To Whom it May Concern, From Someone it Does

I wrote this essay in the hopes to send it to my governor and his senators. I want to spark change in my home state, and hopefully this conveys a strong message. Please share this if you are with me.

To Whom it May Concern, From Those it Does

My name is Melyn McHenry. I am a second year college student attending the University of Nevada Reno. I am writing this letter to you, my state leaders, as a concerned young adult of this state and country. There are things that I noticed growing up, that I now wish to address to you, especially with my first voting season coming up very shortly. Though I may be young and some view me as naive, I believe that many take my generation seriously as we are the next to run the world for our short terms. What I would like to discuss in further paragraphs include but not limited to the justice system and education here at home.

Part1: The Justice System

Firstly, there are many here in our home state as well as across the country that suspect that the judges who pass on sentencing are prejudiced, ill-favored, biased, and downright unfair. One would argue that instead of having such a large array of choices for any one suspect to get in terms of their prison sentence, it should be one set number of years based on the crime that has been committed. For example, two very similar cases of sexual misconduct by teachers with students have occurred in the last two years; yet their cases ended very differently. In 2013, Adam Romo was a music teacher at Chaparral High School, charged and found guilty for having intimate relations with a male student. As punishment for engaging in sexual actions with a presumed minor, he received three years outside bars on probation and was promptly fired from his school. Aside from this, there were no other actions taken upon him. Two years later, Jason Lofthouse — a history teacher — from Rancho High School would be arrested on the last day of school on counts of sexual relations with a 17 now 18 year old girl. Over 4,000 text messages spanned between the two of them; both sides initiating conversation. As the case grew, the judges would find that twice, the girl and Mr. Loftouse agreed on a meeting place and he would pick her up to go to a hotel so that they could have their special alone time. According to Nevada law, the age of consent is 16; meaning that the high schooler was old enough to make the decision on her own if she wanted sex or not putting aside Lofthouse’s age of 33. However, because the girl was under 18, Lofthouse was charged with kidnapping on top of sexual misconduct. For this, he received 15 years in the Nevada prison for his crimes.

I ask you now, my leaders, where is the justice in that? Two very similar cases of consensual sex and two polarized results in sentencing. If there is to truly be a law against students and their teachers having proven sexual relations, why not just one single sentence? One man walks free on probation, still living in his own home, in his own soft bed, while another with the same amount of consent is driven to 15 years away in a cell. Yes, I do understand Mr. Lofthouse was charged with kidnapping, yet I’ll as you this; why? If the girl willingly brought herself to the car and smiled as she got in after receiving a kiss from her lover, how is it justice to give him such time for something other true kidnappers receive nothing for? My example being — though it was not committed here it was the California side of Lake Tahoe where she was taken — the Jaycee Dugard case. She was taken at the young age of 11, and held captive for 18 long and miserable years. When she was finally found and rescued, she had two children from her rapist and a life of trauma. Her captors were given four meek years and have just recently been released from prison. Again I ask, where is the justice?

To further discuss this justice system argument, I would also like to point out that though there are many who deny it day and night, racism is a strong force that governs the minds of many to this day; not only that, but just a general lack of consistency when it comes to keeping cases non-biased. If a court case is to truly be non-biased, the judge and jury should never see the man or woman being sentenced. The judge and jury should not lay eyes on a rich man or woman nor one who is poor. Their minds should be clear of knowing the accused’s past; whether they rescue kittens for a living or sell items off the black market. Knowledge is power, and knowing a person’s past automatically creates the shifting of opinion without even knowing what the man or woman in court is being charged with. I honestly believe that to begin creating a more fair justice system that does not charge you based on your skin color, gender, or income, those who pass the sentence should never be allowed to know such things of the accused.

Part 2: Education

According to a 2016 statistic, Nevada has fallen to the bottom in United States education ratings. As a state we have been at the bottom for years, and it’s time to take a look at how students are handled from kindergarten through secondary education. There are many who would argue that the standardized tests students are forced to take to even graduate are an issue in learning as well as the fast paced curriculums they are given. In Finland, student priorities are to eat healthy every day, get enough hours of sleep at night, and keep their mental health up. Their country ranks in the top ten countries in education with their schools being publicly funded, and the students are provided less hours in school than most other countries as well as more recess time even in winter (Smithsonian). Not only are students receiving less homework, but they are also getting free psychological help if they need it.

Personally, I spent eight hours five days a week sitting in a chair with no exercise time to then be sent home to complete two to eight hours of homework a night. There is an epidemic of childhood obesity taking over the US and having kids sit in chairs for over half the day learning and doing homework is not sending us into a healthy direction any time soon. Not only that, but the lunches that are served in schools are not helping things improve in any manner.

Here are some photos of the average meals served in America:

Here are some photos of school lunches from around the world provided by a 2015 Huffington Post:

Opposed to America, other first world countries serve their children fresher, greener, and healthier meals to their students. Not only are their children not fighting such an obesity epidemic, but they are receiving better food on a daily basis whether they can afford it or not.

To add onto the education issues here at home, sex education has become more of a joke than a class to learn useful information in. I took sex-ed in eighth grade and twice in high school, and in all three classes we were instructed the same way. The way we were taught — and I remember my teacher saying these exact words — “if you have sex, you will get pregnant and get an STD”. Not only is that a lie, but it’s a total exaggeration of how the real world is. Abstinence-only teaching has also never been proven to work (Schwartz 2010). In Europe, where sex is taught freely without fear, it actually results in less STDs, teen pregnancy, and less sexual activity overall. Teachers use more fear tactics than truthful education to inform young teenagers coming into their sexual lives here in America and it’s obviously not working. Aside from sex in general, I personally did not learn anything about my female anatomy besides the fact that I had a vagina, and a uterus that shed once a month. I didn’t know what a clitoris was, what labia were, or that each fold had a name as well as the fact that there were small pores that allowed for lubrication during sex until I was 18, in college, listening to a comedian who came to my university. I didn’t know what a cervix was or where it was located, or that I had to get it checked every year after I became sexually active.

All of the teachers who took charge of us in our sexual education, preached to us “no sex and you won’t get pregnant or an STD”; however with this tiny amount of information it creates far more curiosity in teens than full blown truth. The rate of teen pregnancies in America is higher than any other developed country (Office of Adolescent Health). If we learned more about how sex worked instead of making it some taboo subject, it would actually improve our current circumstances. Teens need to learn more about how to have safe sex — condoms (male and female), birth control options (there’s more than a pill) — versus teaching them it’s some awful thing that will cause more pain than pleasure. One other awful manner of teaching is that homosexual intercourse is either not taught, or teachers are forbidden from instructing our generations on the idea. Anal sex, vaginal sex, and oral sex are all the same thing: sex. There are states that have laws against the education of other forms of sex besides penis in vaginas or heteronormative manners of intercourse. Not only is it failing to teach students of how to have safe anal sex, but it teaches them that that kind of relationship is wrong. Sex is sex. People shouldn’t be afraid of it because it’s different for all kinds of people.

To add on, in a developmental book my mother gave me, there was a picture that described female breast growth over time. Nowhere in that book or in my school lessons about how the body changes during puberty, did breast size ever become mentioned. No one told me it was normal to have small breasts — I was bullied for it all throughout middle school — and no one was ever told boobs come in different shapes and sizes. I didn’t know how to take care of my vagina; how to keep it clean and what feminine hygiene products were good and bad for you. The boys in my class didn’t learn how to care for their penises either; they didn’t learn how to clean an uncircumcised one or how to groom themselves or that their penises came in different appearances similar to how women’s breasts differ. We were all clueless on how to handle the changes we were experiencing. Some could say “go speak about it to your parents”, but sometimes they aren’t around or we aren’t comfortable asking them, so having a space to learn it no matter what seems to be a very strong and great idea in my opinion. Girls grow up judged for what they look like from hair to painted toe-nail when they’re not told that each person’s body is unique and that there isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Boys grow up wondering if size matters and become self-conscious of their penis size when they have no idea what to think. We live in a culture that plasters women on billboards will large breasts and girls look down to themselves — myself included — and wonder why their chests are so small or not so round or much bigger than any other girl their age. We live in a society where a frequent place online to visit is porn, where boys see large penises and feel as if they’re nothing compared to the star on screen. If we’re taught these embarrassing yet very common every-day issues in health class/sex-ed, perhaps the self-esteem of young teens would actually have a boost.

To continue on with schools and bodies, dress code is also something I would like to discuss. Currently, I am attending college as a second year student where there is no dress code unless a professor asks perhaps to take off a hat or sunglasses whilst in class. Otherwise, we as free young adults can wear whatever we please. Shockingly enough, if I go to class wearing a shirt that does not cover my stomach or three inches of my arm, I am left alone by boys and they receive their well-earned education. However in high schools that seems to be a major issue. Girls are told “no spaghetti straps, it’s distracting”. Distracting to whom? Teachers who don’t need to be prowling on young teens? Perhaps my fellow classmates who can’t seem to help but throw themselves on me for exposing some shoulder skin? Why is it I have to alter my appearance to suit someone else’s perversions? Answer me that. If a boy or girl cannot control themselves and feel the need to become aroused — or even a teacher — at the sight of a shoulder or some thigh skin in math class, then I and my clothes are not the issue, they are.

A couple examples of how asinine some dress code rules are as follows. Rancho High School in Las Vegas (information taken from the Rancho website) prohibits any jewelry on clothing such as bedazzlement and spikes (typically made of soft plastic) because they pose threats to other students. Another dress code rule at the high school is that any administrator can decide for themselves if what a student is wearing is against code; for example I was wearing solid black yoga pants that fully covered my legs with no skin showing whatsoever and a councilor decided it was against regulation when it was never stated on paper.

We as students are given rules as a basic contract that we agree to follow, and even if some of us follow what’s written on paper, it’s still up to any teacher or administrator’s opinion if we are violating that contract. Contracts were made for a reason: to explain sets of rules or regulations for both parties signing to follow. What is the point of a contract if those above the students can make up their own rules? To expand on further on arbitrary rules I now go to McQueen middle school in Reno. One of their code rules states that no one may wear blue or red shoelaces as they point too closely to gang level activity; however red shirts and blue shirts don’t matter. Most first lines of any school dress code list begins with something along the lines of “do not wear anything distracting such as revealing clothing as it can pose hazard and disrupt others”. My concern — and that of many others — is that if the crop top I wear in my college anthropology class is not distracting, then why, three months prior to this class, was it some issue in my high school algebra class?

Again, my name is Melyn McHenry. I have written this to you, leaders of my state of Nevada, so that you can reflect on choices that have been made here at home. Perhaps this will open some of your eyes to our new youth and how we can actually mend some of the cracks the justice and education system have caused. I hope this sparks argument among you; it means you care about what happens to us down below who are at the whims of your wishes. As someone who understands policies don’t change overnight, I would love a response so I can continue to write you on these issues I feel are incredibly important right now. Thank you for your time.


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