A New Jersey high school principal installed a brand new laundromat in his school to ensure students don’t skip classes out of fear of being bullied.
West Side High School Principal Akbar Cook said that he noticed some students were being bullied because of their dirty clothes, WABC-TV in New York reports. As a result, about 85 percent of students who attend the school are chronically absent, with students missing three to five days a month, he told the Washington Post.
“I’ve seen 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,” student Nasirr Cameron told CBS Philly.
The issue came to light two years ago when a student fought with the school security officer when he tried to check her bag.
“The police later told me she had dirty clothes in her bag because she was homeless and didn’t want anyone to know,” Cook told CNN. “She was fighting for her pride.”
So Cook took matters into his own hands. He applied for a grant from a foundation associated with one of Newark’s main utility companies, PSE&G. After receiving $20,000 to turn an old football locker room into a school laundromat, he’s set to open the laundromat three days a week.
“When school starts on September the 4th, my kids will be able to use it daily after school.” Cook said.
Cook added that he hopes the laundromat will inspire students to reciprocate such efforts, and work harder toward their education.
“Because the kids feel that and they’ll fight on that SAT or that test the same way you fight for them,“ Cook said. ”That’s who I am.“
So far students and residents of the community have responded positively to the news. The school has also been receiving numerous donations of detergent and dryer sheets from around the country, CNN reports.