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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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DC residents have a skewed perception of the JR community

After a football game last month, police dispersed students from Jackson-Reed and Dunbar High School outside of the Tenleytown Wawa. Within days, local listservs and chat rooms buzzed with Tenleytown residents condemning Jackson-Reed students and staff for the altercation. 

“That doesn’t happen in well-run high schools,” one anonymous user wrote on DC Urban Moms and Dads (DCUM), an online forum used mainly by Northwest DC residents. “These kids do not need jail, but they need appropriate consequences,” wrote another. A third said, “This is also what you get for having … JR ‘at risk youth’ mixing with wealthy [Tenleytown residents]. It’s like oil and water. Just make the schools in other wards better and stop forcing diversity.”

The online threads reflect a long-standing trend of Tenleytown residents criticizing JR students and administration. Some community members call this racist and a mischaracterization of the community.

“It’s not fair for Tenleytown residents who are vocal on these listservs to say Jackson-Reed students solely responsible for any misconduct or negative behavior on Wisconsin Avenue,” Assistant Principal Marc Minsker said. “Let’s be honest. Some of those may stem from the color of skin of the students and the misperception of these vocal detractors.”

The recent attention to JR began after an initial report by the DC police estimated that 300 students participated in the Wawa incident. Jackson-Reed Principal Sah Brown estimated the count to be closer to 30. Anonymous witnesses described the incident as verbal harassment that progressed into a physical fight among three individuals.

“This is a small city of teenagers, there are going to be fights,” Minsker said. “It happens.”

Relations between JR students and Tenleytown stores have soured due to accusations of stealing. A JR senior who asked to remain anonymous said they were banned from Target after stealing a bag of Goldfish. Junior Maxwell Fotter said it was unfair that stores have instituted limits on student admission. “After school, I can’t get into Target,” he said. 

Limits on admission vary, but some stores have limited the number of JR students allowed in during school hours. Senior Chyna Holloway said that she understands some stores limiting student accessibility. “With Jackson-Reed, Deal, Janney, and GDS, that’s a lot of kids and not a lot of staff, so I understand the limits,” she said. “I know stealing is a big issue.”

In an interview, a Target employee said the store allows students to enter. However, the employee said students should “get to school, not the store.” CVS and Wawa managers declined to comment on their policies regarding student admission.

Fotter added that because the JR student body is large, occasional chaos is inevitable. “At the end of the day, we’re all kids.” Holloway agreed. “It’s typical for a high school today.”

Despite the fact that these problems are present, many other users on these listservs and forums have urged readers to widen their perspective, and make fewer generalizations about JR students. One JR parent, Vivienne Azarcon, posted on the forum defending students. 

“Maybe go take a walk after dinner and go by Fort Reno to watch the Jackson-Reed ultimate Frisbee team,” she wrote. “Maybe say hi to the teens walking past you. They aren’t all shoplifters.”

Another poster on DCUM wrote, “Any time there is a fight, it’s always ‘fight fight fight’ and groupthink by the high school mob. Not a DC thing. A high school thing.”

–Lila Chesser, Dani Wallace, Gil Leifman, Henley Kaminskas, and Javier Thompson contributed to this story.

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About the Contributor
Rohini Kieffer
Rohini Kieffer, Features Editor
  • 2021-22: Junior Editor
  • 2022-23: Section Copy Editor
  • 2023-24: Features Editor
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