The Free Lancer The Student News Site of Cordova High School Sun, 01 Sep 2019 03:25:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bella Vista Students Call Out Administration for Williams Act Infringement Sun, 01 Sep 2019 03:25:11 +0000 Over the summer, the San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento was tasked with resolving a Williams Act issue at one of their high schools, Bella Vista. At the beginning of June, it was revealed that a biology teacher at BVHS, Anne Tweedy, was asked to either leave the school or work in a science classroom that provoked health issues for her and students.

Tweedy has taught at BVHS for 24 years, for the same department, in the same room. The problem began when Tweedy moved into a renovated STEM classroom in September. Post-installation, it would be found that the new flooring left a harmful chemical in the air, leading Tweedy to experience health issues including irritation in her throat. 

To quickly solve the issue, the administration had Tweedy switch classrooms, in a separate wing, with another teacher for the rest of the school year. But she received an email from Principal Dr. Kitchen of BVHS, claiming that the students of Bella Vista would not achieve a substantial science learning experience in a non STEM classroom. In the email’s entirety, Kitchen asked Tweedy to move back to her original room – giving the teacher two options: leave BV, or teach in a hazardous room.

When Tweedy informed her students of her likely departure, they spoke out to defend their teacher, and protect their educational rights as students.

Anthony Lam (‘21) began a petition on, which received over 2,000 digital signatures. 

Furthermore, having done their research, the students protesting Tweedy’s departure knew that the Williams Act provides both students and teachers with equal access to instructional materials, quality teachers, and safe schools. The CA Dept. of Education states, “School districts must assess the safety, cleanliness, and adequacy of school facilities, including any needed maintenance to ensure good repair.” 

When students analyzed the air quality tests that were taken when the classroom was renovated, they took note of the inconsistencies and questioned the accuracy of the tests. Looking for an answer to her illness, Tweedy conducted her own tests and found prominent levels of formaldehyde in the air, a chemical that is used in building materials and can cause irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat. 

Tweedy had constantly been breathing in formaldehyde, and although the school’s test did not take note of it, one can directly link formaldehyde to the new flooring, and thence to Tweedy’s constant irritation in her throat.  

BVHS had clearly not maintained the Williams Act educational right, adding to the student’s protest. 

To further the issue, when BV students Kyle Namgostar (‘22) and Michael Kopitske (‘22) checked every classroom in J Wing, none of them had the Williams Act amendment posted – which is a requirement for every Californian classroom. 

Throughout their protest, they encouraged students at BV, along with their parents, to attend a board meeting, which was held on 11 June 2019. 

Students had the chance to make a comment on Tweedy’s issue, although the case was not discussed since board meetings require all addressed topics to be on the agenda beforehand.

Despite not being resolved, the student’s action against the unfair decisions of BV’s administration shows the power that student voices hold. As a collective, they were able to stand up for Tweedy and show their support while calling out the administration and the school for not following the crucial Williams Act and protecting themselves as students. 

As of August 2019, Tweedy is not teaching at BVHS. In an effort to close the inconsistencies in the previous air quality tests, the administration is taking new tests in the J wing classrooms.

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Preventive vs Punitive Assistance at CHS Sun, 25 Aug 2019 21:32:59 +0000 Beginning last year, Cordova High School gained a new School Resource Officer, Tracey Jacobs, who graduated from CHS in 1990. SRO Jacobs has worked with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for 15 years, and for the Rancho Cordova Police Department since 2007. She is regularly seen at CHS supporting athletics as well as other events on campus and engaging with students throughout the day.

CHS also hired additional counselors last year, now supplying four additional support staff for students. Ms. Del Agostino and Ms. Calander work as psychologists, and Ms. Creyssels and Ms. Powell work as mental health specialists.

These positions aren’t unknown to schools, but not many institutions in California have had the opportunity to supply their students with both police assistance and sustainable counselor resources. 

According to an American Civil Liberties Union report, 400,000 students in the state of California attend a school that has a police officer but not a counselor. 

The ACLU report used federal data that had not been released publicly until 2018 to make the claim that schoolchildren in America are over-policed and under-supported by mental health workers. 

This reality harms school environments, increases students’ anxiety, and exacerbates discipline issues among students of color and those with disabilities, the report states.

Researchers and social scientists believe that only having police patrolling campus creates a tense atmosphere, one that stimulates more disorder. More so, when students do not have mental health counseling available, their negative scholarship is not truly stopped, for they only face consequences such as detention or suspension, depending on the case. Simply put, a police officer or SRO is not able to provide the same assistance as a counselor. 

On our own campus, Cordova High School appears to have an equal balance of both types of counselors. Supplying students with a broad range of assistance allows for them to be able to seek a solution to any problem they have, personal or academic-related. 

SRO Jacobs is able to keep students in order, merely by being an authority figure, yet she still interacts with students and keeps a friendly demeanor. But, if violence or an attack was to break out, Jacobs would be able to take action along with the CHS security guards. 

Having mental health and psychologists on campus provides students with an adult to go to when they are overwhelmed or anxious. But their assistance doesn’t stop there, for instance, if SRO Jacobs is continuously having to keep her eye on an unruly student, she can refer them to one of the mental health counselors. There, the student will be able to get additional support, and instead of continually taking punitive measures, they can implement preventive ones to aid the student. 

Where SRO Jacobs can implement disciplinary consequences, such as detention, Saturday school, or a meeting with the Vice Principal, a mental health counselor can promote holistic methods for helping the student. When speaking to Ms. Calander about the steps she takes to mentally assist a student, she says, “I begin with holistic methods, including diet, sleep, exercise. These methods help lesson mental health flare-ups, which are typically what students experience. Family, friends, and strong community-based support are recommended so that the student has someone to turn to immediately.” 

While not all students have access to multiple resources, it’s clear that schools must provide students with both preventive and punitive measures. Both figures are essential to keeping peace, safety, and positivity on campus.

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End of the Year Editor’s Note Thu, 30 May 2019 16:03:57 +0000 Lancers, the 2018-19 school year is coming to a closing – meaning that The Freelancer will be taking a break until the new year, beginning in August.

The ending of this semester marks the second term in which Cordova’s online school newspaper has been in publication. When this endeavor took flight it’s prospects weren’t that impressive, but as time progressed, new opportunities presented themselves and The Freelancer team saw a clearer future.

It wouldn’t be wise to predict the future of the paper off of the first year, but overall, this debut was not a bad one. Merely establishing the publication after being without a school paper for over five years is an accomplishment.

Looking towards next year, the newspaper is due to grow in size and opportunities. With the help of Lancers, new and old, The Freelancer will be able to take even larger steps.

As the editor-in-chief of the paper it has been my pleasure to work with the writers and our advisor Ms. Linares to advance the club and paper a little more each meeting.

The Freelancer is always accepting new journalists, columnists, photographers, cartoonists, and editors. But the list doesn’t end there, frankly, there is a place in the journalism club for anyone – even if you don’t want to write or publish in the paper.

If you’re interested in pursuing a role in the club talk to our advisor, Ms. Linares in C9 or email her at You can also reach out to the editor-in-chief, Antoinette Aho, at  

Enjoy the summer, Lancers.

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Rise of Teen Depression Rates Mon, 13 May 2019 04:29:08 +0000 This article was initially submitted in the Sacramento Bee’s Journalist of the Year competition.

Nationally, the past decade has shown a spike in clinical depression and anxiety among teens – those between the ages of 12 and 17 have historically shown the highest rates of mental illnesses.

Locally, Cordova High School has seen an increase in the need for psychiatric help, as evidenced by the numerous mental health counselors on campus.

According to these counselors, this increase is caused primarily by negative experiences with home life, academics, or social pressures for students at CHS.

To aid the influx of students seeking mental health resources, over the past two years, four new counselors have been hired at CHS. Kristina Calander is one of the school’s two psychologists, and Charné Brown Powell is one of the two mental health specialists.

To receive counseling at Cordova, students must be referred by a parent, teacher, or they may request services themselves. Once the request has been made, the student’s academic counselor schedules an appointment with one of the school therapists.

While the type and number of counseling sessions depend on the student, they are initially offered a one-on-one session with either a school mental health specialist or psychologist. If needed, the student may schedule up to six sessions, once per week.

Calander, a psychologist, says that when students come to her office for assistance, she typically begins by advising holistic methods to ease their mental flare-ups. These include a healthier diet, exercise, and meditation exercises. One of the most recommended and efficient methods to alleviate depression is to create or find a strong community of support. Calander says, “When the student has a support system they know they have people on their team.”

If the student is having trouble implementing coping skills, or their condition continues to worsen, the school counselors will work to connect them with an off-campus counselor. “This allows them to have more time per session, and they have the opportunity to delve into more issues,” says Powell, a mental health specialist.

Throughout their tenure in the field, they have all seen a steady rise of students seeking counseling services. When analyzing the entire student body, records show that during the 2017-18 school year, there were a total of 174 student referrals. 19 percent of these students were identified as having symptoms of depression, the other 81 percent had issues relating to anxiety, stress, and grief. So far, the 2018-19 school year has seen 184 referrals, 28 percent of cases were identified as having depression symptoms.

The numbers have clearly increased, and according to Powell, students have begun to “beat the stigma” and are more prone to coming forward about their mental state. Powell has worked as a counselor for over 15 years, previously specializing as a marriage and family counselor, six of those years were at CHS. Initially, she worked on campus once a week, but over the years that increased to two days, now she works five days a week.

Powell says that compared to the 2016-17 school year, the number of students with depression has seen a 23 percent increase, and the number continues to steadily rise.

With the recent deaths of prominent celebrities such as Mac Miller, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain, teens have become more exposed to the conflict of mental illness, and the despair it may bring.

Powell says, “Suicide is a part of our culture now, more conversation has emerged, and people are slowly becoming more apt to the mental issues involved.” The spread of awareness has led parents, teachers, and friends to be more conscious of mental concerns. As a student mental health counselor, Powell has seen more parents referring their children for therapy. If parents do not know how to recognize symptoms, Calander says, “I do my best to reach out to family and anyone close to the student, to keep them informed.”

Although the numbers, locally and nationally, are not decreasing, the spread of awareness and exposure to mental health has, which as told by school mental health specialists, is the primary way to prevent the issue.

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Netflix: The Addictive Algorithm Sat, 06 Apr 2019 17:58:45 +0000 Netflix caters to over 60 million households in the US. Their platform carries movies, shows, and documentaries ranging in genres. But in recent years, the platform has thrived off of violence based shows and documentaries.

From the likes of “Making a Murderer” which premiered in 2015 sharing the life of Steven Avery, who committed sexual assault and attempted murder – to the recent show “You”, currently approaching the second season, which follows the life of a stalker who during the first few episodes kidnaps a man, hides him in a small, plexiglass room and eventually kills him.

These productions are merely two of several, surrounding violence, that Netflix has recently released. Others include “The Murder of Madeleine McCann”, a documentary series that follows the unsolved abduction of a young British girl during a family trip to Portugal. “13 Reasons Why,” which tells the suicide of Hannah Baker, the show has been one of the most consecutively watched on Netflix. Even the viral “Birdbox”, a show in which characters encounter death after being face-to-face with their worst fears.

If this genre is in high demand and continues to bring big business, it sounds as though Netflix has no reason to stop.

But although consumers are watching this content, it does not mean that Netflix should be providing it.

Violent, sometimes crime based productions are no doubt intriguing, but they can provoke mental illnesses and induce great fear in viewers.

Notably, those who “binge watch” shows like those listed above may experience a greater tolerance to violence in real life, researchers from Purdue University and UCSD state these productions can leave a lingering-fear, resulting in sleep disturbances and other problems.

Furthermore, Netflix strongly persuades viewers to continue watching via their autoplay feature. For instance, during a series, the next episode will automatically begin in a few seconds. This instant gratification makes it difficult for consumers to take a break from the screen.

With mental illness on the rise, highly popular and profitable platforms such as Netflix should hold the social responsibly to create a safer environment for customers.

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Technology in the Classroom: Whether or Not its Propelling Us Forward Fri, 29 Mar 2019 17:27:07 +0000 Many believe that as technology advances, it should be brought into the classroom, and more so, teachers and students should keep up with this development. The use of laptops in schools has proliferated, in 2015 Project Tomorrow conducted a study that showed that 64% of students had immediate access to laptops (Chromebooks included) outside of their personal devices.

With this comes the growing use of classroom apps, supplied explicitly by Google, who provides thousands of their Chromebook carts to schools around the nation. Apps they offer include Google Classroom, where teachers can post assignments, to the collaborative Google Docs, Slides, etc.

The New York Times refers to this growth of technology for students as, “a profound shift in American education: the Googlification of the classroom.”

There’s no denying the fact that Cordova High School is one of the many campuses that has witnessed a change in the style of learning due to advancement in technology. These assets have pros and cons in the classroom, they may benefit one subject more than the other, and even be deemed as unnecessary for some.

The Free Laner reached out to different Cordova High teachers to learn their perspective on the growth of technology in their classrooms.

Faith Caplan directs the engineering academy at Cordova, she teaches multiple levels of classes that range in all grade levels. The majority of her engineering classes require technology and particularly access to computer programs such as Autodesk Inventor, Rivet, and Scratch. As an avid user throughout the year, Caplan and her students have experienced better learning through the ability to use these apps, whether they’re collaborating on projects or developing files for their 3D printer or laser cutter. Many units wouldn’t be possible without access to advanced technology, which makes it a necessity for their course.

But still, like everything, with these pros come cons. Caplan says that student engagement has lessened throughout the years, from being distracted by computer games or making eye contact with their screen rather than her at the wrong times. Many students lack the drive to complete handwritten or hand-drawn assignments. They’d rather type notes and create tables on Google Docs, instead of using a ruler on paper. So while having the privilege of learning how to create models and whatnot digitally, this may reduce their more physical skills.

Generally, the opportunities that technology sanctions in engineering courses are more significant than the negative aspects, which typically can be changed over time.

Joshua Creeger leads Student Government, as well as the Media Productions program. While his media class relies on computer programs such as Premiere Pro, Adobe Audition, and Photoshop, the downsides of the internet are still apparent. “Unlimited access to computers seems to be the worst thing for kids in here.” Similar to Caplan, his students are distracted with computer games, YouTube, and even work for other classes.

Through the setbacks, for the majority of teachers, it’s undeniable that the pros of technology in the classroom outweigh the cons.

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CHS Takes On Romeo & Juliet Fri, 29 Mar 2019 17:21:48 +0000 The CHS drama department kicked off the year with their musical performance of A Curious Savage, for the spring season they will be performing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The two star crossed lovers will be played by Alina Binnie and Wyatt Hurkens.

They’ve been together in real life for over three years, so playing these roles won’t be difficult for the lovebirds. It’s their senior year and they’re happy to have the chance to play Romeo and Juliet before they leave Cordova.

A new feature for the drama department is the use of moving set pieces. Typically the set changes with the scene, processed by a closing of the curtains. But for Romeo and Juliet, much of the action will be live for the audience.

Unlike ever before, the crew and cast will be performing the play for two weekends. Mar. 28 and 29, as well as Apr. 4, and 5 at seven PM, their final performance will be at one PM on the 6 in the CHS PAC.

Students, parents, and friends all may attend the show. For students and senior citizens the ticket price is eight dollars, and for adults they will be ten.

While many students wouldn’t typically be at school on the weekend, if you happen to be by Cordova on one of the performance days, stop by to support the drama department and your theatre classmates.

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Limited Bathroom Passes Violate Student Rights Fri, 22 Mar 2019 16:46:59 +0000 There’s a general consensus around campus that students don’t appreciate the limited bathroom passes that many teachers set. While the Cordova administration believes these restrictions stop students from missing class and intentionally skipping lessons, the notion isn’t in tune with student rights.

According to The California Education Code, refusal to allow students to go to the bathroom is considered corporal punishment and is therefore illegal.

For instance, teachers who only allow their students to use the restroom three times during a semester, prohibit their legal rights as a student.

Simultaneously, limiting bathroom rights impacts education worse than it does to support it. When students can’t use the restroom during class they go during passing period, but this poses the risk of them being late to their next period. Instead of allowing the student to be a few minute late, they become marked late in PowerSchool. An accumulation of these marks can cause a student to be issued Saturday school or afterschool detention.

While detention does fit into the California Education Code, the punishment does not make a change on student’s actions concerning restroom use. They continue to be late to classes and miss instructional time because of teacher enforced prohibition.

Furthermore, teachers typically don’t allow students to use the restroom during the first or last ten minutes of class. This would be the most ideal time since students and teachers are either setting up or winding down during that time. Instead, students are to use the bathroom during the middle of class, which is usually the most important part education wise.

The bathroom pass system should be unified across campus so that it no longer violates student rights while supporting education, instead of harming it.

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Why Off-Campus Lunch Should be Permitted Wed, 20 Mar 2019 18:11:25 +0000 Cordova High School’s open campus allows students access to the public, including stores and restaurants. But these opportunities aren’t authorized for students during lunch periods. This limitation on where and when students can be causes undisciplined behavior, such as ditching classes or ordering food to campus without permission.

Many students aren’t worried with the repercussions that may follow them if their rule-breaking actions are noticed. Consequences may include detention, or Saturday school. This disturbance leads to a lack of orderly behavior and more students ordering food and leaving campus sans consent.

To cease this conflict, students, based on merit, should have the opportunity to have off-campus lunches.

If they have a car they should be allowed to use it during lunch to get food, but if not, walking should not be allowed since lunch periods are only half an hour.

Cordova being such a large school, many people would leap to the offer, to put a limit on these advantages, they should only be open to upperclassmen: juniors and seniors.  

To gain access to these privileges, those interested should apply for an off campus lunch card, their grades, attendance, citizenship, and previous records should be consulted. If the student is clear, permission may be granted with parent consent as well. This would likely help clear some liability issues.

Furthermore, students should have access to food from off-campus sources, considering the fact that the school lunch at most high schools, including Cordova, isn’t healthy or worth the price.

In addition, restricting this access disposes of the useful opportunities the Cordova campus provides for public access.  

Stopping students from having the ability to leave campus for lunch restricts their rights. It poses the school as a confined place of learning, not somewhere open and welcoming. Although the school and district would have to sort out the liability of the matter, there’s no denying the fact that with proper guidance the proposition would provide more benefits than drawbacks.

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Uncovering the International Baccalaureate Wed, 20 Mar 2019 18:08:58 +0000 Cordova High School has officially adopted the International Baccalaureate Curriculum for a short 5 years. Previously, Cordova was a common AP school, but the past few years have excelled the school’s worth, granting it a position alongside the few thousand other IB schools across the world. Ranging from Russia to Colombia, countries across the globe have taken this international philosophy of learning into play.

But, for many schools who recently became part of the practice, students don’t enjoy all aspects, at least not at the beginning.

An influx of sophomores entering their first year out of MYP lead to the prospect of new rigorous classes, this future is exhilarating yet worrisome. Notions of IB classes not being worth the time and effort spread around campuses like Cordova, devaluing the significance and privileges of the IB curriculum. Rather than wallowing in these rumors, The Free Lancer writes the truth about IB and the Diploma Programme, from past and present students.

Hector Esparza (‘18) was asked what his opinion of IB is – Esparza graduated from CHS last year, also having received the IB Diploma, he now attends UCLA. “The IB diploma program was one of the most intense curriculums I’ve ever had to endure, but I was definitely say I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The information and knowledge you learn during the IB sticks with you long term and you begin being able to analyze things in a much more sophisticated way” says Esparza. When it comes to the rigor of the work he says, “I do and will always recommend challenging yourself by taking the IB program because everything else will seem so easy in comparison. Something about crying over not finishing a Math IA is really humbling.” Although he has already graduated Esparza continues to look back on his IB experiences, “I still feel super connected with the IB kids and am always available to answer questions or give suggestions, and I know that the kids who come from the Cordova IB program are really going to change the world.”

Esparza graduated alongside 15 other seniors last year who completed full IB. According to Esparza, there’s no doubt that the effort is worth the outcome.

Asking to stay anonymous, a junior at CHS recently dropped full IB, deciding to lighten their schedule for the end of this year and their senior year as well. They feel that their IB experience has been positive thus far. They say, “Of course there have been difficulties that come with it such as stress and a heavy workload, but I do think that I have gained a lot from it. The education I gain from certain subjects does help better me for my future and I enjoy most of my IB classes.”

Similar to AP, the IB curriculum can be rigorous and like that of the college level.

Margaux Bautista (‘21) is a sophomore who has just finished applying for her full IB classes that she will begin taking next semester. She attended an MYP middle school as well, so her knowledge of the IB curriculum is well formed. Like many, she plans to do full IB for the experience. She says, “I want to be more prepared for college and I’ve heard that it’s [full IB] is really stressful but that it’ll help you manage your stress.”

The 2019 class will be the fifth IB class to graduate at Cordova. Their effort and drive works to fuel the future IB students while creating a better school and academia on campus.

Although, there are multiple views on the IB system, there’s no denying that the end value is well worth the work. A diploma or even certificate from a globally recognized system of learning strengthens one’s resume while expanding their mind during the process of earning the diploma.

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