NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A high school in New Jersey is getting off to a “clean” start this year.
The principal discovered students were being bullied for coming to class with dirty clothes, so he’s giving them a chance to go from the classroom into the laundry room, all under the same roof, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Wednesday.
Students at West Side High School are picking up a new skill this year, a life skill. They are doing their laundry.
The purpose of the new on-campus laundromat is to wash away the vicious cycle of bullying.
“I’ve seen a few kids in the back of the class talk about kids in the front of the class and how they smell and how their clothes look dirty,” 15-year-old Nasirr Cameron said.
Students are limited in what colors they can wear because of a school dress code. Rising senior Dashawn Latham said he only gets to the laundromat once every two weeks.
“The money. My mother don’t be home. She working and I gotta call her and sometimes she don’t get paid,” Latham said.
The barrier is so bad that Principal Akbar Cook said 85 percent of kids were missing three to five days of school a month.
“They was being bullied, and it wasn’t just like in the building. It was on Snapchat. I’m sitting behind you and take a picture of your collar. Look at this dirty guy,” Cook said.
So Cook spent the last two years lobbying for that help, eventually securing a $20,000 grant from PSE&G and getting labor from the Newark Public Schools to turn the football team’s locker room into a free, on-campus laundromat with commercial-grade machines.
“Five washers, five dryers. I got a slop sink right here,” Cook said.
The laundry room will be available to students every day after school from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m and they can be escorted by a teacher if they have an urgent need. Plus, they don’t need to worry about laundry supplies. Donations have poured in.
“There are many times that the students may come in because they’re embarrassed,” social worker Jamila Hammond said. “They don’t look the same. Someone’s complaining about body odor. I would say, ‘Okay baby, then we going to have to do it the old way — you have soap and you have water.’ But now, with this laundry room, we don’t have to do that.”
If you would like to donate laundry supplies, please click here.