Staff Editorial: Cell phone policy is here to stay

Students looking at their phones. Students texting their friends. Students playing games on their phones in the library. These days are gone.

With the reinstatement of the cell phone ban, mixed feelings are felt throughout the school community. After the ban at the beginning of the school year, cell phones were not allowed to be used or seen between first and eighth period except for in the grade lounges. This unexpected change has left many of us unhappy and confused about what the rule is and why it was put in place.

However, the cell phone policy is in place whether we like it or not. We have already gotten our warnings and detentions. Not only students, but teachers have stopped carrying their cell phones all together. All of us – teachers, students, and faculty – are all subject to the new rule. We cannot control the cell phone policy but we can all control how we respond to it.

We need to learn to embrace the cell phone policy. It was put in place for a reason – to alleviate distractions and bolster focus. Many of us believe that the policy has succeeded at doing its job. The purpose of the school is to educate and inform students – if cell phones hinder its ability to do so, then the faculty is correct in its decision to take them away.

We all need to put aside our individual opinions toward the policy and as a whole community embrace it. The cell phone policy is here to stay, and it’s here with good reason. The whole community has witnessed the effect of cell phones; they discourage social interaction and often provide an easy distraction to students and teachers alike.

In the long run, this ban is going to help us more than it will hurt us. Even though technology is rapidly becoming a more prominent part of our lives and can be used for great purposes, it also has the potential to hinder our capacity to learn. Technology hasn’t been banned altogether – rather, the Middle School decided to ban only our phones, arguably the electronics used least for school and educational purposes. We’re still able to take advantage of all of the educational resources that technology provides. The ban specifically targeted cell phones because of their few uses educationally and the distractions that they presented both inside and outside of the classroom. Many students use their phones to play games, text friends, or watch videos. This can lead to a distracting environment for ourselves and others. We can still use our computers for school purposes.

However, our anguish is understandable as is the opposition to the ban and the hesitation to abide by it. We’ve been given so much freedom with technology in the past that the cell phone ban is a stark contrast to what we’re used to. Yet we need to realize why the cell phone policy was instated in the first place, and we need to start managing the use of our electronics without intervention from the administration.

The cell phone policy obviously is not without its own drawbacks; students relied heavily on the ID app as well as iHW, but we have to weigh the pros and cons and realize that while we are losing a little, we are gaining a lot.

MS Water Polo begins practice

By Saba Nia ’19

The middle school water polo team is comprised of 12 to 15 seventh and eighth graders and began its biweekly practices on Sept. 19. The practices, which are coached by newcomers Jorge Perez Romero and Sasha Bucur, take place every Monday and Wednesday at the Marshall Center pool from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

The season marks the revival of the middle school water polo team which, in previous years, was abandoned due to a low number of participants. Middle school math teacher and former head of the middle school team Daniel Reeves ’94 appreciates the reintroduction of the middle school water polo team.

“We’ve – as in the varsity team – always appreciated the support, reinforcement and experience of players who’ve come up through the [water polo] program. It would be awfully nice if we were to gather momentum and get that training ground for [the water polo team] open again,” Reeves said.

The middle school team serves as an introduction to the sport and focuses on the basics of water polo. Though the team is large enough to play in tournaments, the team will not compete in any matches. During practices, players first complete a swimming warm-up, then spend the rest of their time learning the basics of the game and practicing swimming with and shooting balls.

The middle school program differs from higher level teams that spend more time on tactics and getting players in shape. Romero, who also coaches the Los Angeles Valley College water polo team, has students focus more on the basics of the game than training and wants to provide a fun and welcoming environment to the sport.

“I want to make the kids interested in water polo and have them play in high school,” Romero said.

The middle school team is completing its goals of getting students interested in water polo in the future, and students are not only excited about the remainder of the season but about future ones as well.

“I think water polo is a very fun sport, and I’ll probably continue it in high school,” Abby Wiesenthal ’20 said.

Seventh Grade Retreat: Catalina

By Alison Oh ’19

Seventh graders headed to Catalina for retreat during Oct. 12-15. As only 112 spots were available for the trip, spots were given through a lottery.

Students were split into 8 groups of 14 for the duration of retreat. Each group was assigned a teacher supervisor as well as a naturalist from the Naturalists at Large program.

The naturalists, together with the teachers, helped the students enjoy the Catalina experience, encouraging them to try new things and make new friends. The adults worked to ensure student safety.

“What was fun for me was getting to be close with the kids in my group […] Everyone was really supportive of one another. Our Naturalist was intuitive and flexible,” Kate Benton, a Catalina group leader and seventh grade dean, said.

While in Catalina, students participated in a number of activities including games to encourage teamwork as well as outdoor activities like snorkeling, kayaking and hiking.

“During the kayak wars, we all went on kayaks with a partner and tried to flip other people’s boats. We would jump into the water and flip the teachers’ or our friends’ boats. That was really fun,” Elias Peter ’21 said.

Catalina, also known as Santa Catalina Island, is 26 miles from the Middle School and is home to varieties of wildlife

Students say they were able to explore Catalina’s beautiful wildlife, including the variety of wild animals, together with their naturalists and teachers.

“There were bison everywhere. I think [seeing them] was one of my favorite parts of retreat,” Ally Landecker ’21 said.

Many students especially enjoyed the opportunity to see marine life during the optional night snorkeling experience.

“My favorite part of retreat was when we got to go snorkeling at night. It was kind of cold and dark, but I had a lot of fun with my friends,” Peter said.

Seventh graders said they were happy with the experiences they had at their first retreat, emphasizing that the opportunity to spend some time away from school together with their peers helped them to make new friends and grow closer to old friends.

“I didn’t expect it, because I already knew a lot of the people in my group, but I actually met a lot of new people and had a lot of fun,” Athalia Meron ’21 said.


Li becomes the newest Chinese teacher

By Samantha Yeh ’20

Joyce Li has joined the world languages department as a new Chinese teacher. Li, who has been teaching for 16 years, teaches the Chinese 1B course for seventh and eighth graders.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in education from the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, Li started teaching Chinese for international students at BIEM, the Beijing Institute of Economic Management, a school for older students interested in learning Mandarin for school or jobs.

“When I was teaching in Beijing, I had students from all over the world. Some of them didn’t even speak English,” Li said.

Li moved to the U.S. six years ago and attended Pepperdine University to earn a graduate degree in education. After teaching at the MUSE School in Calabasas, Calif., she then decided to teach at Harvard-Westlake because of its good reputation. Although she has only been teaching for a few weeks, Li said she already loves the sense of community.

“Before I worked here, I heard the students work so hard and respect teachers… [I] heard everyone is welcomed into the community,” Li said.

Li hopes to match the school mission with her class goal. She believes that it is not only important to be excellent but to enjoy the process. Li pursues her class goal with games and activities on a day to day basis.

“Miss Li always tries to make class fun and interesting by playing games that help us learn,” Caitlin Chung ’20, a student in Li’s 1B class, said.

Book Bistro Skypes Author Stephanie Kuehn

By Alison Oh ’19

Members of Book Bistro conducted a Skype session with author Stephanie Kuehn during break on Oct. 21. Kuehn is the author of the young adult novels “Charm & Strange,” “Complicit” and Book Bistro’s October read “Delicate Monsters.”

During the video call, club members asked Kuehn questions about her book “Delicate Monsters,” a psychological thriller centering on three teenagers struggling with mental illnesses and violent behavior. Although the novel is graphic and deals with some mature themes, members of Book Bistro said that they enjoyed the read.

“The book wasn’t like the books I normally read. I liked that it addressed a lot of issues that aren’t commonly addressed in [young adult] novels,” Book Bistro member Taia Cheng ’19 said.

The club also skyped with Kuehn last school year to discuss her sophomore novel “Complicit.” Librarian Anna Martino was able to set up the meeting after she emailed her through her website’s “Contact Me” page. According to Martino, the first Skype session’s success led to this year’s event.

Similarly to last year, this year’s Book Bistro’s members had a positive reaction to the Skype call with Kuehn.

“It was really interesting talking to Stephanie Kuehn again. She’s such a nice and open person, and she was was willing to answer all of our questions,” club leader Sarah Moon ’19 said.

9th Grade Lounge Temporarily Closed

By Sam Ko ’19 and Saba Nia ’19

The ninth grade lounge was closed Oct. 22-26 due to disruptive behavior and mishandling of the area.

According to ninth grade dean Betsy Ilg, the abusive treatment of the lounge included furniture being damaged and moved from their designated spots. In addition, students had not only been eating and drinking in a forbidden area but had left multiple messes and stains behind.

“We drew the line when furniture was being used in a manner that could’ve resulted in hurt kids and that did result in damaged furniture.  When the center table was moved so far that it strained the wiring that tethered it to the floor, well, that was the last straw. Throw in the fact that kids were eating and drinking and leaving behind stains, there was no alternative to re-achieving sanity and safety.  We had to close it down,” Ilg said.

During the ban, students were only allowed to use the lounge to speak to the deans or to use their cell phones to contact parents or coaches. Ninth graders who relied upon the lounge as a study area were displeased when their exclusive area, a privilege, was taken away.

“It was annoying because we were all punished for the actions of a handful of people,” Esther Grover ’19 said.

Ninth graders were allowed back into the longue after a few days on the condition that “it be kept clean” and students “behave appropriately,” according to the sign on the lounge.

“We understand and even love that our students feel so comfortable in the lounge, yet we need to remind them that as comfortable as they are, they must still respect the space and the people and things in it,” Ilg said.

Girls attend GBLA Event

By Kaitlin Musante ’19

Ninth and tenth grade girls gathered along with 7,000 other high school girls from Los Angeles to participate in all-day event celebrating girl power on Sept. 29. The event was part of the Girls Build LA Challenge, an event hoping to empower girls and inspire them to be innovative through the story of Malala Yousafzai, an activist from Pakistan and the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

“It was really awesome being in a stadium with so many other people who were all experiencing the same movie. Malala has so much courage and bravery. It is so inspiring to see how she can do so much with her life and carry on after such a terrible experience,” Anja Clark ’19 said.

The students departed from school before first period, arriving at Microsoft Theater at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles for the West Coast premiere of “He Named Me Malala”. Here, students listened to a short introduction speech and watched the premiere. Afterwards, the students listened to three speeches and a pre recorded speech by first lady Michelle Obama before arriving back at school around 3:00 pm.

“The documentary itself was incredible and I was able to gain so much knowledge about [Malala’s] story that I would not have otherwise known. Having the story told from her own perspective was inspiring, and in my opinion, touched the hearts of all the girls who were there in a more meaningful way,” Gaia Murphy ’19 said.

Shauna Altieri, the coordinator of the event, decided to hold it to encourage girls to be great thinkers and innovators in our community. Students who attended enjoyed engaging in the event and being involved in their community.

“The event was organized to inspire girls to pursue their education and ignite powerful, effective changes in Los Angeles and the world… The film and Mrs. Obama were certainly awe inspiring and we all left feeling empowered to lend our voices to positive change in the world,” Altieri said.

Ninth graders create HWFL

By Jack Safir ’19

Ninth graders have been playing football at break on Tuesdays and Thursdays as part of The Harvard-Westlake Football League, dubbed the HWFL. The league, a middle school tradition for a few years, is a ninth grade exclusive two-hand touch football league, with four teams and seven players on each team.

“The HWFL started with Kevin [Chen] ‘19 coming up with the idea to do what the ninth graders did last year, but make it better. So he became the commissioner because he couldn’t play, due to his injury. Kevin created the schedule,” 2 Star Recruits linebacker Alex Russell ‘19 said.

Once the idea for the league was created, four team captains were elected, and a draft took place. The teams in the HWFL are the “By the Wooders” dressed in white, “Sauce Squad” dressed in red, “Two Star Recruits,” dressed in Blue and the “Money Ballers,” dressed black.

“I’d say that I’m the captain for my team, but the captains were really only used for the draft. Once the season began, the whole team started leading together,” Sauce Squad quarterback Jake Grode ‘19 said.

Each team also has their own cheerleaders. Female students were drafted by the members of HWFL to support the teams.

“The HWFL is a lot of fun because the excitement of the games are great, and I get to cheer with my friends,” 2 Star Recruits cheerleader Maija Wainwright ‘19 said.

The games have taken a brief break but will resume after retreat.

7th Grade Senators Elected

By Saba Nia ’19

Chelsea Cho ’21, Austin Lee ’21, Brooke Stanford ’21, and Jacky Zhang ’21 were elected as seventh grade representatives on Nov. 12. The four students were chosen out of 29 candidates, which is the largest number of candidates in recent history, according to seventh grade dean Jonathan Carroll.

Immediately following speeches during a seventh grade class meeting on Nov. 10, elections took place via an online, anonymous survey that, according to Carroll, most if not all of the grade participated in. The new senators were sworn in during assembly on Monday.  In an email, the four elected senators gave enthusiastic comments about their new roles and are looking forward to making changes on campus.

Chelsea Cho:

I feel really excited and lucky to be elected into the Student Council since I love Harvard-Westlake and I wanted to be able to help out the school and give back…I hope to make it so that everyone in the seventh grade has a say and are open to telling the Student Council any worries or about things that are and aren’t fair in their lives at school. I ran for Student Council since I wanted to give back to the students and community that I’ll be with for the next few years of my life, and I wanted to become more involved in the school.

Austin Lee:

I ran [for Student Council] because I wanted to bring a working, dedicated member to Student Council who makes everyone around campus happy, and that is what I hope to do.

Brooke Stanford:

I hope to bring a new perspective to student council because as a seventh grader, I know how hard transitioning from elementary school to middle school is, and I hope to make everyone feel extremely comfortable in this new environment. I ran [for Student Council] because I’ve always been interested in student government, and to feel like I have an important role at Harvard-Westlake really means a lot to me.

Jacky Zhang:

I hope I can bring some interesting ideas to Student Council, and I will do my best to handle our budget to make Student Council-sponsored events better. A lot of people are so stressed about their grades, and I hope I can change that by making some activities to let everyone get away from academic classes for a few hours and just have fun…I want to bring my ideas to Student Council and make our school a better place than it already is.

Best Picks on Netflix

By Jake Davidson ’19 Lucas Gelfond ’19 and Alex Goldstein ’19

With the thousands of options available to watch on Netflix, we are here to help you decide what to watch. In each issue we will each recommend a movie and/or TV show based on a particular theme. In this issue we will give you an overview of what we love right now.

TV Reccomendations

Lucas: ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ (TV-14)

Netflix original “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is simultaneously cringe-worthy (with a good amount of second-hand embarrassment), hilarious, accurate and is a fun watch with an exceptional cast. Set in New York city, previous cult member Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) is starting a new life from the ground up with a weird past and an almost eighth grade education. While only the first season has been released, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, and the episodes are filled with wacky surprises and a fantastic cast also including Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski.

Rating: B+


Alex: ‘Law and Order: SVU’ (TV-14)

This award-winning crime thriller starring Mariska Hargitay is a must watch for anyone who enjoys mystery and suspense. Every episode centers around a crime, such as murder or abduction, and shows the NYPD Special Victims Unit solving the case. The episodes are full of shocking twists and will often wait until the last second to reveal the end of the crime. The main cast is constantly rotating and the show has incredible guest stars in every episode such as Robin Williams, Kathy Griffin and Abigail Breslin. The show has 16 seasons so far and the last four are available on Netflix now.

Rating: A-


Jake: ‘Parks & Recreation’ (TV14)

When someone mentions the words “Parks and Rec” in a conversation, it buzzes in the minds of everyone around them, and for good reason.  This 14-time Emmy-Nominated sitcom stars Amy Poehler as the bubbly Leslie Knope, who turns the dull concept of a city’s Parks and Recreations department into a goofy plot.  Throughout the seven seasons of its airtime on NBC (the first six of which are currently streaming on Netflix), character development is a main theme in pushing the plot.  Namely, cute and “will they or won’t they?” relationships were showed early and often, as well as a long line of horrible ones that actually make the watcher laugh out loud.  Overall, the production values of the show are very high and is highly recommended for Netflixers who enjoy other sitcoms such as “The Office (US)”, “How I Met Your Mother” and “Community.”

Rating: B+


Movie Reccomendations:

Jake: ‘Forrest Gump’ (PG-13)

This ground-breaking Best Picture Oscar-winning film features Tom Hanks as a man who tries to live his life searching for his childhood belle, Jenny, but at the same time either creates or participates in some of the most influential and controversial events the United States has ever known.  The accompanying soundtrack to this film contains music by such major artists as Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, The 5th Dimension and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  “Forrest Gump” is truly a wonder to behold in the film industry because while the plot on the surface is simple, the undertones of Forrest’s behaviors help it live up to the hype.

Rating: A-


Alex: ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ (R)

This oscar-winning movie stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as an unlikely pair who are thrown together under odd circumstances. Cooper plays Pat Solatano Jr., a man struggling with bipolar disease, who is trying to get back together with his wife. In trying to deliver a love note to her, he starts an unconventional relationship with Tiffany (Lawrence). “Silver Linings Playbook” is beautifully acted and really puts a new spin on a classic romantic comedy.

Rating: A


Lucas: “Donald Glover: Weirdo” (NR)

The brilliant one hour standup special “Donald Glover: Weirdo” is hilarious. Combining weird, off-color humor with the multitalented Donald Glover, “Weirdo” insures an hour of laughter. Filled with stories from Glover’s own life, it’s sure to surprise. The special contains some inappropriate themes and isn’t recommended for young kids. “Weirdo” is a fantastic watch for (not) the whole family!
Rating: A