When Principal Akbar Cook saw students were being bullied because they couldn't afford to wash their clothes at home, what did he do?— Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) August 15, 2018
He installed washers + dryers in the locker room, so kids could do their laundry for free.
Then he offered #STEM classes during the dry cycle. pic.twitter.com/m4kp0T45br
A New Jersey high school principal came up with a brilliant idea to curb the bullying that many of his students were enduring.
After making calls to homes of students who were missing classes, West Side High School principal Akbar Cook learned that kids were being bullied for not having clean clothes and shoes, The Root reports. To avoid the humiliation, students were choosing to stay home.
In addition to old-fashioned teasing, the bullies were taking pictures of the kids with dingy clothes and shoes and posting them on social media
Cook decided he would alleviate the issue by installing washing and drying machines on campus.
He reached out to the state’s utility supplier, PSE&G, and secured $20,000 in funding to purchase five of each machine and place them in a converted football locker room.
“I refuse to let a kid come to school smelling or dirty, and I’m sitting on a shirt that says ‘West Side’ on it,” Cook said.
The principal’s efforts have been well-received by the community as donations of detergent have poured in to offset expenses.
The problem these teens likely face is that most of them probably live in apartment complexes, housing projects, or shelters in which access to washing machines and dryers is limited and shared among tenants. It can be particularly difficult to do laundry frequently with multiple households using the same set of machines.
Another issue is that these communal machines are typically coin operated, and families who are struggling to make ends meet are surely prioritizing food and other necessities over laundry.
Cook's initiative is certainly commendable and generous, but it's only a first step. The obstacles his students face at home are the result of a larger economic issue that should be addressed by community officials.
Additionally, Cook should shift gears and implement a mandatory program or course that focuses on teaching sensitivity and compassion in an effort to change the bullies' behavior. Otherwise, they will simply find other ways and reasons to torment their victims.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Getty Images, pbombaert