Guest Blog: Ayana Gordon: ‘Students Should Have a Voice’

ayana croppedMy name is Ayana Gordon. I am eighteen and in my last year of high school at Clara Barton in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  A dedicated student that would do whatever they have to do to succeed. That’s me.

Before I began my sophomore year of high school, my older sister provided me with a pepper spray key chain in order to aid me if I ever had any troubles coming home in the dark after track practice. I carried the spray, my form of defense, on my keys for an entire school year. At the end of the year, I was faced with a principal’s suspension.

My school requires students to be scanned every day to enter the building. On June 1, 2012, I placed my bag in the x-ray machine. While waiting for my belongings on the other side, the School Safety Officer ordered me to identify an object that appeared on the screen. I replied by saying, “My keys.” She then searched through my bag, grabbed my pepper spray key chain and repeated the intimidating question. As the honest student I am, I told her what it was. Next, she called another officer over to us. I felt confused and attacked because the object had gone through scanning every day since September 2011. After being questioned, I was escorted to the Dean’s office and was suspended for three consecutive days during finals week.

My suspension during finals week could have jeopardized my acceptance into the Licensed Practical Nursing Program at my school. To get into this rigorous program, I needed a certain grade point average, as well as a completed application, two recommendation letters, and a passing score on the entry exam. I had worked extremely hard to get accepted into this program and I was very upset that my effort may have been wasted because of the timing of the suspension.  I was forced to miss some of my finals, which threatened my GPA.

I informed my mother of the situation. She was able to schedule a meeting with the Dean of Students. Although we were able to address many of my questions and concerns about my situation, I still believe that I should not have been charged due to the security’s inability to detect my ‘weapon’ the entire school year.  If an incident like this were to happen ever again, I would make the same decisions to defend my point of view, but would make sure the authorities had a strong understanding of why it was necessary for me to carry the pepper spray.

I viewed the suspension as unfair because I had the ‘weapon’ in school every day and no one was harmed because of it. If the school officials understood that I’m not a bad person and had no intention of using it except if my safety was endangered, they could have just told me not to carry it to school anymore instead of suspending me. In the end, I still was accepted into the Licensed Practical Nursing Program.

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