People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction.

James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village”

Two weeks ago, after going to Miami, some individuals attended a party hosted by some members of DHS hockey. On Wednesday, we learned there were 14 confirmed cases of COVID in Deerfield, some of who attended that party. The class of ‘21 Facebook group exploded into a series of memes, name-calling, and vitriol.

Privilege is a word that when it is thrown at you makes you defensive. A lot of people feel like they are being attacked right now. But we have to give a chance to the people who are giving genuine criticism. You cannot tackle the dangers of privilege if you do not recognize its existence. All of our experiences are different, but for the vast majority of people at this high school, we are the beneficiaries of massive privilege. This privilege has allowed us to live out our lives without feeling the consequences of our actions. That’s a very dangerous thing. 

COVID is not a death sentence. The recovery rate in Lake County is 98.2%. But risking any life, even if it’s a relatively low chance, for a party should not be worth it to any of us. The actions of some incredibly selfish people are causing a real, harmful impact on their communities and the people around them. This super-spreader party has put the underclassmen’s basketball season under question. It has put DCOMPS into jeopardy. It has risked the health and possibly lives of all those put into contact with these individuals. 

We should not act like we’re shocked this happened—we all knew this was a possibility. The group that went to Miami, as well as the hockey team and others who attended the party, came back and exposed all of the DHS community by attending hybrid learning and extracurriculars should not be surprised by the backlash. It was selfish, short-sighted, and dangerous. But what disappoints me the most is the defense of their actions by not just them, but others as well. Instead of accountability, they have acted like victims. We all know who the victims are here—the teachers who they’ve put at risk and the students who now have to quarantine for 2 weeks. Let us be clear: no one deserves to be endlessly bullied. And we’re genuinely sorry if any members of our staff posted something personally offensive. Harassment isn’t cool, warranted, or productive. But this behavior has gone unchecked for far too long.

In the chaos that ensued in the eDHS ‘21 Facebook group, some people were telling flat-out lies to try and defend themselves. One person tried to justify their actions by saying that their team made it to state last year. Some denied the party even happened. They refused to take any responsibility. “Sorry that we are having fun during a pandemic… Sue us” one person wrote. And, after all of this reckless behavior, they tried to high-road everyone by saying they were the ones who deserved empathy because they felt like they were victims even though they were the ones who were so selfishly and unempathetic attending a party and going against medical guidance in the first place. Some people absolutely took it too far—there’s a fine line between satire and personal insults. But it’s this lack of empathy and dissent into pointless whataboutism that’s ruining DHS and our society. This may sound a massive exaggeration, but it’s not. If how we participate in our high school communities are reflective of how we will participate in a society, we’ve failed.

To the parents who are planning a witch hunt against the cyberbullies, please consider where your priorities are at. Your child has done something reckless and dangerous. You should worry first about them before seeking retribution on others. The “justice” for your child will mean nothing if they don’t use this as an opportunity to grow. If you open your minds to change, the DHS community will welcome you back.

It is the natural reaction for anyone receiving a grade’s or even school’s worth of hatred to be defensive, to put up walls rather than have to face the realization that perhaps most of the backlash has some merit. Harassment is never warranted but there is a root cause, and that cannot be understated.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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