Hernando High School senior Jamie Pankow isn’t the type of student that typically speaks up in class, but she was recently confronted with a situation she couldn’t ignore. “I’m hardly involved, I like to stay in the corners,” the Florida teen told WFTS. “But when it comes to something like this, I will say something.”
In late April, Pankow received a text from an old friend threatening harm against another student, and she knew what she had to do, even though the fallout would undoubtedly cause problems for her friend.
Youth culture tends to fly below the adult radar, which is why reporting a youth violation or potential violation to an adult in authority can be enormously difficult. Increasingly, students themselves are taking ownership of their school’s moral ecology. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture observed, “The more positive construction is that a close community provides the watchful and loving attentiveness that allow the young people to thrive.” The more students agree with the adults in their community over the social and moral ecology the better students can be protected.
“He was saying something about a specific person that he wanted to make them bleed out,” Pankow said. “I thought about it really hard, it didn’t take too long, and I just went up and had my teacher call Deputy Pope so I could talk to him.”
Deputies came to the school and spoke with the 17-year-old student who made the threat, then arrested the boy after he confirmed he was planning to shoot people at Hernando High School.
“Even though it was a good thing to do, I still feel bad that I had to report him …,” Pankow told WFTS.
Hernando assistant principal Angela Miller said school officials work to create a culture that encourages students to speak up, and she’s grateful Pankow prevented what could have been a deadly situation.
“We’re really proud of her and what she’s done,” Miller said. “She showed a lot of courage.”
Pankow told the news site the experience also taught her an important lesson.
“If it’s serous,” she said, “you shouldn’t wait to act on it.”
“If it doesn’t feel right or look right, step up and tell an authority,” Miller added.
Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students will find information, strategies and teacher lesson plans at the UK’s The Jubilee Centre.