Analysis & Comment

Opinion | What’s on Students’ Minds

We invited high school students to write a letter to the editor about a recent Times article. Here are some of our favorite submissions.

To the Editor:

Re “Heavily Armed Assailant Kills 6 at School in Nashville” (front page, March 28):

I am tired of passing a place where six innocent people died. I am tired of seeing the flowers and bears placed in remembrance of their lives. I am tired of seeing red and black bows tied neatly on the mailboxes throughout Nashville. I am tired of reading about the next protest and its location.

I am tired of opening up Twitter to see more people dying in shootings. I am tired of the nightmares that wake me up at night. I am tired of the knots in my stomach whenever I turn on the news. I am tired of the argument over gun control that never seems to have an end. I am tired of feeling scared every time I enter a place that was built for learning, not fear.

There has to be a change. I am so tired.

Emily Jones
12th grade
Ensworth High School

To the Editor:

Re “Florida Death Penalty Bar to Become Lowest in Nation” (news article, April 21):

The new law in Florida that allows two-thirds of a jury to decide whether someone deserves the death penalty will hurt Black and Hispanic defendants. Surely, Gov. Ron DeSantis is aware that most juries in Florida already have few jurors of color to provide a jury of one’s peers for Black and Hispanic defendants. Legal experts acknowledge that jury pools are predominantly white.

During jury selection, prosecutors can purposely remove jurors of color during voir dire and with peremptory strikes. Florida’s new law will silence minority voices even further in the assessment of fair punishments.

In the movie “12 Angry Men,” one juror was able to convince the other 11 that the accused was innocent. Now a juror in Florida can easily disregard the other jurors’ opinions. My state has reintroduced the Jim Crow jury.

Jasper Anderson
10th grade
Gainesville High School
Gainesville, Fla.

To the Editor:

Re “Mary Quant, 93, Designer Known as Mother of the Miniskirt, Dies” (obituary, April 14):

When I was in fourth grade, I dressed up as a go-go girl for Halloween. I think I had little to no understanding of what a go-go girl was. But the power I felt in my slick heeled boots and blue lipstick — something I would never have had the confidence to wear on any other day of the year — was likely authentic to the zeitgeist of the 1960s, a mass cultural defiance of drab older generations via extremity of fashion.

I have long been drawn to the style of the ’60s, yet I had never heard of Mary Quant before reading this article. I admire her persistence. Despite her parents’ idea that she should follow a conventional career path, she gained more success than her parents could have imagined by pursuing what she truly loved.

This inspires me, an artist and high school junior trying to figure out what to study in college, to look within myself, know my own dreams, and never compromise based on others’ ideas of success.

Although Ms. Quant’s statement that “the most extreme fashion should be very, very cheap” bears an ironic connotation in today’s age of fast fashion, her other, more endearing prediction has proved accurate, aptly symbolizing her spirit: “The miniskirt is here to stay.”

Jemma Wygodny
11th grade
Lane Technical High School

To the Editor:

Re “Lots of Americans Are Losing Their Religion. Have You?,” by Jessica Grose (Opinion newsletter,, April 19):

After my brother passed away, the phrases “he’s in a better place” and “this is all a part of God’s plan” rang deep in my ears, evoking a deep anger in my soul.

I understood that people had good intentions, but those words only pushed me further from God. Why would God place my brother on this earth just to rip him out 19 years later? How is there a better place than being at home with his family?

Despite the fact that I was raised in an atheistic home, younger me, when faced with a conflict I felt was beyond me to solve, would kneel, pray and hope that somehow I was wrong and God was real and protecting my family and me. This time I couldn’t do that. Why did God have the authority to tear my family apart? Was I supposed to worship the one who let my brother die?

Pascal’s wager argues that rational people should believe in God, for they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. But I had already lost what I cared about most. I have never really believed in God, but every day I get further and further from him.

Meredith Spangler
11th grade
Cuthbertson High School
Waxhaw, N.C.

To the Editor:

Re “As Cornell Firmly Rejects Push for Trigger Warnings, Free-Speech Debate Shifts” (news article, April 13):

I think it is preposterous that the students at Cornell petitioned for content warnings on their lessons, and I stand by the faculty’s decision to deny the proposal of the students. Those studying at Cornell are all intelligent young adults, spending tens of thousands of dollars for the very purpose of having their world views challenged in order to learn new things, not in order to avoid controversial topics.

In my own high school, my peers and I are often confronted with difficult subject matter, from learning about the horrific realities of chattel slavery in A.P. World History to the grossly unethical Stanford prison experiment of Philip Zombardo in A.P. Psychology. Not once have I heard a complaint from my classmates, who are younger than the students at Cornell.

I think that if high schoolers can face the difficult realities of life in a classroom setting without issue, then the scholars at one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States should be able to just as well. If they can’t handle the fact that bad things happen all the time, they should not be at Cornell.

Max Bogdanoff
11th grade
Conifer High School
Conifer, Colo.

To the Editor:

Re “Republicans’ Trans Panic Isn’t Working,” by Lydia Polgreen (column, April 15):

As a transgender teen, I have never been more scared simply because of my existence. Every day it seems a new transphobic law has been passed somewhere in the country, or another politician speaks out against trans rights.

While most kids my age worry about grades or if their crush likes them back, much of my day I spend dwelling over my safety because of something I can’t control. I go to school and hear classmates debate trans people, debate me. It’s exhausting.

If politicians weren’t caught up in criminalizing trans health care and taking “offensive” literature out of schools, maybe they would be able to actually accomplish something useful, like gun control or combating climate change. All of this political energy spent on less than 1 percent of the population is a complete waste of time.

Eli Woltmann-Lewis
9th grade
Washtenaw Technical Middle College
Ann Arbor, Mich.

To the Editor:

Re “What Should Christians Do About Guns?,” by Tish Harrison Warren (Opinion newsletter,, April 23):

It has always struck me as completely bizarre that promoting gun rights became part of Christian politics. As a 17-year-old Christian, I found this piece particularly powerful. Although many of my friends root their values in humanism rather than religion, I have always found comfort in the principles of the church. Teachings about forgiveness, generosity, humility and service have shaped my values.

It’s almost a cliché to repeat Christian teachings like “Thou shalt not kill” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself” to emphasize the hypocrisy of Christians who support gun rights. I can’t on any level understand how a Christian could support the fetishization and worship of devices whose sole purpose is to kill.

Every week during communion, our pastor asks us to remember those who have been killed in mass shootings. If all churches did this, maybe Christian politics would “go pro-life on guns” as Black pastors have demanded, and prioritize the teachings of their faith over politics.

Ananda Leahy
11th grade
The Shipley School
Bryn Mawr, Pa.

To the Editor:

Re “Moves by Israel Open a Divide With U.S. Jews” (front page, April 21):

Democracy, in any form, is messy. The current government crisis in Israel has illustrated this point perhaps all too well, and, as a Jewish teenager in America, I find it frightening to witness such things occurring in the Jewish state.

This article states that Jewish Democrats are now struggling to voice their support for Israel, because they feel morally opposed to the judicial reforms proposed by the current Israeli government. My question, however, is how can one grapple with standing by Israel when we support and live in a country that is essentially going through a government crisis as well?

On Jan. 6, 2021, our own democracy was nearly upended, our two primary political parties are currently deadlocked, and a former president was just indicted. Yet Jewish Democratic leaders and lawmakers are not stepping down from their positions in the U.S. government or ceasing to fight for American democracy here.

Israel deserves the unwavering support of Americans at a time when its democracy is also being challenged and its people are in turmoil. Just as I still have faith in America, I still have faith in Israel, and I implore the Jewish lawmakers and leaders in this country to share that faith with me.

Sophie Katz
9th grade
Shalhevet High School
Los Angeles

To the Editor:

Re “Your Email Does Not Constitute My Emergency,” by Adam Grant (Opinion guest essay, April 15):

Apparently, I have terrible Snapchat etiquette. My friends cited an instance when I left a message unopened for five hours as evidence. Their critiques were absurd to me.

I asked around my high school, and the consensus was that if someone takes longer than three hours to open a message, they are rude, dismissive and uninterested. Some people had even broken off promising relationships because their partner took too long to respond.

We’re not offended when our friends are too busy to talk in person within a five-hour limit. So why should it be any different online? Online communication is faster, but we shouldn’t perpetually fear social ridicule because we are not instantly available.

Adam Grant declares that he will no longer be apologizing for a delayed email reply. He thoughtfully discusses the professional disadvantages to emerging email etiquette. I think Mr. Grant’s thoughts apply to a more casual social context, too.

I hope we ditch this aspect of online culture soon. Rigid rules for online interaction may be setting us back from treating one another with the patience and consideration we all need right now.

Sophie St. Amand
11th grade
The Agnes Irwin School
Bryn Mawr, Pa.

To the Editor:

Re “Slowly, Remarkably Healing, a Year After Uvalde” (front page, April 17):

My little sister is about to turn 10. She is in fourth grade too, like Mayah and Noah, the two protagonists of this bitterly sad and slightly hopeful account of the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting.

My sister’s name is Louisa, but I call her Lulu. She adores animals. She wears the same beanie everyday, with a panda face embroidered on it and two pom-poms for ears. She gets scared going upstairs on her own at night. She cries during the sad shorts they show before Pixar movies at the theater.

Lulu does not know about Uvalde, or any school shooting. My parents have decided against telling her. I’m not sure what I would do if it were up to me.

I used to worry for my own safety at school; now I worry for hers. I have detailed my plan in my head. I look for the best hiding spots in my classrooms on the first day of school. I know it doesn’t even cross her mind. I’m glad she doesn’t think about it yet. How can we ask our 9-year-olds to understand school shootings?

Still, I worry. I’m 14, and I’m scared to die, but I’m even more scared for my little sister.

Beatrice Macdonald
9th grade
Rhinebeck High School
Stone Ridge, N.Y.

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