The Totem Online The School Newspaper of Shawnee Heights High School Sat, 29 May 2021 23:40:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Totem Online 32 32 Masks After the Pandemic Sat, 29 May 2021 23:40:39 +0000 As this whole pandemic is wrapping up, many people seem to be wondering what they are going to do when it comes to wearing masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made a statement saying that, “those vaccinated or those who have had COVID can go maskless unless it is required in areas.” Though I agree with this option, there are many positives and negatives to this next step. 


The negatives for this solution revolve around the uncertainty of the vaccine. Scientists aren’t sure how long the vaccines will last. If the vaccine wears off and people are not taking proper precautions, their chances of getting sick will continue to rise. Another negative is that scientists are unsure if this vaccine will work against mutated strains of the COVID-19 virus. 


There are positives for this next step as well. If people dislike wearing masks, and they are required to not wear them if they are vaccinated, there is a chance that more people will get the vaccine. This will help everyone get out of this pandemic sooner. The vaccine might also get people to go out more, causing everyone to begin to go back to a more normal life. This feeling of going back to the “way things used to be”, will help with the recovery process. 

The Next Step

The future of masks, and the pandemic entirely, is still really uncertain. For me, this pandemic has made me realize how unsanitary everything we do in our day to day life is. When flu season comes around I will wear a mask if I take public transportation or if I’m feeling sick.  

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Death by Needle: The Death Penalty in The United States Sat, 29 May 2021 23:38:46 +0000 In society, it is assumed that the death penalty is reserved for only the most heinous criminals. Crimes in which the convicted person’s guilt is beyond question and they deserve the punishment of death in which they have been served. However, this is far from the truth.

The latest execution happened this year on January 16th, 2021. Dustin John Higgs was an American man who was sentenced to be executed by lethal injection by the United States federal government. Higgs was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000 for his role in the January 1996 murders of three women in Maryland (Carrega, CNN Reporter).

As News of Higgs’ execution quickly spread across the nation, his conviction picked up a lot of attention from many teenagers. These same teenagers took to tik-tok to try and tell the story of Higgs that seemed to be hidden by many news outlets.

In 2001 he was put on death row for a crime that many believe that he did not commit. Higgs was sentenced to death row for his involvement in the murders of three women in Maryland in 1996. Tamika Black, Tanji Jackson, and Mishann Chinn were all shot and killed near the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, on the Patuxent Research Refuge in Prince George’s County, Maryland. (Supreme The man people believe to have actually committed the crime, Willis Hayes, was given a life sentence. 

Though never being proven, the court ruled to put Higgs on death row because they assumed that Higgs pressured Hayes into killing the three women. Teens and many young adults used their voices to try and push what they believed to be the truth of this story out and stop the execution of Higgs. However, on January 15th, 2021, after a five hour long delay, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could move forward with his execution (Josh Helfgott, influencer). Higgs was executed the next day.

As of May 16th, 2021 it has not officially been proven that Higgs did not deserve the punishment he received. Many Americans have begun to see the flaws of the United States’ justice system.

Wrongful convictions happen in the United states more than people would care to admit. Some of the worst examples of miscarriages of justice in federal and state courts have been in cases in which defendants were represented by unqualified appointed lawyers.

After peaking in the 1990s, amid the war on drugs, the overall number of federal executions has been decreasing. States are also turning away from capital punishment, many have even begun to abolish the death pentaly. Virgina being the lastest to join the other 22 states that no longer allow the death penalty to be an option for punishment. Only 17 people nationwide were sentenced to death last year, the fewest since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty for states in 1976. The federal government reinstated its death penalty in 1988 (Death penalty Information Center ).

The death penalty can lead not only to the execution of the innocent. More often than not poor people who have no resources to defend themselves, have an increased chance of being wrongfully convicted if they are innocent.People opposing the death penalty are excluded from juries, which weeds out potential jurors more apt to acquit.

President Joe Biden opposes the federal death penalty. He and Congress are looking into abolishing it.

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FFA’s Accomplishments Sat, 29 May 2021 23:36:27 +0000 With this year only being its third year, the Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization is a relatively new group at Shawnee Heights. However, regardless of their lack of experience, the organization has already celebrated a first place individualist, three top ten places at state, and has placed in the top ten as a team in two events at state. 

FFA is one of the largest student organizations in the country. The purpose behind FFA is to prepare students to be successful in leadership roles, whether they are going into a post-secondary education path or straight into the workforce.

“We do a lot of Career Development Events (CDE’s), there are about 44 different contests that the students can compete in. This helps them learn to be successful in whatever they want to do after school,” says Mrs.Gillespie, the Agriculture Instructor at Shawnee Heights. 

The school’s team starts off by going to local competitions. As the students are competing, the advisors look at what four students they want to send to State to represent their chapter, the school’s FFA group as a whole. This year’s state competition looked different then years past, it was a week-long Zoom session. Shawnee Heights placed first in the Entomology Event and Alex Lahmen, junior, placed first individually, earning a $500 scholarship. Due to the fact that Lahmen placed in the top ten percent at state, he is no longer able to compete next year. This goes for any student who places in the top ten at state. Shawnee Heights also placed 10th in AG Mechanics, 11th in Veterinary Science, and 5th in Floriculture.

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Toxic Masculinity Tue, 25 May 2021 17:38:57 +0000 *There were three girls that would prefer to stay anonymous in this story.

When we experience something so often we begin to go blind to it. It starts to become normal, going through our day expecting nothing but what we have been accustomed to. Toxic masculinity has become so deep-rooted in our society that we don’t even notice it anymore. 

Toxic masculinity is the cultural pressure for men to behave in a certain way. Toxic masculinity refers to the notion that some people’s idea of “manliness” perpetuates domination, homophobia, and aggression ( Society constantly thinks of men and tells them that they are supposed to be strong. It has become a larger issue now in the 21st century as boys have started to grow up with social media and now feel even more pressure to meet these expectations. As these boys grow up their Paleomammalian Cortex starts to develop telling their limbic brain that this is the way that they should act but how much is too much when it comes to society’s view? (Keck Medicine)

The more that this becomes the norm within men our age the more effect it has on the other gender as well. Aggressive remarks and being in the presence of a toxic man for a while can cause permanent damage to someone’s mental and physical health. The degrading remarks that can be produced can lower energy levels and raise people’s insecurities(Amy Morin, Verywell Mind). Going through the day constantly being put down by men or over talked by them can be exhausting and can cause damage to both people through the abuse. 

“I never thought that what someone else said about me would ever affect me, but the more that I stare at myself in the mirror I start to see all these things that boys have said about me,” a sophomore girl said. 

Many believe that toxic masculinity isn’t a thing or it doesn’t happen within our age group, but that is quite the opposite both females and males have dealt with the pain that stems from toxic masculinity. 

“It makes me feel worse about myself when a guy just shuts me down on something just because I’m a girl,” a freshman girl said. 

While sophomore Andrew Emerson has provided his own perspective on how toxic masculinity has affected society as a whole.

 “There isn’t a problem, it’s just guys being guys. It’s a good thing for everyone to deal with. They have to learn that the world isn’t kind sometimes,” Emerson said.

 Another person related their experience with it when they were involved in a toxic relationship. 

“I never felt like I was good enough for them. They constantly told me what I was doing wrong and how I should dress,” a junior female said. 

While everyone continues to deal with toxic masculinity it has changed the way that people get into relationships now. 

“It’s something that I always have to be aware of and something I need to watch for,” Ainslee Bolejack, freshman, said.

After seeing the effect that it has within our generation many people have moved to try and fix the growing problem. 

“The main thing that we can do is work to allow men to express their feelings through adolescence otherwise it will lead to a toxic mentality as they grow up,” Amy Morin, licensed clinical social worker, said. 

Others believe that both parties need to take a step back and work together to create a healthier society together. 

“If a girl wants to talk about toxic masculinity they need to search within their own souls, they have a heck of a lot more issues than guys do,” Emerson said. 

While both parties can be blamed for how our society has become it will take work from both sides to create a healthy relationship between them. 

“Toxic men are the reason I’m gay,” the junior female said.


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Editor’s Note Mon, 24 May 2021 16:51:32 +0000 Editor’s Note 

Reflecting. As the school year comes to an end, students will spend some time reflecting on what they have been taught. Whether it’s what they learned in class or from the real world. Freshmen have learned how to drive while seniors are becoming adults. They reflect on the content they’ve been taught by their teachers and think about when they will use it outside of school. 

Will I really need to know what the Pythagorean theorem is in order to become an elementary school teacher? I think about if I will remember what I learned in a couple of years when I am really narrowing down my degree. I will use the MLA format for essays but will I use my knowledge of World War 1 history? Although I have been taught many important lessons, there were a lot of lessons that I felt I am leaving high school without knowing. 

This issue’s package was inspired by a Facebook post on the Shawnee Heights Community group page. A freshman parent posted her concern about a book her child is reading titled, The Hate U Give. The post has since been deleted, but it was a picture of a page from the book that brought the concern.

This post sparked extensive banter both online and in the newspaper classroom about the content we are being taught. What are we learning in school? Is it preparing us for the real world or is it old content? Are books from before we were born worth the read? Are they about current events that teenagers go through every day? 

The Hate U Give covers an African-American girl who goes to a primarily white prep school. After an incident, she must find her voice and stand up for what she believes. This book was written in 2017 which makes it the most recently written book that a class reads. It covers a teenager from Gen Z which may be more relatable to other teenagers.

The book features scenes of mild sexual content which resulted in a conversation about the sexual education we’re taught in school. We learn about different infections which is beneficial but we do not learn about contraceptives. The school does not have a sexual education class but instead has the content covered in a class titled Teen Topics. 

I personally felt as if I was not taught enough about sexual education. The school promotes abstinence due to the state laws which I feel is unfair. A school can educate its students on contraceptives without promoting sexual behaviors. 

Consent is another part of sexual acts that is not discussed. Why don’t we learn about the levels of consent? Oftentimes people get coerced into sexual activity but don’t realize it’s assault due to their lack of education in consent.

This issue explores the literature we are taught as well as the sexual education that is offered. It covers the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships among teenagers and debates whether or not social media plays a role in these discussions. 


*This is a reflection of the writer’s opinions and does not speak for the class as a whole.


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USD 450 Takes on COVID-19 Mon, 24 May 2021 16:49:08 +0000   The teachers at Shawnee Heights all had the chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine; many of the teachers took this opportunity. Now the vaccine distribution is in the third and fourth phase, so some students are receiving the vaccine, as well. Some got it through their work, but many are signing up to get it at the local pharmacy or the Stormont Vail Event Center. 

Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 has created differing opinions from person to person, likewise with the vaccine, but many of the teachers seemed to encourage others and their peers to get the vaccine. 

“I feel like getting as many people vaccinated when it is their turn and we have adequate supply is part of what we have to do for the world to be safer. I was grateful for the opportunity,” Shannon O’Connor, instructional coach, said.

Some students were also grateful for the opportunity to get the vaccine already. Although not many have gotten it, those who have also encourage their peers to try and get the vaccine. The lack of testing that has been done on those under the age of 18 may deter some, almost every student who had received the vaccine still believed this was the best decision for them. 

“Even if you have a reaction or a day of sickness, I still think it’s better than getting Covid and having symptoms for weeks,” Madisyn Landry, senior, said. 

Many of those vaccinated still believe in the vaccine after getting it, but for some people, the reaction after the vaccine was bad enough to change their opinion. The typical reaction is just fatigue or chills, but for others, it can be a lot more serious. 

“About 5 to 10 minutes after getting the actual shot, my chest started to tighten up and then I was not able to breathe- after about an hour working on me they had to call an ambulance,” Gaylene Myers, para, said.

Myers spent days in the hospital after this and even caught pneumonia from the hospital. Myers also struggles with asthma so this was a difficult and scary experience. 

“ I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a lot of allergies or asthma, but if you are normally healthy, I would say go ahead and get it because it’ll just be like the flu shot you get yearly,” Myers said. 

Although this is a big decision for most and a step in the right direction, it is encouraged to do some research and make the best decision for themself. 

“ I would encourage anyone who is thinking about getting the vaccine or second-guessing it, to do their research and get vaccinated,” Shelton Byrnes, senior, said.

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Tim Hallacy Named New Superintendent Mon, 24 May 2021 16:45:27 +0000 Throughout the year, the school board has made efforts to hire an official superintendent. The district has finally found one and his name is Tim Hallacy.

Hallacy has a good reputation with staff around the district, especially with some staff members who had kids as some of them remember him as a principal from the middle school. 

“Having worked for him in the past one of the qualities I value most from him is his approachability, he’s super people-oriented, student-oriented, open-door policy so he’s very easy to talk to, very easy to get a hold of, very visible in the community and really cares about the staff and students,” Sherri Monhollon, associate principal, said.

Monhollon also believes that Hallacy will be active in hallways, classrooms, and school events. 

“Hallacy is a very caring person. I knew him when he was in middle school when my daughter was in 8th grade, very organized, cares about students, staff,  everyone, he’s very physically responsible. He did a great job at Silver Lake. We were sad to see him go as a principal when he was here (at the middle school). I am very glad he is coming back here,” Jennifer Shultz, school nurse, said.

Schultz knows that if anything will need to be changed in the nursing department then Hallacy will be open for change. 

Debbie Garcia-Newman, a cook helper, remembers Hallacy as caring and she enjoyed how he ran the middle school. Garcia hopes that he will be open-minded towards the students. 

The new superintendent was chosen by the Kansas Association School Board; they had looked at information and data provided by the staff and student surveys then chose Hallacy. 

Tim Hallacy will be taking office on July 1st of this year. 

“I had what I believe to be the best mid-size superintendent position in the state at Silver Lake. There is only one place I would consider leaving Silver Lake for and that was Shawnee Heights,” Hallacy said. “I felt SH was the best large district position in the state and am honored by the opportunity to lead the district. I am grateful my family found a home in SNCO all those years ago and have been able to stay here through the years.” 

His other past experiences with education includes being a teacher and coach at Silver Lake as well as an assistant principal at Northern Hills Jr. High in the Seaman district. 

“I have tremendous respect for the Shawnee Heights district and the way I was pushed as a leader to always find ways to improve but also the way I was supported and encouraged in those efforts. That combination of drive, support, and encouragement helped me become a better educator and leader,” Hallacy said. “The level of teaming and dedication was a privilege to be a part of and I have complete confidence in the staff and leadership teams at SH. I have a lot of friends and respected colleagues I’m looking forward to rejoining.” 

Once Hallacy is in office he states that he will help everyone out to achieve their goals and improve the district.

“I have a lot of listening and learning to do ahead of me but am looking forward to that,” Hallacy said.


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Model UN Earns Multiple Awards Mon, 24 May 2021 16:41:58 +0000 Model UN is a club offered at the school that allows students to learn about other countries in depth. Modeled after the United Nations, at the beginning of the year the students pick what country they want to become the delegate for. After spending time researching, they are presented with a list of issues. They must pick one and work to solve it in a manner that their country would as well.

“…Over the course of five or so months, I spent a couple hours a week researching the political stances and history of that country. This year I had India and they are currently really involved in the development of new COVID vaccines,” Ethan Rottinghaus, senior, said. “I wrote a couple papers and then got picked to give a few speeches during the conference that we had online in late February.” 

In a normal year, a conference would be held over a span of two days at the Ramada. Several schools would attend, and each council would have their own conference room to discuss with one another. However, due to restrictions, the conference was held virtually. It was spread out throughout the week, with students joining in over zoom. 

“I think the most fun came with the actual conference because you can actually use what you’ve been working on for months and get to have discussions with people from all over the state of Kansas over topics you would never get to have in a typical classroom setting,” Rottinghaus said. 

Three students from the Model UN club received recognition at the conference in February. In General Assembly I, Rottinghaus, delegate for India, placed first and Jackson Henderson, sophomore and delegate for Saudi Arabia, won Best Affirmation Speech. In General Assembly III, Ben Weinzirl, senior and delegate for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, won Best Negation Speech. Both Rottinghaus and Weinzirl have participated in Model UN since seventh grade. 

“I was so impressed with this group of students who stepped up to do Model UN this year given all of the changes due to Hybrid Learning,” Robyn Aeschliman, club sponsor, said. “Since we did not have an awards ceremony this year to reward top delegations and delegates, I decided to provide an award to each of the students. It was my small way of saying thank you for all of their efforts.” 

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Jobs for the Summertime Mon, 24 May 2021 16:38:40 +0000 There are many job opportunities to look for in the summer when the sun and school are out. 

Jobs such as being a lifeguard or camp counselor are well-known summer jobs. 

Mackenzie Wadsworth, sophomore, has just been hired to be a lifeguard this summer. 

“Though juggling a job and school is hard sometimes, you always have the option of a summer job,” Wadsworth said. “Having a summer job keeps you going while having that break off of school as well as a routine, and of course, money.” 

Being a lifeguard comes with many responsibilities, such as keeping the swimmers safe, maintaining the pool and beach, as well as making sure it is clean. It is also required to be certified in CPR and pass a swimming test. 

“My desired environment would be a safe place, with positive people and attributes,” Wadsworth said. “If you don’t have any plans this summer and you’re planning on just sitting on the couch, I’d recommend getting a job that you’d enjoy this summer.” 

Being a camp counselor also has its fair share of responsibilities. 

They involve supervising the campers, making sure that they are safe, and doing enjoyable activities. 

One such student, Ella Copeland, junior, is a camp counselor in the summer at Westminster Woods. 

“Seeing the kids get to do stuff they don’t normally get to do is the most fun part of camp counseling,” Copeland said.

Working with kids is an opportunity to help create memories for the children. 

“It’s fun because I get to work with kids and it is kinda like going back to childhood,” Copeland said. 

Many students enjoy sports, one such student, Matthew Etzel, junior, decided to make his hobby a job. 

“I work as an umpire,” Etzel said. “Everybody works as a team and is supportive of each other.” 

Working on a sports team is a great way to learn how to work as a team. 

“Everybody is a team player,” Etzel said. “Nobody is negative and we all support each other as a team.” 

There is a very wide range of summer jobs available still through the Shawnee County Parks and Rec website. To name a few, one can find employment as maintenance in a park, a mini train driver, sports staff, and a recreation aide.

As park maintenance, one will attend to the park by taking care of the grass, cleaning the park, and inspecting and repairing playground equipment. 

As a mini-train driver, one will provide equipment to participants in sports and operate amusement rides or concessions. 

Sports staff will oversee the outdoor activities and ensure guests are engaged and recreation aides implement activities under the direction of a recreation manager. 


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Amount of Summer School Students Increases Mon, 24 May 2021 16:36:58 +0000 The number of students invited to summer school in order to recover credits has increased from the previous years.

This increase was expected due to the many obstacles students have faced during hybrid and remote learning. Teachers are prepared to help these students finish their courses via Edgenuity. The students will work on their class/es for three and a half hours at their own pace in order to complete. Summer school is during the month of June which means that if students can’t finish all their courses in the building then they are advised to do some at home.

“Students arrive in the morning hours (usually around 8 am) and report to a room supervised by a high school staff member,” Ed West, principal, said. “Summer school will be in-person using Edgenuity as a credit recovery tool. It will have the same look as any typical summer program at the high school in terms of students working at their own pace on an individualized plan.”

Although the administration recommends taking credit recovery over the summer, it is not a requirement for graduation. Many students choose to take it over the summer in order to take the electives they want during the normal school year. 

“Summer school is not a requirement. Depending on what the student needs to make up there are options including taking credit recovery during the school year,” Laurie Crimmins, a counselor, said.

Something new that is being tried this year is offering transportation to students. It would be just like the regular school year where there are a route and time for each student. This will be trial and error as they haven’t had this option in the past. 

Credit recovery isn’t the only summer school option as two other courses are offered. These courses would be taken through Edgenuity but wouldn’t require the student to come in.

“We offer two summer school classes outside of credit recovery. We use Edgenuity for those courses as well,” West said. “Teen Topics is a popular summer school course for incoming freshmen, and Integrated Science A is popular among incoming sophomores.”

Taking Teen Topics over the summer allows the freshman the opportunity to choose another elective that interests them during the school year. Integrated Science A is a requirement in order to take Honors Chemistry which is why it’s a popular choice as well. 

If a student would like to graduate early then they can contact their counselor to create a plan. Summer school isn’t necessarily needed but can be an option. There is a high chance that summer courses won’t need to be taken.

“Students wanting to graduate early just need to pass their classes and make sure they are following the required course guidelines,” Crimmins said.  “Our graduation requirements of 24.5 credits are set up so students can graduate at semester of their senior year.”


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