School discipline tactics, such as suspensions and expulsions fuels the school-to-prison pipeline. According to the Dignity in Schools Campaign, a national coalition dedicated to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, “Every year, 3.3 million students in the United States are suspended from school, causing them to miss critical learning time, as well as opportunities to grow and succeed.” 
National data proves that students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended and more likely to be severely punished. This contributes to lower graduation rates.  
In response to these issues, the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) launched the Boston Student Rights app in 2015 to prevent unfair discipline. The app provides accurate, easily accessible information on student rights and responsibilities in Boston Public Schools - everything from cell phones and dress codes to discrimination policies. It even allows students to file reports when something goes wrong at school.  
It makes clear that in most cases schools must try alternative discipline or restorative justice before a suspension. It also lists examples of alternative punishments and restorative justice practices that can be used. There have been close to 10,000 visitors to the site since its launch and at least one student has used the app to successfully appeal an unfair suspension.  
If you have an Android device you can download the app from Google Play. You can access it from other devices by going to bostonstudentrights.org. From there you can add it to your bookmarks or set it as your home page. BSAC is looking forward to more students finding out about the app and downloading it. The app is also available in Spanish and we are hoping to roll out additional languages. We are also planning to add additional information pertaining to LGBTQ and undocumented students. 
In some high schools, the administration may not be aware of the current policies and make students suffer consequences they don’t deserve to face.  This app is one way to prevent this from happening throughout BPS.  
Read more…
Features
HPREP gives students a dose of knowledge
Aisha Mohamed
AFH Photo
His life was in danger. He was wheezing, panicking, and calling out for help. The students in the room tried to figure out what was wrong with him by checking his blood pressure, oxygen saturation, heart rate and temperature. Finally, the students came to a diagnosis -- the dummy patient was having an asthma attack. He was saved by an inhaler.  
Checking symptoms and coming to a diagnosis is just one of the many things students learn through the Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP) at Harvard Medical School.  
HPREP is a program that gives high school students across greater Boston a hands on experience in science and medical related careers. According to their website, HPREP’s mission is to recruit underserved and underrepresented high school students into science and medicine. They also aim to increase awareness of opportunities available in the health professions through mentorship, career panels, discussions, and research projects.  
Through participating in HPREP, students are “gaining the mentorship and friendship of a graduate or medical student who they can go to for advice about college, careers, and many other things during and after the program,” said Deepali Ravel, one of the three program co-directors.  
Sessions are held every Saturday from November through February, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. During sessions, participants gain hands on experience in topics such as DNA isolations, viruses and vaccines, and genetics, just to name a few. During career fairs, students have “the chance to meet health and science professionals from a wide range of areas,” said Ravel.  
69 students from across greater Boston participated in the 2016-2017 programming year. More than 350 alumni have complete the HPREP program over the last eight years it has been running. 
Due to strong interest in the program, the application process is competitive. However, that does not mean you need top grades to be accepted. It is all about whether you are really passionate about science and health careers and show “the motivation and ability to take full advantage of the curriculum and mentoring HPREP can offer,” according to Ravel. 
The online application window opens mid-September and closes at the beginning of October. Decisions are emailed at the end of October. It is highly encouraged to apply again the following year if you are not accepted the first time around.  
Not only is HPREP a great opportunity, but it also enriches student knowledge on what they plan to do in the future. To learn more about the program and the application process, please visit hprep.wordpress.com.  
Read more…
AFH Photo // Vo, Vanessa
A fact of domestic violence that is often left undiscussed is that men can be the victims in abusive relationships. Much like women, men can experience both physical and mental abuse. This includes men in both straight and gay relationships. 
Physical abuse can include a partner attacking them by hitting, slapping, or pushing. In the United States, about 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a romantic partner annually according to a 2011 CDC nationwide survey. Of the 23% of females and 14% of males who have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, they first encountered some form of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17. According to the Department Of Justice, one out of every 10 rape victims is a man.  
Men also encounter emotional abuse. The Administration for Children and Families characterize emotional abuse as any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity and self-worth. If your partner calls you names or makes you feel bad about yourself, that is emotional abuse. 
One reason men do not discuss abuse could be the effects of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is a social construct that portrays men as unemotional, violent and sexually aggressive. This supports the idea that real men could not be victims. Many men tend not to seek help due to the fear of being viewed as “weak.” 
Rashid Acker, a junior at the John D. O’Bryant High School, said that males are not likely to report to anyone if they were in an abusive relationship because it would damage the perception of their masculinity. He also said that boys are not likely to talk to their friends about their situation due to fear of ridicule. Toxic masculinity deters males from receiving the help they need and contributes to cases going unreported.  
Sumeya Ali, also a junior at the O’Bryant, said, “Hyper masculinity says that men are supposed to be the “alpha male” but that is not the case at all. We are all humans and capable of emotions, regardless of our gender.”  
There is no one way to end the stigma. Brianna Moody, the Girl’s Health Coordinator at the YWCA, said, “Understanding the reasons why some people might remain in abusive relationships and acknowledging that leaving is hard can help to combat the stigma. There are often systemic barriers that need to be addressed [like racism or sexism] before interpersonal changes can be made. It’s never the victim’s fault.” 
If you find yourself in a position where you are afraid of your partner, you should seek help. Websites like loveisrespect.org are designed to help people in unhealthy relationships. They have an online chat room and a number you can text or call if you have questions. They also have FAQ’s about healthy and unhealthy relationships, and what to do if you ever find yourself in one. It is important to admit the fact that men can be victims of abusive relationships, as well as actively recognizing the signs of toxic masculinity and trying to end the stigma.  
 
Resources for teens experiencing intimate partner violence:
 
- An informative documentary that highlights the problem of toxic masculinity is The Mask You Live In, which can be found on Netflix.  
- LoveIsRespect.org  
- BreakTheCycle.org 
- SafeLink – 1-877-785-2020 (toll free) 
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 
- National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)  
Read more…
AFH Photo // Bobo, Esther
In Massachusetts, 4,418 adolescents and adults report being sexually assaulted each year. That is 12 people each day and one every two hours. This statistic, provided by the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), is alarming.  
Tiffany Lam, a junior at Boston Latin Academy, defines rape as “when someone sexually assaults another person without any form of consent.” It is often misinterpreted that most rapes happen outside of the home with a stranger. However, according to BARCC, 80 percent of all rape cases occur in the home between people who know one another.  
Rape is a traumatic experience that forever alters the lives of its victims. BARCC is committed to giving survivors and their families the resources they need to reclaim their lives and begin healing. They raise awareness around the issues survivors face and aim to end sexual violence through social change. 
In today’s society, victims are often blamed for their rape. This is usually implied from the victim being questioned: What did they wear that night? Why didn’t they fight back? When victims are asked questions like this, they may feel discouraged from reporting the crime.  
For males, rape is seen as atypical. They often do not report their rape out of fear of being seen as weak. Society needs to stop judging victims and start thinking logically as to who the real perpetrator is. 
In April 2013, Emma Sulkowicz accused classmate Paul Nungesser of rape at Columbia University. After Columbia found Nungesser not responsible, Sulkowicz committed to carrying a mattress on her back throughout her senior year in protest of the decision. The student body turned against her once she started protesting. Someone even posted a cartoon of her naked in bed with a man. Sulkowicz was continuously accused of lying and blamed for causing the rape in the first place, while Nungesser was not held responsible. 
“It is the offender's fault because they have no self-control. It is not always the case in which victims are dressed [in a way] that causes them to be raped,” said Tyler Vantha, a junior at Boston Latin Academy.  
Alcohol can play a major role in victim blaming. In January 2015, Brock Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at Stanford University. During the lawsuit, Turner claimed there had been consent, but this was not consensual because she was drunk and incoherent. Turner knew this and still continued. The case gained national attention and some people claimed it was the woman’s fault because she should have been careful about drinking alcohol. While Turner was found guilty, the judge gave him an unusually lenient sentence of six months, of which he served only three due to good behavior.   
We need to stop rape victimization. Patrick Donovan, Youth Clinical Outreach Coordinator at BARCC, says, “[Victims] did whatever they could to survive and their choices are the right way for them. There is no right way to help them, but BARCC will help on what they can do next, their rights and laws, or even to just listen to them.”  
As a society, we need to start understanding consent, and change our teaching from how to avoid rape, to teaching that rape is a crime. No one should ever experience this. We must commit to ending rape culture and shift our focus from the blame game to creating an environment where perpetrators are held accountable and victims are able to report crimes, free of social shaming and blaming.  
 
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) is committed to giving survivors and their families and friends the resources they need to reclaim their lives and begin healing, to raising awareness of the issues survivors face, and to ending sexual violence through healing and social change. 
24-hour hotline: 800.841.8371 
Read more…
Features
Youth homelessness in Boston on the rise
Masha Leyfer
AFH Photo // Bobo, Esther
Within the bustling city of Boston, the streets hide a gruesome truth. Homelessness has plagued Boston for decades, and the number of homeless individuals and families are still on the rise. 
Boston’s 2015 annual homeless census counted 7,663 homeless men, women, and children, with 139 unsheltered individuals. While there are fewer unsheltered individuals than the previous year, the total number of men, women and children without a stable home is rising.  
“With extremely low rental vacancy rates for households looking to rent apartments and out-of-reach rental costs for units that are available, many Boston residents experience homelessness and housing insecurity. At the same time, Boston -- and Massachusetts as a whole -- have very complex and multi-layered responses to homelessness,” says Kelley Turley, Director of Legislative Advocacy for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.  
The census also found that the number of homeless families in Boston rose 25% between 2014 and 2015, and the number of homeless youth is on the rise nationwide. The National Homeless Coalition notes that homeless youth are at a higher risk for mental health problems, substance abuse and sexual abuse. Between 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, who are even more likely than their counterparts to experience sexual abuse. It is more difficult for homeless youth to find shelter because adult shelters are often unsafe and there are fewer emergency beds for young people. 
However, there are several organizations in Boston devoted exclusively to this issue. Bridge Over Troubled Water has been helping homeless youth and runaways since the 1960’s. They provide counseling, in-house medical services, accessible education and other daily support.  
In 2012, Harvard graduates opened Boston’s first student-run overnight shelter for youth: Y2Y. Based in Harvard Square, the organization seeks to provide dignity, safety, and adaptability for young adults experiencing homelessness. Many of the shelter’s volunteers are college students. “What unified us was this simple belief that people our own age should not be sleeping right outside our dorms,” reads a quote on their website. 
“Young people are important players in the work to promote housing stability,” says Turley. “[The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless] has been working with youth and young adults for the past six years to create a systemic statewide response to homelessness among unaccompanied youth (young people outside the custody and care of a parent or guardian). Young people with and without housing have come up to the State House with us to share their recommendations to lawmakers and to tell their personal stories.” 
Human compassion drives many of the organizations and individuals working with the homeless. Volunteers in homeless shelters and organizations are at the core of the movement to improve the Boston housing situation. Although homelessness may seem like a large, menacing, undefeatable issue, the solution begins with one person’s decision to make a difference.  
Read more…