“Dear fellow students, my name is Pascal Cloutier, and I am here to tell you the truth.”
So began the speech of Edmonds-Woodway High School student Pascal Cloutier, candidate for Associated Student Body president, during a broadcast over the high school’s television station, WBN, on Monday. Problem was, the speech he gave wasn’t the same one that had been approved by school administrators. And the contents — a passionate criticism of the current ASB system as ” just puppets of the teachers” — generated some equally passionate responses.
As a result, Cloutier was suspended for one-and-a-half days, a punishment that he says — according to the district’s own rules — does not fit the offense.
“I knew that the key message that I was trying to get across would not be approved,” Cloutier said. “So I turned in one speech and it got approved, but when I went on the air, I gave another speech.”
Cloutier said he viewed his speech as “an act of civil disobedience” and expected that there would be a consequence: The inability to run for ASB office during the current school year, as spelled out in the ASB constitution.
“I took a calculated risk,” Cloutier admits. “I looked it up in the Constitution and recognized that I would be disqualified for giving the speech I gave.”
He didn’t expect what happened next, however. Shortly after he gave the speech, he was pulled out of class to meet with school administrators, who told him that he was being suspended because his speech “presented a major problem to the school learning environment.” What type of problem? Cloutier said he was told it was “because students clapped and cheered and others were arguing. Teachers were talking about it.” He was told that some teachers were so upset that they started calling the school office.
Cloutier served a half day of the suspension on Monday afternoon, and the remaining day on Tuesday. Meanwhile, fellow students created a “Free Pascal” page on Facebook, which now has more than 200 fans, and held a protest in the high school office, complete with “Free Pascal” posters and T-shirts.
Cloutier’s mother, Priya Sinha, said she has requested a hearing with district officials, as required by law. The issue is that “a short-term suspension may not be imposed unless other forms of punishment have at first been taken,” she said. If that appeal is unsuccessful, she will take the matter before the school board or even to Snohomish County Superior Court — “as far as I need to,” she said.
Edmonds School District spokesperson D.J. Jakala said that the district couldn’t comment on the matter. “Under no circumstances do we violate the privacy rights of students and publicly discuss disciplinary actions,” she said.
Cloutier said his inspiration to give the speech stemmed from his experience last year as freshman class president, when he learned that students really didn’t have much say in how the student government was run. In fact, just about every decision was filtered through the teachers, he added.
He tried to change the system through official channels by proposing the creation of what he described as “a truly student representative body, a student union,” he said. “I went to a teacher’s meeting, and the teachers agreed it was a good idea. Then I went to the (EWHS) principal, and she said this would have to be approved by someone higher up.” After two weeks with no action, Cloutier decided to take matters into his own hands and make a point by giving his speech.
“I had no malicious intentions toward the teachers at all,” he said. “I just wanted to create a truly representative student body. I don’t regret anything that I did and I’m surprised at the consequences and harsh reaction of the school. Students are talking about it, and I’m glad they are taking a stance on something and really getting involved.”
Added Priya Sinha: “A teacher was standing there the entire time he was giving his speech and they could have cut him off at any point. If they were so worried about people’s reactions, why didn’t they cut him off in the middle?”
Here is the text of Pascal Cloutier’s speech:
I am not here to beg you to vote for me, or to lie about how great of a school president I would make.
I am going to tell you about the “associated student body” or ASB.
First of all, ASB has no real power. ASB is not a governing body like the Congress, its president is not a real president. They are just puppets of the teachers.
They say that they represent us, they say that they try and make the school a better place; however, the truth is that they don’t.
They make us play games, they run assemblies meant to distract us, and they do everything in their power to divide the common students and turn us against each other.
They do nothing to help us, they do not stand up for the student body: instead, they do everything in their power to divide and destroy us.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I think it is time that we, the students, stood up for ourselves!
It is time for us to cast off the shackles of lies and oppression! Comrades, it is time for us to get rid of ASB!
Now some of you are thinking right now, and I know you are, especially you I.B. Kids. You’re thinking, “why should I disagree with the teachers? They are here to help us, right?”
NO! They are not! They are not here to help us!
The teachers think this is THEIR school! They think that this school was built for THEM!
This school was Not built for the teachers! This school was built for the students! The teachers should be doing everything in their power to make this school better for us! But instead they try and have us do everything to make this school better for them!
This is what ASB is for! They want us to make this school better for the teachers!
Fellow students, it is time to stand up! Say NO to ASB! Say NO to teachers who want to control and destroy our minds!
Do not vote today! Do not vote for president, vice president, secretary treasurer! If you vote at all you are voting for your own death and destruction!
It doesn’t matter if you think a person is a good candidate, a close friend; if they are running for ASB then they are your enemy!
So to my fellow students, Do not vote, do not let the enemy win today!
To my fellow candidates: if you have seen the light of truth, if you have felt its warmth; then drop out. Do not run anymore, because if you do, you are running against every student.
Again, my name is Pascal Cloutier, and I am NOT running for ASB president.