Parenting the Mental Health Generation

Delayed Finals and A Controversial Student Editorial

March 26, 2024 CATCH, Community Action Together for Children's Health Season 3 Episode 7
Delayed Finals and A Controversial Student Editorial
Parenting the Mental Health Generation
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Parenting the Mental Health Generation
Delayed Finals and A Controversial Student Editorial
Mar 26, 2024 Season 3 Episode 7
CATCH, Community Action Together for Children's Health

When Glenbrook North High School delayed finals at the last-minute due to the weather, it launched a firestorm of anger aimed at the administration.  In response, student editors at the school newspaper took a stand that brought its own criticism.  In this episode of Parenting the Mental Health Generation, we meet the authors of that editorial, Avery Copeland, and Kaitlyn Lu. They share the backlash they faced and why they believe their peers need to "suck it up" in the face of adversity. Tune in to discover how teenagers and parents alike can cultivate resilience and embrace growth in the face of challenge.

The Torch Editorial: Students, Suck It Up

Music Credit: Line Up / POND 5
©CATCH 2024

To find all of the resources CATCH provides to caregivers of young people struggling with their mental health, go to

Follow us on social media
Facebook/Instagram/YouTube: @catchiscommunity

CATCH, Community Action Together for Children's Health, is a 501(c)3 that provides support and education for families around mental health topics. Original content and materials from CATCH and its collaborators are for informational purposes only. They are provided as a general resource and are not specific to any person or circumstance.

Show Notes Transcript

When Glenbrook North High School delayed finals at the last-minute due to the weather, it launched a firestorm of anger aimed at the administration.  In response, student editors at the school newspaper took a stand that brought its own criticism.  In this episode of Parenting the Mental Health Generation, we meet the authors of that editorial, Avery Copeland, and Kaitlyn Lu. They share the backlash they faced and why they believe their peers need to "suck it up" in the face of adversity. Tune in to discover how teenagers and parents alike can cultivate resilience and embrace growth in the face of challenge.

The Torch Editorial: Students, Suck It Up

Music Credit: Line Up / POND 5
©CATCH 2024

To find all of the resources CATCH provides to caregivers of young people struggling with their mental health, go to

Follow us on social media
Facebook/Instagram/YouTube: @catchiscommunity

CATCH, Community Action Together for Children's Health, is a 501(c)3 that provides support and education for families around mental health topics. Original content and materials from CATCH and its collaborators are for informational purposes only. They are provided as a general resource and are not specific to any person or circumstance.


[00:00:00] Dr. Lisa: What's preventing our kids from building their resilience muscle? 

Amy O., CATCH Executive Director: In a recent editorial published by the Torch, Glenbrook North High School's student newspaper, two students called on their peers to 'suck it up' sometimes when faced with challenges or when things don't go their way.

Dr. Lisa: These students pointed out that adverse circumstances don't give the green light to maliciousness or spite, but instead present an opportunity for growth and a resilient attitude.

Amy O.: I'm Amy. Today, we are here with the authors of that article, Avery Copeland, and Kaitlyn Lu.

Dr. Lisa: Kaitlyn is a junior. In addition to her work at the paper, she's interested in creative and food writing. 

[00:01:05] Amy O.: Avery is a senior and she's the executive news editor and a copy editor for the Torch. She will attend the University of Missouri next year studying journalism and psychology with a minor in music. 

Dr. Lisa: Let's explore developing our resilience. Why does it matter? How can parents help? And when do parents get in the way? 

Amy O.: Put in your earbuds, take these 30 minutes for you, and join our conversation with Avery and Kaitlyn. Welcome in, you guys. Thanks for being here.


[00:01:35] Avery: Thank you.

Kaitlyn Lu, Torch Editor, GBN Junior: Thank you. 

Dr. Lisa: Do you want each to introduce yourselves so we can try to hear your voices with your names?

Avery: My name is Avery Copeland. I'm a senior at Glenbrook North. I'm the executive news editor for the Torch. And along with that, I've been getting more involved in music recently with the variety show and I'm doing pit for the Glenbrook musical. 

Dr. Lisa: Amazing And Kaitlyn? 

[00:01:57] Kaitlyn: First of all, thank you so much for having us. We are so excited for this opportunity. My name is Kaitlyn Lu. I'm a junior attending Glenbrook North High School. I'm also part of the Torch, and I'm a Features Editor and also the Exec Graphics Editor. I love eating, I love writing, and I love putting those two things together to document my own journey with different food cultures around the world.

Dr. Lisa: Well thank you both for being here. 

Amy O.: Let’s just start out our conversation today you guys. Can you just tell us a little bit about what happened on the morning when final exams were postponed due to the weather that prompted you to write the article for the Torch, exactly what went down that day?

Avery: I woke up and I saw so much snow outside and I just remember thinking there's no way there's school today. I checked my phone and I saw an email from the superintendent, explaining that the finals were postponed. Of course it was frustrating to have my whole schedule uprooted. That was absolutely frustrating. I saw, 'Oh wow, this email was sent at 7:30' I wonder if people were at school already, I hope everyone's okay, but, in general, I was just, like,

[00:03:07] Amy O.: Did you just roll over and go back to sleep?

Avery: Yeah. My world isn't ending. Like, who cares, really?

Dr. Lisa: And so then how did we get from there to the article you ended up writing? Were people acting like their world was ending?

Avery: At least in my experience, I was on my phone waking up and I opened Instagram and the Glenbrook North post came up where they said, ' finals postponed today' and I took a look at the comments and there were probably, like, 30 or 40 by the time I got there and it was full of burner accounts and people pretending to be part of the school board, or like, completely fake accounts, saying things about, the administrators, and just totally out of control. Obviously, I know that a lot of that was probably just a joke, and people were frustrated because they had said 5:30, and they sent the email kind of late. 

Amy O.: So if I recall correctly, Kaitlyn, the district had said the night before that they were going to let the students and the faculty know by 5:30am because there had been a threat for bad weather, and in fact the call was not made until quite a bit later. Is that correct? Is that what people were taking issue with?

[00:04:14] Kaitlyn: That is correct. And I think what really sparked the frustration was that a lot of students I know stayed up the entire night just waiting for that email, waiting for that notice, and they didn't get it at 5:30. Everyone was really, really stressed out. We didn't know whether or not we wanted to study, whether or not we should just go to bed. And so I think this confusion sparked this frustration and annoyance at the administration. I was lucky because I didn't leave the house. I was putting my shoes on, and my dad came running downstairs and he was like, 'Kaitlyn you don't have to go to school.' And I was like, that's so exciting. 

Dr. Lisa: It sounds like it was a frustrating morning. It also sounds like people got very reactive to that frustration. Can you tell us a little bit about that? And conversations maybe you two had that then led to writing this article. Because your article is so in line with our mission and trying to reframe negative events and turn them into opportunities for growth and resilience, but it sounds like that's not necessarily the approach that others were taking in that moment.

[00:05:17] Amy O.: And when you answer that, I'd be curious to know if you were surprised by the reactions that you saw or whether you were like, 'Oh boy. Here we go again.'

Avery: After I saw the Instagram post and all of the comments from students, I remember I saw my mom looking in the GBN parents Facebook group and she was mentioning to me how there were parents in there saying, they emailed the school calling for 'no harm' finals and there were apparently people who said some of the administrators should be fired because of this horrible lapse in communication. 

Amy O.: Because no one ever makes a mistake? 

Avery: Right. My mom and I were talking about it. These people are human. They make mistakes. And then when we were talking about this article, and by we, I mean, the rest of the editorial board, we collectively agreed that most of us weren't surprised by the reaction of the ‘no harm' finals. For as long as I’ve been at GBN I feel like I’ve seen so many petitions for the 'no harm' or just cancel finals because of one thing or another so I wouldn't say it was me being surprised, but I think we all agreed this is so minor. We need to pick our battles.

[00:06:24] Amy O.: Can you clarify either Kaitlyn or Avery, to some of the parents who may be listening who have younger kids and wouldn't understand, what is a 'no harm' foul? Foul. 'No harm' final.

Kaitlyn: A 'no harm' final is basically as its name suggests 'no harm.' It's not going to bring your grade down. If it boosts your grade up, you can include the final grade, but if not, you keep your original grade. This has been a really hot topic. Very controversial at our school, other schools having optional finals, some having no finals at all, so I think with this event that people just started pushing for 'no harm' finals. They wanted an excuse to have it. 

[00:07:01] Amy O.: I remember very clearly that day saying to myself, wait a minute, so the finals that were being held, it was a Friday, no?

Avery: I, I think it was a Friday, it was the first day of finals. 

Amy O.: Everyone had studied, everyone was prepared for those finals, and now we were suggesting that they were going to be pushed by a day, and all of a sudden, the nature of the finals should be shifted. Why did parents and students react that way?Like, what do you think perpetuated them to say, "Okay, well, we're pushing the finals by a day, so now they have to be 'no harm.'" When in reality, kids should have been prepared for the finals anyway, right? So what do you think was the impetus behind that? 

Kaitlyn: For me, and I know that other editorial board members on Torch and other Torch members talk about this, but it's really about this mindset that 'you're ready.' For me, I had my Calculus final, on that day, on Friday, and I was mentally prepared. I knew everything and pushing it back you forget everything during the weekend. You lose this sense that you are able to do the final. You're able to do it well. It's really hard building that mindset and needing to tell yourself, "Oh, I'm not taking this final. I have to go through all of that studying again, before the final. Go through all of that mental preparation." It's something that I think caused a lot of students stress and also made them even more anxious about something that is already so stressful. 

Dr. Lisa: Can I ask about the stress element of that? One of the first things you said was people were expecting a response by 5:30 am so they were staying up all night waiting for that response to come and then it never came. I mean, as a psychologist, I hear that and my hair gets raised off of my whole body knowing that, you know, lack of sleep is going to actually increase stress. It's going to make everyone less available to do well on that exam. Can you talk about that culture a little bit? Like, why are people staying up all night waiting for that memo? 

[00:09:03] Avery: Part of it is finals themselves are so intimidating for a lot of students. Especially at a school like GBN where everyone's kind of competing with each other and everyone's very academically driven. Everyone wants to do really, really, really well. To know that people have two tests that can determine their entire grades. That is really scary for many people, especially for those people who may have grades on the borderline. People who are thinking a lot about college. In an environment like GBN where everything is so, so competitive, and part of it is just how great of a school GBN is, it makes things like finals all the more stressful and you feel more pressure to study really hard or try and do really well because everyone else is doing it and you want to kind of be on that level. It's a little social too. That's just part of it. But I think all of that extra competition fuels the, "I'll just stay up a little longer and learn this last thing." And then, to wake up and then find out that it seems like it's all for nothing, that's frustrating.

[00:10:06] Amy O.: So when your editorial staff sat down and you took all of that, what you guys just described, into consideration, I mean, it sounds like students were really put out by this cancellation. It was very stressful. What made you decide, instead of writing,"Dear District 225, thanks a lot for the late cancellation. You screwed us all." You know, what made you guys decide to take the other road and remind people of the importance of accepting a pivot, developing resilience, and the things that you wrote about in your article?

Kaitlyn: Towards the end, things just got very out of hand. And I think what stood out to Avery and I and also the staff is that they were demanding firing the administration over this. I know that the administration made a mistake, and they were trying their best to fix things. They were sending apologies and I think we felt that this was such extreme measures over this one thing. And also as I was reading these Instagram comments, I found myself getting mad. I was enraged and I sat back, and I closed my computer. I was like, "What am I mad about?" So I think it's just this environment that's really stimulating this anger, this frustration, but it's really based on this one mistake.

[00:11:28] Dr. Lisa: That makes so much sense to me. I mean, negativity breeds negativity. The more we are around that, the more people are getting upset around us, the more upset we get. And the worse off we all are, right? We can see that we know that, but in that moment when we are surrounded by that group think, it's very difficult to pull yourselves out of it. Did you get any backlash? Sorry, Amy, I know you're about to ask a question, but I'm curious if you got any backlash from your peers in writing an article like this, the ones that were the most upset and that were, you know, demanding the firing of administration, and here you are trying to find the bright side of this event. How did that feel to them?

[00:12:09] Avery: Short answer, yes. There was backlash. Honestly, a lot of it, I didn't really see myself in person. People were telling me. People from Torch. People from the board. People were passing along the things people were saying. Supposedly people thought we got paid by the administration to write that because of the direction it took. It was controversial. A lot of people really liked it. And they thought, "Wow this is so interesting coming from students." I had a lot of teachers mention that. And I think some students also did feel that way, but then from students that were trying to get 'no harm' finals, they reacted a lot more harshly. On the day it came out, people were trying to find the names of the people who wrote the article so they could find them. I don't really know what was up with that, but I remember seeing that. And I was like, "Oh my God, it's just finals. Move on."

[00:13:01] Amy O.: So, I guess the good news here is that people read your editorials. So congratulations. That's really good news. Was there any conversation after your article came out about your collective mental health as students at GBN and how your article was actually promoting a sense of calm and peace and ability to overcome challenges. Did that come up at all or was it all focused on what the article should have been? 

Kaitlyn: Yeah, there were a lot of conversations about how we were taking a really controversial stance, but what I found was interesting was that some students really liked this specific sentence and then another student came up to me and said, she really didn't like the sentence. She thought it was outrageous. It was about being independent, that high school students should be independent. They shouldn't have their parents make all their decisions. And I remember someone saying that this is the nature of our community. And I was like, "wow, so that's how you think." But then other students came up and said, this is just such a powerful stance, this is definitely something students should do. And I thought it was fascinating that two students could have such distinct interpretations of our work.

[00:14:20] Amy O.: That is a pivot that I somehow want to make here because one of the things that we really wanted to ask you guys about is, how much of what happened on that day and in the days after it and with your article was fueled by parents trying to speak for or in place of their kids, which is something that CATCH believes very strongly, both because data supports it and because we just know it to be good practice, that kids your age need to make their own decisions and they need to get through challenges on their own. Of course, with support, you're not an adult. So, how much of what happened was fueled by the parent's side? And what messages can we talk about in this group here today to help parents understand why that makes it even more challenging sometimes?

Avery: When we were talking about the idea at the roundtable. We were saying we want to use the GBN parents example. I remember looking through those things that people's parents were writing, and I was angry. I think a lot of the response the school received was from students, and whether that was, like, constructive or not, I don't know. But I think the whole parent side of it was definitely a pretty massive part of it because again like when I was seeing those, I was like why these students can’t just say it themselves if they feel so passionate about it. I think part of what we were trying to get across in the editorial was we're in high school and we're not like fully functioning adults yet, but we should be able to not hide behind our parents. If you're really that passionate about something like this, you should be the one who's advocating for change, and you shouldn't have to rely on your parents to do it for whatever reason.

[00:16:12] Kaitlyn: What I saw was just this huge divide in parents' responses. So I know some parents as Avery mentioned just hopped onto Facebook and started posting comments about firing administration. I think that was definitely fueled by seeing their child stressed out. And I think the other side of this was more like what my parents took. If you're truly this enraged, then prove that you can do it. 

Dr. Lisa: How about that?

Kaitlyn: Right. 

Amy O.: Can we have your parents on the next podcast?

Kaitlyn: Right, so I just think my parents just did an incredible job. They were like, if this is something that you think impacts you that much, take it as an opportunity to grow. Show that even though these things are out of our control, we're able to just adapt to it. These will be skills that will be really, really important later on. And not that you'll thank the school for making the mistake, but it will be a valuable lesson for you. So, I think there's just this huge divide in responses, which is all fueled by their child's stress and their own emotions towards the event.

[00:17:17] Amy O.: What do you think it is about your parents that can be comfortable when you are not. When you're stressed, and you were, you had studied calculus, you had to postpone calculus, that was not an easy, you know, pivot for you. What do your parents do, what is it about them that allows them to find that calm?

Kaitlyn: I think what makes my parents just amazing, my parents have this relationship and it's not academic based. So, my mom knows all of the drama that goes on in my life and I know about her girl drama. So, just through that, we really learned so much about each other and I can open up about what's making me stressed so she's not just seeing me stressed out, I'm able to tell her exactly what's making me stressed out, so she knows how to respond. If she saw me stressing out and going crazy over this, then she'd probably be demanding things from the school and like saying, "Why are you doing this?" But because I was able to open up to her and say, I was really mentally prepared for this, then she was able to give me advice about how to change my mindset a little bit. So, I thought that's just something wonderful about my parents. yeah.

Dr. Lisa: You flew through a few words there that I think we need to bring back to the forefront that our relationship, which is not about academics, by the way, and then you continued as though that was a typical thing potentially around here. But it's not. And we talk about that all the time, and our podcast episode, I think, two episodes ago, was about exactly that, the overemphasis that parents place on checking their kids grades and making sure that their academics are on top. Are your peers resentful when parents are involved? I'm really curious about how kids feel about their parents being really involved in their lives to the point that they're speaking up for them when the kids are stressed, trying to solve their problems for them on top of their schoolwork. What does that feel like to teenagers? 

[00:19:22] Avery: For my mom, she goes in and checks my grades from time to time and I'm fine with that. She's just checking in and if something's up, I know she'll come to me. I think the role of a parent is really kind of to provide guidance or give an opinion or help the kid out to handle a situation or like kind of get a new perspective, maybe like help them form their opinion. But again, when a parent is so involved whether it's like checking your grades all the time or just kind of trying to be so on top of everything that it's like you're suffocating or you're smothered, then I think that's kind of too much. A parent should be pushing their kid along, but like in a situation like the finals, it's totally fine to have a conversation with a parent and maybe, add on to your own perspective. But when it becomes parents, posting angry things and opening up their computer and typing word vomit because they're frustrated, that's too much. And I think we should kind of know our places with that if I'm being honest.

Dr. Lisa: And I think about when you all head off to college, or whatever comes after that, I mean, there does come a time where they have to figure out how to solve those problems. And it's really hard to figure that out if you haven't built that muscle for years earlier on. 

Kaitlyn: I think it's really about parents and students finding that balance. So, it's academics. But also being able to socialize. Being able to communicate how you feel as a person. I think that is so important to develop this bond, this trust, between parents and students. My parents trust that I know what I'm doing, and I think that's just developed through solid communication and then mutual respect for each other's time, and then waiting for me to open up and I try opening up whenever possible. So, it's just really about trusting each other and finding a balance between things.

[00:21:18] Dr. Lisa: Amazing. I know we're almost out of time, and I wanted to end with a question about where the conversation goes from here. I mean, it sounds like you had a real split reaction. This article turned out to be maybe a little more controversial than you had expected it to be when you first wrote it, but people are seeing different sides of this mental health lens and how to approach these types of problems. Do the students talk more about this? Does the staff talk more about this? 

Amy O.: And just to add to that, what messages would you want to give to parents? Like part of what CATCH does in the community is to try to communicate to parents how they can purposefully parent. Thinking about it, making choices rather than just hopping on the Northbrook train to Yale or whatever you want to call it. So, yeah, that's a lot to think about in your answers, but I wanted to add that.

[00:22:15] Kaitlyn: What I think is that mental health like this term is thrown around so much today same with words like depressed or traumatic that I think a lot of students and parents are kind of using this to justify every issue they have, and I think it's really about changing that mindset. Mental health issues are an issue, but what if you think more positively about things, and this is something that my parents and the people around me have ingrained on me. If you approach life with a more positive mindset, and take it as an opportunity to grow, then that's going to help you later on in your life. Right? Because things don't always go as planned. 

Avery: I think for both students and parents I think it's really easy to come out of situations like the finals one and think or like even in the midst of them saying that was an attack on students' mental health or things like that. And obviously it did absolutely suck for me and every student who stayed up that night studying. But at the same time, the headline of the editorial was 'Suck it up,' and which I guess is a very direct way of saying at a point we've all just got to

[00:23:28] Dr. Lisa: Deal with it. 

Avery: stop and think about it and then keep rolling because you're not, you're not really going to get anywhere if you're just stuck on every little minor detail. And I think that's something we should all think about. It feels like the end of the world, but is it, is it really? Will this matter in, I don't know, like a week or a month or however long makes sense? I think that's something we all have to keep in mind. When we're in college, we're not going to be able to complain about everything, because at a point, like, we're just whining

[00:24:01] Dr. Lisa: Bosses don't love that, yeah. Wouldn't work out super well in the workforce. Same with professors.

Avery: Yeah, you can't, you kind of can't just whine about everything, and I think that would be what I would want people to hear, just like stop and think for a second.


Dr. Lisa: Love that. Oh, well thank you both so much for being here and GBN is very lucky to have you and I mean we are just so grateful to know that we're not the only ones having this conversation and it's not just adults trying to bring it as a trickle down but that you guys as the students are having these hard conversations 

Amy O.: Thanks for listening to another episode of Parenting the Mental Health Generation.

Dr. Lisa: Stay current on all CATCH programming by liking us on Facebook and Instagram @CATCHisCommunity or by visiting our website, 

Amy O.: We're glad that you joined us to continue the conversation. It's important to talk about our mental health and reach out for help if needed.