Ethnicity, Class and Suicide Lead a Hamptons School to Reach Out

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8263623519_2d367f8dd1Ethnic integration is not a term of the past it is a struggle for some minority students around the country.  No one really pays attention to this assimilation issue until a tragedy occurs.  East Hampton High has been affected by this problem, three times already in the course of three years and all of the students who committed suicide were of Hispanic decent.  What a troubling issue to have to deal within a school community.

A 16-year-old junior from Ecuador, David Hernandez, hanged himself just a few days after homecoming in September; it was the second student suicide in three years. Two months later, a student who was about to transfer to the school committed suicide.  Three suicides in three years in a school community of about 900 students is far above the regional average.

What could have caused these Hispanic students to take their own lives away?

A division between the relatively small and economically comfortable Anglo-Saxons for whom the school was founded and its newer, poorer Hispanic residents, whose numbers have been rising rapidly.

High School is the time where adolescents are finding their niche in society, a time where they are learning about sexuality and relationships for the first time.  If colleges integrate courses like Race and Ethnicity into their programs why can’t High Schools do the same?  Teaching about social disparities and cultural studies is High Schools is not a bad idea, after all when students get out into the real world they will have to work with different types of people.

Immigrant students often face alienation when they first get to this country and integrating into the society is not the easiest thing.   Why not teach them early on to get along and respect each other’s differences?

Ana Núñez, 23, who had endured the travails of being an Ecuadorean student at East Hampton High but who had overcome them, won a scholarship to Columbia University and graduated with a degree in economics and political science.  She was hired by the district in East Hampton High and had made it clear that the district needed a liaison who could directly address the rifts between the Spanish-speaking community and the English-speaking school district.  Ms. Núñez brought so many issues to the parent’s understanding because Hispanic parents are not familiar with the education system.

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Picture  USF Sarasota-Manatee

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