Whitney's Letter to Degrassi

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Shortly after I watched Time Stands Still, I wrote this letter to Degrassi, and thought it might be prudent to share it with the site.

I wanted to thank the writers, producers, directors, cast and everyone else involved in the production of Degrassi for having the courage to give us Time Stands Still. I live in Colorado. I was in grade 8 on 20 April 1999, living mere miles from Columbine High School. I went on to attend a public Colorado high school where some students had very legitimate fears of “another Columbine,” as school shootings have come to be called.


In the immediate aftermath of the events and in the years since, much has been done to paint the shooters as monsters who were driven to kill by Marilyn Manson and violent media. The students and staff of Columbine have only been seen as helpless victims, caught in carnage beyond their control. The shootings were used as justification for ostracising “alternative” teens; if you stand out – decide to wear something other than Abercrombie – you might shoot us. Everyone must conform. In a sense, it seemed as though alternative teens were facing revenge for attacks they did not commit.


I have been watching Degrassi: TNG since a few episodes into the first season. I must admit, I knew nothing of the previous versions of Degrassi. For the past 3 years, Degrassi has been one of my very favourite shows. It is one of only two shows I watch about teenagers; I usually watch shows like Law and Order, ER and Discovery Channel programming. Much has been said of Degrassi’s ability to address real issues in realistic ways and I don’t believe I can offer any additional plaudits that have not already been mentioned. I do feel the need to say something about Time Stands Still.


I am simply touched by the way this episode(s) was presented. It did not glorify violence, it did not romanticise the perpetrator but did not demonise him either, and it addressed the very real consequences of bullying. Just the fact that the show acknowledged that bullying can lead to school shootings is a step that Colorado has refused to take.


 I remember vividly in the weeks after the shooting when a student at my school began to ridicule an unpopular peer but then stopped saying, “Wait. I should stop. If I make fun of you, you might shoot me.” The first few days after the tragedy there was a collective, compassionate grief. It was soon replaced by the need for revenge. The grief process led the Colorado community to take out their anger on teens that reminded them of the shooters. The passion behind the anger may have abated, but the revenge has not. Teens that do not fit in are still subjected to very terrible bullying. Even students of Columbine have been quoted as saying that bullying got even worse there. At my public high school, a group of outcasts was brought out into the centre of the cafeteria and physically beat up by the entire football team, whilst security guards stood idly by. Their crime: not wearing school colours during homecoming week.


We have not learned the lessons of Columbine. Students are still being ostracised for actions that are nowhere near those of Degrassi’s Rick. Often, the bullied teen has done nothing worse than wearing the wrong brand of clothing. It is a miracle that these rejected teens have not turned to violence more often. I in no way condone violence, but it is time that we start addressing the central causes behind such violence. We must mourn the victims of violence, but we must also acknowledge the bullies in the ranks of the dead. We must denounce the shooters, but also mourn the fact that they were bullied.


My hope is that the messages behind so many Degrassi’s episodes can reach the wider public. I hope that one day The-N will not have to censor Degrassi. I look forward to the day when the media can ask the tough questions and accurately address issues that face teens everyday.


Thank you for mourning the loss of innocence that comes when death comes to a place it’s not supposed to. Thank you for mourning the victims of school violence. Thank you for mourning the victims of bullying.

This letter is property of Whitney. Contact her if you wish to use it.

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