A new Saranac Lake hero
To the editor:
All Saranac Lakers should be proud to have Frannie Newman as one of us. Her valedictory speech was among the most heartfelt and courageous statements I’ve ever witnessed.
Frannie told us that she has endured years of slights and insults from her classmates, teachers and parents, simply because her mother is Chinese. In a few short moments, dressed in her graduation cap and gown, she shared with all of us an intimate portrait of the full range of her deepest emotions.
She let us feel the sting and pain of being mocked for something she could never change — herself. How she labored without complaint, just to be able to fit in. How her pain taught her to be a stronger person and to fully embrace her mom and her ethnicity. How, without naming those who put her through such pain, she forgave them. And how she looked forward to attending Middlebury College, and wished to experience a whole new world, with a whole new understanding of herself.
Like Frannie, my interest is not dwelling on the past, but in finding ways to ensure that this never happens again.
New York has a law dealing with situations such as Frannie’s: the “Dignity for all Students Act,” which took effect on July 1, 2012. This law seeks to provide the state’s primary and secondary public-school students with “a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying.”
Among other things, the act requires that school employees, including teachers, who “witness or receive a report of harassment, bullying or discrimination must notify” the designated school official within one school day after witnessing the incident or receiving the report, and must file a written report within two school days thereafter.
This is important since the school employee who sees or is made aware of an incident MUST report it to a higher official, even if the employee tries to resolve the issue him or herself. The point of this requirement is to ensure that the higher official is made aware of all such cases. This official can then decide what, if any, additional actions are required.
Finally, I believe Frannie is a person of true character, vulnerable yet strong and joyous. I am excited for her as she commences her life’s journey.