10 Years After Sandy Hook, History Repeats, and Little Is Being Done to Change That

by The Hive editorial board

JUNE 2022 — The second deadliest U.S. school shooting occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were fatally shot and killed May 23. The severity of the attack is only preceded by the events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary school Dec. 14, 2012, where 20 students and seven adults were killed. Though 10 years have passed since Sandy Hook, students are still being subjected to the horrors of gun violence; history is repeating itself, and little is being done to fix it.

At Robb Elementary, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos barricaded himself in a classroom around 11:30 a.m and shot those inside. The tactical team forced the door open, shooting and killing Ramos more than an hour after entering the school.

Prior to the shooting, Ramos shot his grandmother, who is in the hospital. Ramos crashed his truck in a ditch near the school before entering, wearing a plate carrier with no ballistic armor and exchanging fire with school officers.

Pictured above are people visiting Robb Elementary School to leave flowers by the school sign May 25 in light of the shooting. Photo obtained from Jack Gruber, USA Today.
It has been almost 10 years since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school, and after this event, politicians and lawmakers across the country have promised, “never again.” Despite this, 229 mass shootings have taken place on U.S. school grounds in 2022 alone, according to the gun violence archive. 

That number is more than one school shooting per day this year.

Regardless of what people blame, the promise of “never again” has proven to be false time and time again, and countless lives have suffered as a result.

Following the events, Texas Governor Greg Abbott noted, “What happened in Uvalde is a horrific tragedy that cannot be tolerated in the state of Texas.”

However, in the past year, Abbott has signed numerous legislation that lifted restrictions on gun laws. Some of these laws include HB 1927, which allows Texans to carry guns without a license, background check, or training and HB 2622 which prohibits local government agencies from enforcing federal gun laws.

In total, Abbott signed and enacted 22 laws to make it easier to obtain, buy, and carry guns, according to Houston Public Media.

On top of this, Abbott tweeted the following Oct. 28, 2015: “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in the nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.”

For someone who claims that school shootings “cannot be tolerated in the state of Texas,” Abbott has single handedly enacted legislation that has enabled individuals to obtain weapons of destruction in a more efficient manner.

According to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, it was found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide for all genders and age groups.

“Regardless of what people blame, the promise of ‘never again’ has proven to be false time and time again, and countless lives have suffered as a result”

The Hive Editorial Board

In instances like Uvalde, the shooter was able to obtain the gun legally with little restriction as a result of these actions. Ramos legally purchased two assault rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition just after his 18th birthday. One of the rifles was found in the back of his truck, the other located in the school.

Even so, the issue lies deeper than just gun control; having strict gun control will not magically eradicate the issue of gun-related violence. In other cases, while less common, the guns were purchased illegally or underground.

Most commonly, the Sandy Hook promise outlined that 68% of guns in gun-related incidents at schools were taken from a family member who purchased the guns legally. Though gun control will not completely erase the issue, requiring permits, training, background checks, and licenses for obtaining firearms could prevent certain acts of gun-related violence.

Controlling fire-arm access was not the only repeated message from history.

The infamous 1999 Columbine High School shooting saw police officers arrive on the scene, only to wait hours to enter and secure the building. In Uvalde, they took roughly 90 minutes to breach the classroom the shooter stayed in.

From worries of officer safety to police chiefs making “wrong decisions” during desperate situations, police training must be questioned. With the infuriating frequency of these events, they need to be prepared. If the police refuse to be disarmed of their guns for public safety, they should at least use their guns when the public needs them.

Another aspect that is critical to consider is offering better mental health support. A common argument against gun control is that “if someone wants to obtain a gun, they will, whether it is legal or not.” Instead of just preventing individuals from obtaining the gun, a focus should also be placed on preventing people from committing these violent acts altogether.

Watching out for threats of violence and flagging them before they escalate is another key factor in preventing shootings, which is often not considered until it is too late.

Prior to the shooting, Ramos used Yubo, a social media site, as a platform to make threats about rape and shooting the school. If these threats were taken seriously and brought to the attention of officials, these events could have been prevented; lives could have been saved.

The issue, though, is that most people preach looking for “warning signs,” but when actions are flagged, few repercussions occur. Noticing these actions and dealing with the threats is crucial to preventing violent actions in schools.

In fact, 93% of school shootings were planned in advance in almost every documented case. In those cases, the Sandy Hook promise noted that one or multiple of these warning signs were shown.

Many of these signs include things like bullying, withdrawing from friends, making direct threats, and recruiting accomplices or audiences for the attack. In these cases, these signs are able to be caught early, and actions can be taken to prevent these harmful acts.

“Schools are supposed to provide a comfortable learning environment for children to learn and grow as individuals. In spite of this, the world of today has seen school shootings rip away that right from students; these places can no longer feel safe.”

The Hive Editorial Board

As outlined by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “school shootings typically involve a mix of suicidal thoughts, despair, and anger — plus access to guns.”

Though many pin the blame only on weapons, recognizing the signs and knowing how to deal with them is important. Taking threats seriously and having repercussions for these threats, along with implementing more mental health initiatives to prevent shootings that result from mental illnesses would provide a step in the right direction.

In the span of 10 years, instead of putting any legislation in place — whether it is gun control, taking threats seriously and recognizing the warning signs, better mental illness check-ins, or other actions to lessen the amount of violence in this country — America has decided to train schools and students to be “prepared” against active shooters instead of attempting to eradicate the issue all together.

After all of the ALICE drills, lockdowns, talk of or implementation of arming teachers, walk-outs in protest of the violence, and all the thoughts and prayers to the victims, how many more conversations have to occur before any action is taken?

We said “never again” after Sandy Hook. Since then, 947 school shootings have occurred, and an estimated 12 children die from gun violence in America each day. At what point, if ever, will this statement hold true? How many more lives need to be lost — in schools, in supermarkets, in places of worship — until anything changes?

These places where gun violence occur are supposed to be safe. Schools are supposed to provide a comfortable learning environment for children to learn and grow as individuals. In spite of this, the world of today has seen school shootings rip away that right from students; these places can no longer feel safe.

There’s a terrifying fact that looms over the heads of every student when an ALICE drill is practiced: This is the sad reality of the world we live in, where it is a necessity that students know how to increase their chances of survival in the event of a shooting. As the instances of school shootings increase, the terrifying thought of our community falling victim to the horrors of gun violence becomes increasingly more probable.

Though the thought of the community being exposed to gun violence is frightening to even imagine, it is likely that, even then, America will continue to argue and fail to act; that fact is even scarier.

General Interest Opinion Politics

Updates on COVID-19 Border Restrictions After National Week of Student Action  

by Camryn Myrla, staff writer

MAY 2022 — A U.S. judge temporarily blocked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from lifting restrictions on the country’s land borders April 25.

Section 252 of Title 42 prohibits entry into the U.S. when the Director of the CDC believes “there is a serious danger to the introduction of disease” into the country. The order was issued by the CDC in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the CDC had reported in early April 2022 that Title 42 was no longer needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 due to vaccines and other advancements that counter the virus. As a result, the public health agency called for the termination of the order by May 23.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays, the judge who blocked the CDC from lifting border restrictions, was supported by many Republicans who believed that the order was vital for preventing illegal immigration. Officials predict that lifting Title 42 will cause an influx in migrants crossing the border, with the highest estimate being up to 18,000 people per day.

Meanwhile, Title 42 has been opposed by certain groups that advocate for human rights. Many of these groups argue the order unjustly turns away migrants searching for asylum in the United States.

For example, student groups for Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization focused on human rights, work together annually for its National Week of Student Action (NWSA). For 2022, the week was dedicated to defunding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  

Bio-Med Science Academy’s Amnesty International chapter participated in NWSA, which took place April 4 to April 8 — several weeks before Judge Summerhays released any statement on Title 42.

“We really only focused on ICE and their work in the past,” reported junior Keira Vasbinder, the secretary of the club.

In the past, Bio-Med’s Amnesty chapter focused on climate change, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and abortion rights. For NWSA, the group researched current immigration policies and put up a station with brochures, pins, and a banner. Photo by Camryn Myrla, staff writer.

“None of us knew that this was going to happen, especially not even twenty days after [NWSA], but I don’t think any of us are that surprised,” she said.

“And the news came at such a bad time, where it’s too late in the school year to focus on this and get some real work done to protest anything,” Vasbinder explained. “The only thing we have time to do is post about it online, and maybe make posters. But it’s important that people hear us and understand how serious of a problem this [order] is.”

Katie Davos, the Youth and Student Program Specialist at Amnesty International, directed all student groups through NWSA.

“The Biden Administration cannot forget about the hundreds of thousands expelled at the border under Title 42,” Davos stated while advising student groups online. “Instead of harming and endangering people seeking safety, President Biden should take action to get people home, safe, and with their communities in the U.S.”

Editorial Note: Camryn Myrla is the coordinator of Bio-Med Science Academy’s Amnesty International chapter.

Bio-Med Club News Politics

Commentary: Abortion Bans Are Anything But Pro-Life

by Havann Brown, editor-in-chief

For almost 50 years, people have heavily relied on the holding in Roe v. Wade to make the decision about whether or not to have a baby. As the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey decision, “[t]he ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Photo by Havann Brown, editor-in-chief.

MAY 2022 — Abortion is currently legal everywhere in the United States. However, it appears that won’t be true for long. According to a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito in February, at least five of the court’s justices have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision recognizing the right to abortion, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision reaffirming that right.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” wrote Alito. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

He went on to state, “Roe was egregiously wrong,” and demonstrated that the court is looking to reject Roe’s legal protections.

It is unclear if the draft represents a final opinion, as justices have previously changed their views during the drafting process. The court’s holding will not be final until it is published, likely in the next two months.

If the Supreme Court overturns the nearly 50-year-old precedent granted by Roe’s abortion rights ruling, access to abortion will become a state-by-state issue, which would be a nightmare scenario.

An NBC News analysis of Center for Reproductive Rights data shows that 23 states would institute abortion bans. “Trigger laws,” or laws that would go into effect banning abortions when Roe is overturned, are on the books in 13 of those states. A second abortion-rights advocacy group, the Guttmacher Institute, counted as many as 26 states considered certain or likely to ban abortion ​​based on laws passed before and after Roe, in the event it was overturned.

In Ohio, abortion rights would likely be eliminated if Roe were overturned. Governor Mike DeWine has signed multiple horrific bills to ban abortion as early as six weeks gestation, require aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated, prevent medication abortions, and add rules that could shut down two Southwest Ohio abortion clinics. Additionally, a bill pending in the Ohio General Assembly would ban doctors from performing medication or surgical abortions, instituting a fourth-degree felony for violators.

Pictured is a sign from a May 5 protest in support of reproductive rights hosted by Kent State Univerity’s Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. Since the leaking of the Supreme Court draft, protests have sparked all across the country, with many being hosted on college campuses. Photo provided by Jana Stone, a Kent State freshman.

Access to safe abortion services is a human right. Forcing someone to carry an unwanted pregnancy or to seek out an unsafe abortion is a violation of their human rights, including the rights to privacy and bodily autonomy. Furthermore, denying someone abortion care has devastating and lasting consequences for the pregnant person, as it can jeopardize their health, economic well-being, and ability to determine their future.

Restricting abortions does nothing to reduce the number of abortions that people have; it only forces people to seek out unsafe abortions. Alternatively, pregnancy carries more significant risks than abortion does. A 2021 research study predicted that abortion bans would lead to a 21 percent increase in pregnancy-related deaths.

People will die if Roe is overturned, which is far from the “pro-life” stance that opponents of abortion often take. According to NPR, before Roe, anywhere from 200,000 to 1,000,000 illegal abortions took place each year. A majority of the Supreme Court will have blood on their hands.

Those most harmed by these decisions will continue to be people of color, people in rural areas, young people, immigrants, and low-income individuals, who face systemic barriers to medical care. People living in areas considered “hostile” towards abortion would likely have to travel to a state with laws protecting abortion, which is highly inaccessible. Wealthy individuals will always have access to abortion, so ending Roe is an attack on the autonomy of the poor among many others.

In the past, justices have been hesitant when overturning a precedent, and usually only after public opinions toward the subject had changed. However, a majority of the American people support abortion rights. According to a January CNN poll, “nearly 70 percent of Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.” Despite this issue being seized by vocal extremists, the numbers are certain; people support legal access to abortion.

With the leaking of the Supreme Court draft, one thing has been made terribly clear: the overturning of abortion rights is just the beginning. Alito’s reasoning for overturning Roe is simple. Since the Constitution doesn’t mention the word “abortion,” any claim that there is a constitutional right to one must show that legal abortions have been “deeply rooted in our nation’s history and traditions.”

Roe’s logic hinges on a person’s right to privacy. Overturning Roe could also undermine other rights to which Americans have grown accustomed, such as access to contraceptives and gay marriage, which also hinge on a right to privacy.

Even though the word “privacy,” like the word “abortion,” does not appear in the Constitution, justices have held the stance that it could be inferred from the text. Even if Alito is correct that legal abortion is not “deeply rooted” in our culture, he ignores the fact that women were denied nearly all rights we now take for granted for much of history.

Obviously, the Constitution says nothing about abortion, because it does not mention women. It was written by a group of all white and mostly wealthy men, who weren’t concerned with reproductive rights or any rights for women. Over the past century, the United States has rejected the worst of the founders’ beliefs and strived to respond to the needs of a changing society, either through constitutional amendments or modern interpretations of the text they created. So, why is abortion any different?

Overturning Roe is not about protecting human life; it is about control. In brazenly ignoring 50 years of its own precedent and the will of the American people, this draft ruling would destroy the legitimacy of the court. At best, abortion would only become inaccessible to those living in restricted areas. However, the more likely outcome would be an increase in maternal mortality and an influx of unwanted children. I truly hope that I am wrong. Everyone should have the right to decide what happens to their body. It’s that simple.

Abortion bans are not pro-life. They are pro-poverty, pro-inequality, and pro-cruelty.

General Interest Opinion Politics

From Banned Books to House Bills: To What Extent Should a School’s Curriculum be Regulated?

by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor

FEBRUARY 2022 — Many schools around the United States have pulled books off their shelves due to objectionable content and parental complaints. On top of this, several house bills were proposed to further censor the school curriculum. These regulations have caused many to wonder what the future of education holds.

“Maus: A Survivor’s Tale”

In Tennessee, the McMinn County Board of Education decided to remove the Pulitzer prize-winning book, “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” by Art Spiegelman, from its school’s eighth-grade curriculum on Jan. 10. 2022.

During the 2020-2021 school year, Bio-Med Science Academy’s 10th-grade curriculum used the book to teach students about the Holocaust. Spiegleman’s novel follows the story of his father, Vladek Spiegelman, who was a Holocaust survivor. It illustrates the topic by depicting people as animals such as mice, dogs, and cats.

“Maus” was originally published in 1980. The book was released in two parts, with a collection of both parts, “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale,” releasing on a later date. The books pictured above are the copies that the class of 2023 read during their sophomore year at Bio-Med Science Academy. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor.

Nick Iurato, a junior at Bio-Med, shared his thoughts on the book’s banning. “I don’t think it should’ve been banned because I think ‘Maus’ is a good way to interpret what happened without getting too violent,” he said. “I think using animals was better than using real people.”

According to the meeting minutes of the McMinn County Board of Education, a unanimous vote led to the removal of the book due to the inclusion of eight curse words and nude imagery.

Ms. Candace Hisey, the former 10th-grade English language arts teacher at Bio-Med, stated, “If you were to ask any student from last year’s sophomore class what they remember about this novel, I don’t think a single one would say, ‘I remember the mouse nudity and the bad words.’ I have read the book countless times, and I actually had to re-read it to see what those who want it banned were talking about.”

She continued, “I find this deeply concerning for a couple of reasons. First, if we take every book containing language that someone might find offensive off the table, that eliminates much of the literary canon. Authors write about real people, and real people — especially people in stressful situations — swear sometimes. Additionally, it reduces this powerful, essential piece of literature down to one word on one page. We’re no longer paying attention to the atrocities committed against millions of people, the commentary on mental health, or the poignant reflection on aging and family dynamics. Instead, we’re all staring at a word that, if we moved past it, would fade into the background. It’s a convenient distraction.”

The book was integrated between language arts and history, taught by Hisey and the former history teacher, Mr. Collin Martau.  

Martau addressed the nudity in the book, stating, “Personally, I feel the whole effort is misguided and the justifications don’t quite stand to reason. The nudity in Maus (which let’s first acknowledge that the characters in question are cartoon mice…) is not represented in a sexual nature. If the school board is opposed to nudity as an absolute, then their next steps should be censoring their biology and art history books.”

When choosing the book for Bio-Med students, Martau and Hisey considered how “Maus” addressed the topic of the Holocaust. One of the reasons they decided to include the book in their curriculum was because it was from the perspective of a Holocaust survivor’s child.

“Art Spiegelman shows us what happened to these people and their families decades after the camps were liberated. He reveals how their trauma created ripples that carried into their children’s lives, and their children’s children’s lives. Rarely do historical events have tidy start and end dates, yet we’re often told that as a society we need to ‘get over’ things that happened before we were born. Art Spiegelman is still alive and kicking in New York, and his parents’ experiences in the Holocaust still have a profound effect on him and his family,” Hisey said.

After the class of 2023 finished reading “Maus,” students worked in groups for a project called “What Would It Take,” where they created a box filled with advice and historical research relating to human rights violations. Students worked in groups of four, with each student creating a box that addressed the one of the ten stages of genocide: classification, symbolisation, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polorization, preparation, persecution, extermination, and denial. Students used historical examples to write a letter with advice to someone in a similar situation.

The ten stages of genocide were grouped into four stages: recognizing the signs, self-reflection, taking action, and confronting reality. The box shown above represents denial, and contains a letter, candle, quotes on the side of the box, a pamphlet, and an illustration on the lid. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor.

They also decided to use the novel since it presented the topic through cartoon drawings.

Martau explained, “One could argue ‘Maus’ would be more developmentally appropriate (especially in the McMinn circumstance) for a middle-school age student than using some existing photographs of Holocaust victims and mass grave sites.”

Ammon Hottensmith, another junior, elaborated on this, saying, “It’s a lot easier to learn from that book than it would have been just to look at actual pictures or videos or first-hand accounts of what actually happened, because we’re not masked behind something that made it lighter and easier, but it still carries the message.”

During the McMinn County School Board meeting, the board called upon several ELA teachers and board members to share their thoughts on the matter. During the meeting, they did not have a substitute book in mind to replace “Maus” with.

“In reading the minutes from the McMinn County Board meeting, it’s clear that some opposed to the inclusion of ‘Maus’ completely miss its messaging,” Martau said. “One board member stated, ‘It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy.’ The reality of this situation is that a decision about education for an entire school district of learners is in part being made by an individual who seems to believe that a depiction of historically accurate genocidal violence is inherently promoting it.”

He continued, “Another individual on this board stated, ‘I thought the end was stupid to be honest with you. A lot of the cussing had to do with the son cussing out the father, so I don’t really know how that teaches our kids any kind of ethical stuff.’ If you remember from our unit last year, what this board member is describing is the ending of Part I where the main character learns that his father had destroyed letters from his late mother — not the ending of the whole novel. I’m left wondering if this board member who voted to ban the book bothered to read the whole thing to understand the context of the reaction.”

Removal of LGBTQ+ Books
“Maus,” however, is not the first book to be banned from schools. In Texas, Katy Independent School District (Katy ISD) has banned several books containing content related to racism and sexuality due to complaints from parents. Both McMinn County and Katy ISD removed books due to the inclusion of topics that were projected to make some students or parents uncomfortable.

“Why are we sexualizing our precious children?” asked one of the supporters for the banned books at the Katy ISD meeting, in an NBC news report.

In the same report, Iris Chang, a Katy Independent School District junior student who identifies as queer, stated that she believes that parents want to “keep their children in this protected bubble in which the only opinions they really hear are the ones that they themselves represent.”
The district administration at Katy ISD banned the books, “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope, “Lawn Boy” by Johnathan Evison, “Losing the Girl Book 1” by Mari Naomi, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews, “The Nerdy and Dirty” by B.T. Gottfred, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Jackson, “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)” by L.C. Rosen, “Forever for a Year” by B.T. Gottfred, and “The Handsome Girl and Her Beautiful Boy” by B.T. Gottfred from their school. Most of the complaints about these books were based off of the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters, obscene language, or sexual content. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor.

Hisey shared her thoughts on the Katy Independent School District’s decision to remove these books.

“My own firm support for the LGBTQ+ community aside, I think that young people should learn everything they can about the world they are entering into. They will encounter LGBTQ+ people in their lives. For as long as there have been humans, there have been LGBTQ+ humans. They have contributed to science, literature, art, politics, and business. They will be your bosses, your coworkers, your doctors, your cashiers, and your family. I don’t see any value in pretending they don’t exist, which is what we’re doing when we ban books with LGBTQ+ representation,” she said.

Bio-Med students, like Iurato, shared similar thoughts on this. Iurato noted that children could have trouble coming out in the first place, and the removal of the books would not help create a welcoming environment for those students.

“When parents of kids who they think are straight are like, ‘Yeah, ban that book because it has gay-related stuff,’ I don’t think parents should have a say. I think it should be the school district that has a say because lots of parents are gonna be like, ‘Yeah, my kid is straight so he doesn’t need to learn about that,’ but it’s not like no one’s gay. It’s very common, so people need to learn what it’s like to live with everyone. You need to be comfortable with everyone you encounter, because there will be people you don’t like, but you have to encounter everyone in jobs and whatever career you choose, so you have to get comfortable,” Iurato said.

During the same meeting to ban the LGBTQ+ books from the school, a parent argued that a Michelle Obama biography should have been banned, claiming that it promoted “reverse racism.” Unlike the other books, Katy ISD determined that the book did not promote “reverse racism” and was deemed appropriate to remain on the shelves of their school district.

According to the NBC news report, around 100 school districts in Texas reported requests from parents to remove books within the first four months of the 2021-2022 school year. During the year prior, only one complaint was made, whereas this year, it was reported that there were at least 75 formal complaints by parents from schools around the state combined.

Hottensmith noted that the banning of books would not stop students from learning about those concepts, as they would be able to access the same information online — the only difference being that it would not be presented in a regulated environment like school.

“What you see and what you are going to perceive from it is going to be different than if you just look it up and find it out yourself, so it would be healthier,” he said.

Hisey elaborated on this, stating that she believes education growth is not possible without discomfort. However, she believed that an educational environment is the best place for students to learn about things that may make them uncomfortable.

“It’s a safe environment where the goal is to educate and empower,” she explained. “Students have adults in the room who won’t judge them and will help find answers to any questions they have. Why would we want young people to encounter uncomfortable material for the first time on their own, without context or support? When we do that, we assume that whatever they find on their own, from their friends or on the internet, is better than what they would learn in a thoughtful and carefully considered curriculum.”

The Parental Rights in Education Bill

On top of regulating what books students are allowed to read in school, a proposed Florida bill has the potential to further regulate a school’s curriculum. Florida’s recent Parental Rights in Education bill, or House Bill (HB) 1557, has the potential to limit the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation all together.

Also commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” HB 1557 aims to require schools to notify parents about any “critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being.” It was initially filed on Jan. 11 and has yet to be approved.

The bill states that, “A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

This means that any discussion relating to those topics would not be allowed in kindergarten through fifth grade. Since the bill does not elaborate on what an “age-appropriate” manner is, any discussion of sexual orientation or identity in grades six through 12 that a parent deemed inappropriate could be subject to legal action. The bill states, “A parent of a student may bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates this paragraph and seek injunctive relief. A court may award damages and shall award reasonable attorney fees and court costs to a parent who receives declaratory or injunctive relief.”

Hottensmith concluded his thoughts, stating, “I don’t think politics should affect what we learn in schools, unless it’s government obviously, but I don’t think personal political bias should affect what we do and what we learn. I don’t think they should be able to…regulate what you’re allowed to say or what you are allowed to do, or if you have to be a certain age to come out. I feel like you should be able to do that on your own time or whenever, because it’s your life. People shouldn’t be able to regulate what you do with yourself or identity because everyone is growing and learning as they age and grow up.”

Since a Floridian school would be required to notify parents of a students’ emotional well-being, it is likely that if a student in the LGBTQ+ community were to come out to a trusted teacher, their parents would have to be notified.

As of Jan. 25, the bill has been sent to the Judiciary Committee. If HB 1557 is passed, it will be enacted on July 1, 2022.

When being asked about how much say a parent should have in education, Hisey noted that it was not a simple answer.

“This is tricky, right? Let’s say my child’s teacher wanted to teach them that the Holocaust never happened, or that slavery was a good thing. As a parent, I would want my complaints about such a curriculum to be heard. The difference, I think, is that someone choosing to teach those events in that way would have to completely disregard historical evidence. At the end of the day, I trust teachers. I trust that any person who goes into this profession values knowledge and wants what is best for young people. We trust our doctors with our health, we trust our accountants with our taxes, and we need to trust our teachers with educating our children,” she said.

Though Martau believed that “Maus” and other content that was banned was developmentally appropriate for middle school and high school students, he also recommended a less extreme alternative to requesting the removal of a book a parent or student is uncomfortable with.

“If a parent or guardian feels uncomfortable with a classroom material their child may be using, they should have that dialogue with the teacher. I would like to think that any competent teacher would be willing to provide that child with an alternate material and assignment to meet those needs,” he said.

Martau concluded, “The ironic part to this whole story is that after McMinn County voted to ban ‘Maus, sales of the book in the general public skyrocketed. Their action here wound up putting what they consider a controversial book in more hands than may have otherwise sought it out. Over the weekend, Forbes reported that ‘after widespread coverage of the ban in the fourth week of January, 14,630 copies of the books were sold, a 753 percent increase from the first week of the month.’”

The Hive attempted to contact several board members from the McMinn County Board and the board of Katy ISD; no board members from either school responded to the Hive’s inquiry.

Related Content: The Battle of Banned Books

General Interest Politics

The Fight To End Gerrymandering: Ohio Supreme Court Rules Ohio Congressional Map Unconstitutional

by Logan Cook, staff writer

Ohio currently has 16 congressional districts. Each district has one representative in the House Of Representatives. Currently, there are four districts with Democrat representatives, and 12 with a Republican. The Ohio General Assembly redrew the congressional districts in 2022, based on data from the 2020 Census. Due to population changes, Ohio was only granted 15 congressional districts for the 2022-2032 period. Image is public domain via the Ohio Secretary of State Website.

JANUARY 2022 — The Ohio Supreme Court ruled the congressional map for the 2022-2032 election cycle to be unconstitutional. The map was drawn by the Republican controlled Ohio General Assembly and must be redrawn by Feb. 13. The map was determined to be unconstitutional gerrymandering based on 2015 and 2018 constitutional amendments.

In the Jan. 14 ruling, the court voted 4-3 to send the map back into litigation. Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor voted against the map, joining the court’s three Democrat justices as the majority. The three dissenting votes were from Republican justices.

“A party that musters no more than 55 percent of the statewide popular vote is positioned to reliably win anywhere from 75 percent to 85 percent of the seats in the Ohio congressional delegation,” wrote Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly, a Democrat, as part of the court’s majority decision. “By any rational measure, that skewed result just does not add up.”

The map was drawn as part of the 2022 redistricting process; a process state legislatures undergo to redraw their congressional districts based on data of the most recent Census. The United States Census Bureau’s website defines congressional districts as “the 435 [geographic] areas from which members are elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.”

The redistricting process garners controversy due to a state legislature’s ability to draw districts that increase a party’s political advantage. This process is called gerrymandering, defined on the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) website as “when the lines are drawn to manipulate the boundaries to predetermine the outcome of elections, hindering voters from voicing their interests through their votes.”

On the ACLU website, it says in its mission statement that it is a nonpartisan group that focuses on civil rights advocacy. The ACLU has filed lawsuits against both political parties for gerrymandering, including Benisek v. Lamone, where it supported Republican voters who protested against redistricted congressional lines, and in Gill v. Whitford, where it supported Democratic voters.

The Ohio Congressional District One of the 2012-2022 congressional district map includes a portion of Wayne County and the entirety of Warren County. Since 2012, a Republican candidate has won the representative seat every election cycle. In two election cycles prior to 2012, a Democrat and Republican both won once. The district falls under scrutiny by organizations such as the ACLU which claim it was an example of “cracking,” a gerrymandering tactic that splits apart areas that have large concentrations of voters for one party. The ACLU claims District One cracked apart Cincinnati, splitting up the Democratic vote to suppress it. Image is public domain via the Cleveland State University Website

Ohio’s current congressional map includes 16 districts, four of which have a Democrat representative, and 12 have a Republican representative. The map, drawn and put into effect by a Republican controlled Ohio General Assembly in 2012, fell under heavy scrutiny from the ACLU. The ACLU filed a lawsuit to retract and edit the map in 2018, citing that the map “packed” Democrats into four districts and “splits the Democratic vote in the remaining districts to dilute their votes — a tactic known as ‘cracking.’”

The ACLU cited Ohio Congressional District Nine as an example of packing. The district follows the Lake Erie shoreline, and includes five counties, but no county in whole. Democratic Candidate Marcy Kaptur has won every election cycle since 1982, including the entire lifespan of the 2012-2022 map. In 2018, she won 67.8 percent of the vote. The ACLU also cited Ohio Congressional District One as an example of cracking. The district is located in the Southwest portion of the state, and includes a portion of Wayne County and the entirety of Warren County. Since 2010, Republican Candidate Steve Chabot has won every election cycle. However, before the implementation of the 2012-2022 map, Democratic Candidate Steve Driehaus won the district in 2008. The ACLU argued these districts were uncompetitive, and suppressed the votes of Democrat populations.

The Ohio Congressional District Nine of the 2012-2022 congressional district map includes portions of Lucas, Ottawa, Erie, Lorain, and Cuyahoga counties, but no county in whole. Since 2012, a Democrat candidate has won the representative seat every election cycle. The district falls under scrutiny by organizations such as the ACLU which claim it was an example of “packing,” a gerrymandering tactic that groups together large numbers of voters from the same party, without regard for predetermined geographical boundaries. Image is public domain via the Cleveland State University Website.

To combat issues brought forth by the ACLU, along with other politicians and organizations, the Congressional Redistricting Procedures Amendment was introduced in Ohio. The amendment was placed on the ballot for the 2018 midterm elections, being approved by 74.89 percent of Ohio voters. This amendment put a new voting procedure in place for the Ohio General Assembly to approve congressional district maps. If the map at first does not garner bipartisan support, it must undergo revisions. If it still does not have bipartisan support, but has a majority vote in the Ohio General Assembly, the map will stay in place for four years instead of 10.

The rejected Republican controlled Ohio General Assembly’s proposed 15 congressional districts for the 2022-2032 congressional district map cycle. The Ohio General Assembly will put these districts into effect prior to the November 2022 midterm elections. Political analysis group, FiveThirtyEight, projects Democrats to win two house seats and Republicans to win 13. Critics of the map point out that while the map did follow the Ohio 2015 constitutional amendment that ruled cities, such as Cincinnati, must be grouped together to prevent partisan gerrymandering, the Republican controlled legislature districted Cincinnati with far away heavily Republican areas. Critics argue this suppresses the votes of the heavily black Democrat communities in Cincinnati. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected the map in a 4-3 ruling due to unconstitutional gerrymandering. Image is public domain via the Ohio State Legislature.

The 2018 Amendment expanded on the 2015 Ohio Bipartisan Redistricting Commission Amendment, also approved by Ohio voters, with 71.47 percent supporting the amendment. The amendment created a seven-person bipartisan drawing committee, with at least two minority party members, to replace the previous five person drawing committees that were not required to include minority party members. In addition, the amendment laid out guidelines for the committee on the drawing of districts; all districts must be of “contiguous territory, and the boundary of each district [must] be a single nonintersecting continuous line.” This prevented the splitting apart of major urban areas in the districting process, such as District One of the 2012-2022 map.

The Ohio Supreme Court cited these two amendments when deciding the constitutionality of the map. The Court said the Republican controlled General Assembly ignored the criteria set forth by the amendments. The court did not cite any specific examples of gerrymandering within the map.

“Ohio Republicans purposefully drew gerrymandered maps in spite of redistricting reforms — and they did so because they thought they could get away with it,” said Chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and former Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement about the court ruling. “Republicans underestimated the will of the people and the strength of the reforms, and in the end democracy has prevailed.”

The court ruling did not provide a clear answer on if the redrawing of the map will delay Ohio’s May 3 primary elections. Ohio congressional candidates must still register with state officials by March 4 to be included in the ballot.

The ACLU, The League of Women Voters Kent Chapter, and the office of Representative Tim Ryan did not respond to The Hive’s request for comment.


Opinion: Critical Race Theory Is Not The Enemy

People of Color Are Not Background Characters in U.S. History

by Havann Brown, editor-in-chief

JANUARY 2022  Too often, people attempt to sanitize and erase the uncomfortable parts of history. Conversations about systemic oppression are often ignored in schools and, in some cases, banned. For example, Arizona teachers were told they could face a $5,000 penalty if they allowed classroom discussions on “controversial” topics, such as racism. In Texas, teachers were advised to include books that offer opposing viewpoints of the Holocaust in their curriculum. Educators are being asked to reason with some of history’s greatest atrocities in an attempt to provide both sides of an issue. How does one show diverse a perspective of the Holocaust or slavery?

Critical race theory (CRT) is the latest topic to be banned from classrooms. As a complex legal theory, CRT states that “U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race,” according to the Brookings Institution. Opponents, however, have seized upon the phrase to describe anything they view as an intrusion of equity and inclusion into our education system. Despite popular belief, critical race theory is taught primarily in college-level courses. According to a survey conducted by the Association of American Educators, 96 percent of kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers said their schools did not require them to teach critical race theory.

Eight states have outlawed the teaching of CRT, a concept they believe will negatively influence their K through 12 students. In Ohio, House Bills 322 and 327 were presented to the House State and Local Government Committee. The bills seek to ban “divisive language” about the role of racism in American history and withhold funding from schools that act against it. The bans of critical race theory from the classroom are attempts to avoid the responsibility to depict historical and current racial inequities accurately.

Nearly 20 states have introduced or plan to introduce legislation banning concepts related to critical race theory. The legislation bans discussions about topics ranging from unconscious bias and privilege to discrimination and oppression. Additionally, opponents of CRT are hoping to stop the teaching of books that explore anti-racism. Photo by Havann Brown, editor-in-chief.

Topics people are calling critical race theory is simply acknowledging the fact that this country’s origins are rooted in prejudice. Politicians are framing discussions of these so-called “divisive concepts” as an attack on students when in reality, talking about America’s true history would only help them. The same legislators poorly attempting to redefine education standards can’t even define critical race theory or name the scholars behind it. Instead of educating themselves, they have manufactured a fight to keep accurate history out of schools because it might make certain students “feel bad.” If someone feels attacked after hearing about the racist history of their ancestors, they should do some self-reflection, not blame their history teacher.

As a student, I worry about the future of education. Will our country reach a point where people no longer learn about the Trail of Tears or Jim Crow Laws because they are deemed too controversial? At Bio-Med Science Academy, multiple teachers have told me they would quit their jobs if legislation passes that undermines their ability to educate students effectively. If good teachers leave, who will fill their place? Efforts to mask the events of the past hurt students and teachers alike, further weakening the educational system.

Concepts students learn in their classrooms greatly influence how they interact within society. Rather than preparing teachers to equip students with the necessary resources to navigate the world, politicians are preventing progress. Bans against CRT deny white students the opportunity to grapple with our country’s complex history. In addition, it subjects students of color to an educational experience that does not fully acknowledge their existence. Without addressing it in the classroom, some students will never have the skills or the context to help them understand why disparities exist between groups of people.

Critical race theory is not the enemy. The censorship of history only limits students’ exposure to inquiry and critical thinking. Teaching accurate history means teaching the truth. If the truth is rooted in racism, systemic oppression, and atrocities, then it needs to be shared.                    

People of color are not background characters in U.S. history, nor do we exist to perpetuate a false narrative. We are essential to the American story and deserve to have our accurate history told.

General Interest Opinion Politics

Supreme Court Discusses Abortion Bans; Similar Ohio Law Proposed

by Camryn Myrla, staff writer

DECEMBER 2021 — The Supreme Court reviewed a case regarding the right to an abortion on Dec. 1. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization discusses the Gestational Age Act, a Mississippi abortion ban. The Supreme Court also discussed a similar Texas law, Senate Bill (SB) 8, on Nov. 1. While the cases are still under review, both supporters and opposers of reproductive rights have taken action outside of the courts.

Laws such as the Gestational Age Act are known to be quite strict, outlawing almost all abortions. The only exception is in the case of a medical emergency, but not in cases of rape or incest. This has raised concerns over the constitutionality of the bans, leading to them being discussed by the Supreme Court. Photo provided by Jenna Bates.

The Gestational Age Act was first introduced in 2018, and was soon after challenged by Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Meanwhile, SB 8 was put into place after the Supreme Court declined to block it in September 2021.

Both laws contrast Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States. In Roe v. Wade, it was ruled that abortion bans “violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.”

Roe v. Wade protects the right to an abortion before the fetus can survive outside of the womb, or approximately 23 weeks. This is why stricter bans, such as at fifteen weeks, have been blocked by the courts.

However, SB 8 is different from past blocked six-week laws. Rather than violators of the ban being arrested, they can be sued by other citizens for up to $10 thousand.

This method of enforcing the law is mainly what the Supreme Court discussed, since it can be argued that the state is not implementing SB 8.

Most liberal judges, such as Elena Kagan, were completely against the law. Kagan stated during the discussion that SB 8 has “prevented every woman in Texas from exercising a constitutional right as declared by this court.”

Meanwhile, some conservative justices, like Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, were concerned that states could restrict other rights with this method. Kavanaugh worried that it “can be easily replicated in other states that disfavor other constitutional rights,” like freedom of speech and gun control.

Other conservative judges were not as critical. For instance, Justice Samuel Alito leaned towards letting these lawsuits under SB 8 take place.

In Ohio, Republican lawmakers have proposed a law similar to SB 8. Introduced on Nov. 2, House Bill 480 would allow anyone to sue whoever “aids or abets” an abortion.

Rep. Jena Powell was one to support this ban, calling it the “2363 Act” to refer to the number of abortions performed daily in the United States. “The sanctity of human life, born and preborn, must be preserved in Ohio,” she said in a statement. “Abortion kills children, scars families, and harms women. We can and must do better.”

Protests have erupted to challenge these laws, such as one at John Carroll University. Erika Bentley, a Bio-Med Science Academy junior, attended this rally on Nov. 16. The original goal was to protest House Bill 480, though Bentley said that the objective changed to educating others “about why it’s important to give everyone the choice over their body.”

“I wanted to go to the rally to make a difference. I want the choice over my body,” Bentley said. “This new law will not prevent abortion; it prevents safe ones.”

The Hive reached out to other Bio-Med students who supported these bans, but they refused to comment.


New Snapchat Tool Encourages Young People to Run for Office

by Camryn Myrla, staff writer

Snapchat is a messaging app with almost 300 million daily users as of July 2021. Ever since its release in 2011, Snapchat has been used mainly by teenagers for media sharing. There are also many in-app games available for anyone to use. Snapchat has started using its minis to provide young people with different resources to get involved in their government. Photo by Camryn Myrla, staff writer.

NOVEMBER 2021 – Snapchat introduced a new tool that tells its users how to run for office on Oct. 5. This initiative is one of the social media platform’s “minis,” meaning users can complete different activities without closing the app. Anyone with a Snapchat account can access it by typing “run for office” into the app’s search bar.

Once the program is opened, users can select social and political issues that they are passionate about, such as global warming, civil rights, and gun control. Run For Office will then list different positions in local or state offices to run for. If a position is selected by the user, Snapchat will show them the steps to run for it.

There are also candidate-recruitment organizations that partnered with Snapchat through this tool. These groups can help certain candidates through training and mentorships. For example, Emerge is an organization that assists Democratic women.

Snapchat has made previous efforts to help its users with similar issues, such as voter guides and voting checklists.

Users even have the ability to register to vote within the app. Snap Inc. officials reported that the app helped more than 1.2 million people register in 2020.

Sofia Gross, the head of policy partnerships and social impact for Snapchat, emphasized the importance of resources like these.

“We wanted every single Snapchatter, no matter who they are or where they come from or what their political beliefs might be, to recognize that there is an organization out there that will support them in taking this next leap and not only support them, but give them the tools and the resources and really the community that they need to go out there and do this thing,” Gross told NPR.

Snapchat claimed that 90 percent of its users are between the ages of 13 and 24, which means many are not old enough to run for office or even vote.

In response, Gross said that “if you’re too young, you probably know somebody who may be older and might be ready to take that leap.”

Keira Vasbinder, a junior, did not entirely agree with this. “Of course, people under the age of 18 are going to be around adults who can run for office, but they’re not all going to want to. There’s only a small percentage of people who would actually want to do that, and I doubt that they would be using Snapchat.”

In the past, Snapchat has raised concerns regarding privacy. For many, Run For Office deepened these worries.

To complete this mini, users are asked to submit their first and last name, email address, and ZIP code. Since many users cannot actually run for office, some believe this tool takes their personal information for no reason. However, Snap Inc. said that all of this information is self-submitted by the user. It is then sent to the 10 candidate-recruitment organizations partnered with the platform.

Run For Office informs its users about qualifications, election dates, and the current holder for different positions. Photo by Camryn Myrla, staff writer.

Vasbinder felt that Run For Office was irrelevant to most Snapchat users. “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of people who won’t even come across it. It’s not relevant to what they’re doing on Snapchat.”

Another junior, Grace Epling, was conflicted with her opinions on the tool. “I don’t think it affects me. I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not. Time will tell.”

Epling currently plans on registering to vote once she turns 18 in 2023, but she does not want to use Snapchat’s resources. “I’d rather go onto an official site than figure it out on Snapchat.”

College, Career, and Civics teacher Whitney Mihalik was also worried about the information being given by the social media platform. “I think it’s a really intriguing premise… I do have concerns about the information that Snapchat is giving [young people].”

However, Mihalik believed that every person comfortable with being involved with their government should do so. “Young people have the best access to information. As long as they feel comfortable critically thinking about the information… I think that it’s a duty.”

Young adults who are concerned about Snapchat’s reliability can use other websites to register to vote, such as Vote.gov.


Economic Crisis In Lebanon, New Government Formed

by Camryn Myrla, staff writer

OCTOBER 2021 – At least 28 people were left dead following a fuel tank explosion near Beirut, Lebanon on Aug. 15. The tank, illegally hidden by an unknown source, was being seized by the Lebanese army due to an ongoing fuel shortage affecting the entire country. People were lining up to receive gasoline, which was also a result of banks putting extreme restrictions on who could make withdrawals. Tensions arose even more when a militant group, Hezbollah, announced it would be forming a new government.

Lebanon is a relatively small nation, with a population of six million. Bordering Syria and Israel, the Mediterranean country is known for housing many different cultures, religions, and beliefs. However, Lebanese citizens have been suffering through multiple crises for years, many of which have been left out of the spotlight to people outside of the country. Photo by Camryn Myrla, staff writer.

Significant problems began to rise in October 2019 when the economy crashed. Public debt was growing. The banking sector — the industry that handles all things finance — was functionally bankrupt. Hundreds of thousands of citizens began to protest these conditions, causing the entire country’s cabinet to resign. Soon after, banks began to add harsh restrictions on withdrawals, meaning people were struggling to gain access to their own money. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that 77 percent of Lebanese families do not have enough food or enough money to buy food.

Conditions only became worse after the Beirut Port explosion in August 2020. A large fire in a warehouse ended in a massive explosion, killing more than 200 people. This blast, caused by the fire interacting with 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, was 10 percent of the size of the atomic bomb used on Nagasaki during World War Two in 1945. Approximately 300,000 people were left homeless.

The snowball effect continues to this day. Due to the government’s scarce resources, fuel imports have been limited and raised to a much higher price. Issa Petrol Trade, a leading fuel company in Lebanon, announced that a gallon of unleaded gas costs 202,400 Lebanese pounds, which roughly translates to $132.89 in the U.S..

Tamara Qiblawi, a CNN reporter for Lebanon, took to Twitter to discuss the hardships citizens face, “No fuel means no food. No fuel means no irrigation. No fuel means no trucks to transport whatever food and drinking water might be left. Perhaps it is time to start calling the situation in Lebanon for what it is. Not a crisis. Not a disaster. But a death sentence.”

The entire country was in political stalemate for over a year until it was announced on Sept. 10 that a new government would be formed.

This government would primarily be run by Hezbollah, a political party and militant group. The group, whose name translates to “Party of Allah,” has been labeled as a terrorist organization by the United States. Its political wing has been involved with the Lebanese government since 1992. The group has stated that one of their main goals is to achieve a “true democracy” by ending foreign occupation.

Cooper Lappe, a sophomore, knew about a separate issue occurring in Lebanon. “I believe there’s a massive refugee crisis going on there,” he stated, referring to Syrians seeking asylum in their neighboring country. Of the six million citizens in Lebanon, at least one million are refugees from Syria.

The crises that Lebanon is going through also affect the United States. The U.S. Department of State reported that more than $4 billion had been dedicated towards foreign assistance to Lebanon since 2010. Additionally, the U.S. and Lebanon have had a strong relationship when it comes to trade, which is currently at risk– one of our major exports to Lebanon is fuel.

However, conditions seemed to be slowly improving. The newly formed government received a funding injection from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They were able to receive $1.135 billion in Special Drawing Rights, an asset used by the IMF in place of actual currency. Yet, Sami Nader, director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, believed this was nowhere near enough money to heal the economy completely.

“It’s [worth] less than one month of fuel imports. That said, this money today has to be used wisely and transparently,” Nader told Al Jazeera, a Middle Eastern news channel. 

Despite this, the future of Lebanon can not be known for sure.

Interviews with other Bio-Med students revealed that most of the events taking place in Lebanon weren’t widely known.

“I don’t know anything about that,” a junior, Tessa Wood, claimed. “I could point it out on a map, but nothing really else.”

The ninth grade history teacher, Mr. William Ullinger, knew how complex and nuanced the situation was. He also mentioned how it could be difficult to discuss issues in countries outside of the U.S.

“People don’t want to pay attention to it because they don’t want to get to a point where…. You do not want to seem xenophobic for speaking against human rights issues in other countries.”

Ullinger believed that Lebanon’s mixture of religion and government makes it even harder to talk about what has been going on. “You should do it without looking at religion at all, and just as a human rights issue. But religion is so intertwined in [Lebanon] that it’s hard to.”

To learn more about donating to those in need, visit the Lebanon Red Cross website.


A Billionaire’s Space Race: Bezos’ and Blue Origin’s Fight to Win the Right to Take Humans Back to the Moon

by Logan Cook, staff writer

OCTOBER 2021 – NASA plans to return to the Moon by 2024, but there is controversy over who will take humans there. NASA’s Artemis program, the set of missions to take people to the Moon for the first time in 50 years, has been subject to many delays. Inadequate government funding has been a main cause of these delays and, more recently, billionaires have protested NASA’s plans.

NASA contracted three companies, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Dynetics, to design a Human Lander System (HLS) on April 30, 2020. The task given to these companies was to design and develop a lunar lander that could safely ferry humans from the Orion capsule (the deep space habitat for astronauts) in lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and back. NASA planned to take care of launching the astronauts from Earth via the Space Launch System (SLS) Rocket, and orbiting them around the Moon via the Orion Crew Capsule.

These Starship prototypes are ready for flight tests at SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas launch facility. SN15, pictured on the right, was the first Starship to complete a high altitude test flight without subsequent explosion. NASA chose SpaceX to modify this Starship design to be able to land the next humans on the Moon.

SpaceX and Dynetics chose to make their designs alone, while Blue Origin formed the “National Team,” a joint design team composed of Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.

NASA’s $2.89 billion contract to build the HLS was awarded solely to SpaceX, on April 26, 2021. Lisa Watson-Morgan, the project manager for HLS, stated “We’re confident in NASA’s partnership with SpaceX to help us achieve the Artemis mission and look forward to continuing our work toward landing astronauts on the moon,” when asked about the contract in a phone conference with the Washington Post.

A long time partner of NASA, SpaceX was founded by Musk in 2002, with the mission of pioneering the commercial space industry. NASA chose SpaceX to demonstrate the ability of its Falcon rockets to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) in 2006. SpaceX’s Falcon rockets proved themselves as reliable resupply vehicles and have launched both supply and manned missions to the ISS in collaboration with NASA.

Musk, a multibillionaire, has been able to use his fortune to foster innovation within SpaceX, namely leading the way for reusable rockets. SpaceX’s combination of innovation and continued success has made them one of NASA’s most trusted commercial partners.

SpaceX’s HLS design includes the Starship, a reusable, multiplanetary rocket and the largest rocket ever built. SpaceX hopes Starship, which is currently being developed and tested, will have the capabilities to take humans to both the Moon and Mars.

SpaceX is modifying a version of Starship to function solely as a lunar lander for HLS. SpaceX’s plan for a lunar landing involves launching the lander into Low Earth Orbit with subsequent Starship launches to refuel the lander. After being refueled, the lander would take its trip to the Moon. This process could take a total of 16 launches in two week increments, a focal point for the argument of Blue Origin, who is trying to win a piece of the contract.

One of the other companies chosen by NASA, Blue Origin, was founded by Bezos in 2000. Bezos, the founder of Amazon and a multibillionaire, claimed to be passionate about space, but rarely provided Blue Origin with the funding requested by engineers. Blue Origin’s flagship rocket, New Glenn, is still in the design stages, has faced multiple delays, and has yet to perform an orbital launch of a system designed in house.

The National Team split the overall design among its members, delegating the transfer vehicle to Northrop Grumman, the lunar lander to Blue Origin, the ascent vehicle to Lockheed Martin, and the navigation systems to Draper. The proposal does not involve designing new rockets, opting to use already proven United Launch Alliance rockets. The transfer vehicle, lunar lander, and Orion capsule would each launch separately, a total of three launches. The components would then dock together in lunar orbit.

Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper all publicly accepted NASA’s decision to award the HLS contract solely to SpaceX.

In contrast to its National Team partners, Blue Origin began a public relations campaign to protest the choice of SpaceX. Blue Origin designed a series of infographics that described the risks behind SpaceX’s plan, calling the plan “Immensely Complex & High Risk.” The National Team’s design was displayed on the infographics, being described as “Safe, Low-Risk, Fast.” Blue Origin’s argument stands on the basis of SpaceX’s possible 16 launches being unnecessary compared to the National Team’s proposed three launches.

Pictured is a Blue Origin infographic outlining the risks of SpaceX’s plan to take humans back to the Moon. Blue Origin has used these infographics to attempt to gain public support in an effort to overturn NASA’s choice of SpaceX as the sole company to design the next lunar lander.

Blue Origin used the public relations campaign to claim that NASA’s decision to only choose one company would breed uncompetitive business and delay the program. Blue Origin claimed that if NASA were to award the contract to two separate companies, it would incentivize the companies to work competitively and improve their designs.

Blue Origin filed a complaint based on these claims, with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in late April, which was just days after SpaceX won the contract. The GAO determined that NASA’s actions were fair and lawful, stating in their decision that “NASA’s current fiscal year budget did not support even a single [HLS] award.” The protest delayed SpaceX from starting the contract for 95 days.

Blue Origin filed the same complaint with the Federal Court of Claims (FCC), after the GAO’s ruling. A U.S. Judge set a hearing date of Oct. 14. In response, NASA delayed SpaceX’s ability to continue work on the contract until Nov. 1. The FCC has the ability to overturn NASA’s decision on the contract.

“I understand why NASA would choose SpaceX over Blue Origin,” said 10th-grader Zachary Totaro. “SpaceX is actively testing their design, and Blue Origin is not testing their design, yet. [Blue Origin] has been around for longer than SpaceX but has gotten less done, so I think NASA’s decision is just common sense.”

Musk took to Twitter to voice his view on Bezos’ actions. “The sad thing is that even if Santa Claus suddenly made their hardware real for free, the first thing you’d want to do is cancel it,” Musk wrote in a tweet. Musk and SpaceX have taken no legal action to counter Blue Origin’s.

All four National Team members, along with Musk and SpaceX, did not respond to The Hive’s request for commentary on the situation.

Politics STEM stem news