCPS for more than a decade as the lead security guard and the varsity girls’ basketball coach at Richard Montgomery High School during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons. But prior to working for MCPS, in 1994, the New York Police Department arrested and charged Yantsos with a misdemeanor for threatening a 30-year-old woman with his gun while intoxicated and off-duty from his job as a police officer, according to The New York Times. Yantsos still managed to pass the MCPS criminal background check. In both the Vigna and Yantsos cases, the victims’ parents went to the respective schools to express their concerns instead of directly reporting the allegations to CPS or the police, leading to red tape and years of inaction. “MCPS has evolved but it still has massive problems that they’ve refused to correct,” Gross said. “A major hole in the county’s plan is that students should not [only] report crimes to MCPS.”

“The body safety

lessons are ineffective and don’t do enough to teach students how prevalent and how much of a risk child sexual abuse is in MCPS.” In spring of 2021, Whitman crew athletes voiced complaints of abuse by Whitman social studies teacher and crew coach Kirkland Shipley to the Whitman Crew Boosters Board of Directors. The Board, which is composed of parents, hired an independent human resource company to conduct an investigation of Shipley’s behavior, which the company and boosters deemed a “culture review.” “An HR person is for adults in the workplace. They were investigating potential, at the very least, emotional abuse of children,” Gross said. “That’s like going to a podiatrist if you think you have a heart problem. If things are so bad you think you need to pay someone to investigate what’s happening, get rid of [Shipley].” The culture review concluded that Shipley “made individuals feel degraded, demeaned and not respected” and that “there was an insufficient respect of boundaries between coach and athletes,” as stated in an email from the Crew Board of Directors to the Whitman crew community in August. “I definitely think the board should’ve immediately reported him to CPS,” said former girl’s crew member Brooke. “An MCPS investigation on Shipley’s behavior in

2018 came to a similar conclusion, and to see that it’s happening about three years later means that he hadn’t changed, even though he’d been reprimanded before. I think that they should’ve gone ahead and fired him and toldpeople about what he was doing.” Despite the severity of the initial report, the Crew Boosters Board didn’t report student allegations to CPS, and they failed to remove Shipley from his position as coach. While MCPS now includes mandatory reporting to CPS in its training for employees as well as student safety lessons, allegations aren’t always reported to outside authorities before they’re shared with school personnel. “Victims should report ‘out,’ not ‘up,’ first — out to CPS and the police, and then up through your chain of command,” Gross said. “When you report out to the authorities, they’re getting the information face to face. No one is filtering it.” Since 2012, county advocates against sexual abuse have submitted numerous testimonies to the Board of Education, met with local politicians and county officials, taught prevention classes to parents and testified at the state level to change legislation regarding child sexual abuse. Today, they continue to pressure MCPS to strengthen its protocols in vetting, training and reporting abuse among its 30,000 employees. But despite their efforts, according to the district’s annual report, in the 2019-2020 school year, over 270 cases of alleged abuse or neglect by MCPS employees were reported to CPS or the Montgomery County Police Department. For advocates like Gross, there’s still a long way to go. Students who’ve witnessed sexual abuse occur in MCPS firsthand agree. “When we went to the board, our anonymous reports weren’t validated, and our identities were exposed,” Brooke said. “If they don’t believe us, recognize our reports and get us adequate help, how do they ever expect us to report abuse in the future? A cycle will be created unless they make changes.”

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THE JEWISH Atheist By Norah Rothman

I’ve been immersed in Jewish culture since childhood. I attended a Jewish preschool, an experience marked by memories of hamantaschen, triangular pastries filled with jam, and elaborate costumes for Purim, a festival celebrating the survival of the Jews who were targeted by their Persian rulers in the 5th century B.C. I spent my Sunday mornings at Hebrew school learning the basic principles of Judaism. I celebrated Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, and I attended multiple religious services at temple each month. As a child, religious events provided me with a familial joy I couldn’t find anywhere else. Some of my earliest and most prominent memories are of my relatives teaching me Hebrew prayers. I fondly remember sitting on my Grandpa’s lap as he helped me recite the blessing for wine, line by line — although my four-year-old version of “Baruch atah Adonai” sounded more like gibberish. However, as I got older, I began to develop my own perception of religion, and I slowly began to question my faith in God.

“...as I got older, I began to develop my own perception of religion, and I slowly began to question my faith in God.” My waning interest in Judaism began in Hebrew school. Sitting in a stuffy classroom weekend after weekend — where the only thing I truly learned was how to play “heads up seven-up” — disconnected me from the core concepts of the religion. The little content about Judaism we did learn always seemed too fantastical to believe. While others attended Hebrew school to deepen their faith, I merely treated it as a chore forced upon me by my parents. In fourth grade, after endlessly complaining and campaigning, my parents allowed me to quit Hebrew school. From then on, my ties to the religion of Judaism were severed. My family and I no longer attended synagogue; the values, beliefs and stories that defined my childhood grew insignificant in my life. Soon enough, I began to identify as an atheist. It didn’t make sense to me why people blindly followed a magical man in the sky. I did understand, however, that religion was a way for humanity to explain the unexplainable, and I recognized that it provided billions of people comfort when facing life’s vast unknowns. Nonetheless, I found that all of my universal questions were better explained through science and reason, rather than a higher power. When seventh grade rolled around — the notorious year of bar and bat mitzvahs — my identity as an atheist was put to the test. As my 13th birthday approached, my family suggested I have a bat mitzvah. I wasn’t enthusiastic, to say the least. Despite my brother, cousins and the majority of my extended family having bar and bat mitzvahs, participating in the tradition was something that I didn’t feel comfortable doing. As an atheist, I’d feel fraudulent reciting words to enter adulthood in a religion I didn’t believe in. To my surprise, I didn’t receive as much push-back from my family as I anticipated. For the most part, they accepted and understood my choice. I did hear the occasional “You’ll regret this in the future,” but I recognized that these remarks came from a place of love. They didn’t want me to miss out on a life experience that, for them, was meaningful and significant. And

graphic by GABY HODOR

in the end, I knew I was content and secure in the decision I’d made. Since seventh grade, however, I’ve made a subtle observation. I still don’t attend synagogue on a regular basis, and my years of dull Hebrew school lessons are long gone. And yet, despite these religious divergences, I still happily continue to celebrate Jewish holidays with my family. Despite my atheist identification, these “Jewish” traditions still feel genuine to who I am. For generations, my family has passed down authentic Jewish recipes and rituals, from making homemade matza ball soup, to battling my cousins in the search for the afikoman. Maybe I’m not Jewish, but my world is. With this bond to my heritage, I’ve been able to have meaningful conversations with family members that help me better understand their viewpoints. As I grew older, seeing my 95-year-old great-grandparents’ passion for Jewish culture reminded me that Judaism is more than their belief system — it’s their entire identity. I had always heard stories through my relatives about my great-grandpa who fought in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He dedicated a significant portion of his life to fighting a war against the persecution of Jews, so my family subsequently holds a great deal of pride in being Jewish. Judaism defines not only their religion, but their personhood. To me, being Jewish is much more than believing in God: It’s an acknowledgment of my family’s deeply rooted history — a history that I don’t want to brush aside. When someone asks me if I’m religious, I’ll give them my typical response: I’ve been an atheist since fourth grade, and I don’t plan on changing my beliefs. But when someone asks me if I’m Jewish, the answer is a little more complicated. I was raised on Sunday-morning bagels and Jewish sleepaway camps — memories which have collectively formed who I am today. And so I wear, and will continue to wear, my Judaism as a badge of honor and pride, and I’ll never say no to a bowl of Grandma’s matza ball soup.

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The Black & White runs that track back! 2021 album reviews, so far...

Tyler, The Creator, “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST”

“I might buy a boat!” Tyler, The Creator screams on his most recent album, “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” (“CMIYGL”). And really, there’s no better line to sum up the most indulgent, over-the-top, braggadocious and luxurious-sounding album of the year. Since he broke onto the scene as a part of Odd Future in the early 2010s, Tyler has gone from homophobic edge-lord to alternative rap-darling to mainstream queer icon. And still, Tyler always felt out of place in the larger cultural genre of “rap,” especially after the Gram-

mys got into trouble for categorizing “IGOR,” his most R&B and soul-inspired album, as a rap album. In a way, “CMIYGL” is a reclamation of Tyler’s rap identity, aided by the not so subtle adlibs of DJ Drama — a cornerstone figure in rap history — and features from more mainstream, macho rappers like NBA Youngboy and Lil Wayne. And yet, “CMIYGL” is also a reflection of Tyler’s metamorphoses as an artist and a public figure, chronicled on tracks like “MASSA” and “MANIFESTO.” Much of Tyler’s popularity comes from the aesthetics of his image and sound. On “CMIYGL,” Tyler pulls influences from auteurs such as Wes Anderson, in both the visual style and the imagery of his lyrics, and French poet Charles Baudelaire, in the persona Tyler crafts for himself on the album: Sir Baudelaire. Mixing the romantic pop-influenced sounds of his previous two albums, with the aggressive rapping of his earliest projects, Tyler utilizes the best parts of his previous styles and creates something bigger than the sum of their parts on “CMIYGL.”

“SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” stands out as a highlight on the album and one of Tyler’s strongest tracks of his career. A “compound” 10th track — a Tyler staple which joins several songs into one — the song starts out sweet and smooth, pulling influences from R&B synthesizers, jazz riffs and a molasses-like chord progression. After Tyler starts “drowning” for a mysterious lover, the song shifts gears into a funky caribbean reggae beat that is difficult not to groove to. Overall, while “CMIYGL” is more aesthetic than thought-provoking, it’s no doubt an extremely enjoyable and immaculately produced body of work that sounds like the musical equivalent of a lavish European vacation. After a decade of musical trailblazing, Tyler, The Creator deserves a victory lap. Well done, Sir Baudelaire. Play: “SIR BAUDELAIRE” “CORSO” “WUSYANAME” “LUMBERJACK” “MASSA” “RISE!” “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” “SAFARI” Skip: “JUGGERNAUT” “WILSHIRE”

Olivia Rodrigo, “SOUR”

If you listen to the radio, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard at least half of Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, “SOUR.” In addition to her sensational top hit “drivers license,” which catapulted the teen into pop stardom, the 18-year-old gave her millions of fans 10 new tracks this year. The album is a story of heartbreak and moving on, with the majority of its songs chronicling typical teen hardships: jealousy,

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love and social anxiety. In “brutal,” Rodrigo unloads her frustrations with modern-day teenhood on a punk-rock track that features heavy drums and brash electric guitars. Some topics she sings about, while specific, are still widely relatable: resentment towards social media and a lack of confidence. “I can’t even parallel park,” she sings. Now that’s relatable. “SOUR” debuted as the number one album on the Billboard charts upon its May release, and since then, all 11 songs on the album have held places inside the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100. Despite her young age, Rodrigo has already mastered the pop-radio formula, yet her sound is still unique — “deja vu,” “traitor” and “drivers license” all display Rodrigo’s impressive vocal and songwriting skills. Additionally, the production on a majority of the tracks is not only dynamic, but perfectly complementary to their lyrics. On “deja vu,” sliding syths give the instrumentals a vintage sound as Rodrigo sings about the parallels be-

tween her past relationship with a boy and the relationship he’s currently in. On “happier,” a piano melody accompanies Rodrigo’s crescendoing vocal ballad, creating a powerful moment in the tracklist. “SOUR” has its highs, but it also suffers from various pop cliches. The bridges of multiple songs are repetitive and uninspired, and there are one too many somber ballads that just can’t seem to make it off the ground. Rodrigo’s short moment of maturity on the closer “hope ur ok” feels misplaced and strange in an album so brazenly shameless and self-aware of its saltiness. Rodrigo makes a clear statement with “SOUR”: She’s an artist to be taken seriously. With an extraordinary entrance into the pop music scene, it’s fair to say we are witnessing the birth of a superstar. Play: “brutal” “deja vu” “happier” “favorite crime” Skip: “1 step forward, 3 steps back” “hope ur ok”


by DANNY KOTELANSKI, ALEX SCHUPAK and SKYLAR CHASEN Kanye West, “DONDA”

After more than a year of anticipation, headlines and, eventually, listening events, Kanye West finally dropped his 10th studio album “Donda” at the end of August — 401 days after its first scheduled release date. There was no album art, no explicit lyrics, no publicity interviews and no official announcements of the album’s existence — for God’s sake, Kanye wouldn’t even show his face. But for fans, nothing could take away the excitement of another album from arguably the most im-

portant cultural icon of the 21st century. Prior to its release, fans speculated that “Donda” would mirror West’s preceding, and moderately disappointing, album “Jesus is King;” West did indeed take a religious approach to “Donda,” incorporating gospel-esque instrumentals, Christian-influenced lyrics and a return of the Sunday Service Choir. However, this mix of gospel with West’s trademark modernist hiphop sound proved to be wildly more successful than those of his previous efforts. Kanye has always had an eye for cutting-edge musical trends, and on “Donda,” drill influences and endless features from culturally relevant artists make the album sound fresh even while incorporating religious themes — something that often struggles to sound “cool” in the 21st century. A particular highlight of the album is “Off The Grid,” featuring verses from Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign, who both bring their A-game — a trend evident across all the album’s features. In the last two minutes of the song, a glitchy drill beat carries an aggressive

Lorde, “SOLAR POWER”

Leading Leading up up to to the the release release of of her her third third stustudio album, Lorde might have been in dio album, Lorde might have been in the the most most envious envious position position aa recording recording artist artist could could possipossibly bly be be in. in. She She garnered garnered mainstream mainstream appeal appeal with with her her breakthrough breakthrough debut debut record record “Pure “Pure Heroine” Heroine” and and its its massive massive radio radio hit hit “Royals.” “Royals.” Then, Then, four four years later, she dropped “Melodrama,” years later, she dropped “Melodrama,” an an alalbum bum that that cemented cemented her her place place as as aa cornerstone cornerstone of of 2010s 2010s alterative alterative pop pop and and gave gave her her aa massive massive following of music aficionados and following of music aficionados and teenagers. teenagers. So So what what direction direction would would Lorde Lorde go go next? next? With With boundless boundless time, time, resources resources and and listenerlistenership, ship, Lorde Lorde went went in in aa direction direction that, that, for for fans fans and and critics critics alike, alike, was was honestly honestly disappointing. disappointing. “Solar “Solar Power” Power” doesn’t doesn’t mince mince what what it it is is trytrying ing to to be: be: aa feel-good feel-good summer summer anthem anthem album album that that radiates radiates romance, romance, beauty beauty and and beaches. beaches. And yet, it feels empty, superficial And yet, it feels empty, superficial and and tonetonedeaf deaf when when compared compared to to the the more more introspective introspective and and emotionally emotionally vulnerable vulnerable style style of of her her first first two albums. two albums. There’s There’s aa case case to to be be made made that that an an album album like “Solar Power” can work as a form like “Solar Power” can work as a form ofofes-es-

capism for those struggling through a worldwide pandemic. But it’s hard to listen to “Solar Power” without immediately thinking about the lunacy of celebrity life and wellness culture — something that, while certain tracks on the album poke fun at, in other respects “Solar Power” plays into. Does Lorde want us to laugh at images of stoned-out-of-their-mind celebrities frolicking on California beaches obsessed with the latest Goop serenity stones, or does she want us to join in on the fun? A contrast between lyrical content and musical style might have aided in Lorde’s social commentary, but instead, we get endless acoustic guitars, chimes and breathy vocal deliveries. The second single, “Stoned at the Nail Salon” is a perfect example of what works, and what doesn’t, on “Solar Power.” The ballad describes the need to move on from the cloud nine of endless beaches, vacations and relaxation, and it comments on the impermanence of this blissful lifestyle. “All the beautiful girls, they will fade like the roses,” she confesses. But rather than diving deeper into these themes of change and fleeting happiness, Lorde can only tell us that she’s “stoned at the nail salon” over and over again on top of plucky acoustic guitars, conveying a sense that she really hasn’t left the never-ending vacation she has already confessed is hollow.

Kanye verse that expresses his commitment to his children, his family and God. Of course, there are obligatory corny Kanye bars — “I talk to God everyday, that’s my bestie” — but in context, it comes off in a more endearing “bad dad joke” way than anything else. Most of the 27 songs on the album have very similar backing instruments, wrapped in pipe organs over relatively slow “boom-boomclap” beats. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, but it does make the album difficult to listen to straight through, especially considering the four “Pt. 2” songs tacked on at the end of the album that are not really second parts to any of the songs — instead, they’re the same song with different features. “Donda” is a great album with even greater songs. “Jail,” “Hurricane” and “Moon” could very well become all-time top Kanye tracks. However, if West decides to tweak it after its release, much like he did with “The Life of Pablo,” “Donda” has potential to improve significantly. Play: “Jail” “Off the Grid” “Hurricane” “Believe What I Say” “24” “Moon” “Keep My Spirit Alive” “New Again” “Pure Souls” Skip: “Ok Ok” “Tell The Vision” “Lord I Need You” Whether “Solar Power” is a confused record due to a poor attempt to satisfy both critical and commercial demand or due to Lorde’s celebrity status completely removing her from reality, is hard to say. Either way, “Solar Power” is not a record many are going to be remembering in a couple of months, let alone a couple of years. Play: “Fallen Fruit” Skip: “The Path” “Mood Ring” “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” “Leaders of a New Regime”

graphics by MAYA WIESE

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MUSIC BREAK: FALL CROSSWORD by CAROLINE FAUST Across

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