Unsatisfactory prevention methods leave teachers and students uncomfortable
June 3, 2020
Although there are limited standards to how TUHSD administrators address sexual misconduct complaints after the fact, there is a rigidly established method for preventing sexual harassment. However, according to teachers and administrators, these methods need to be improved.
TUHSD’s primary method for preventing sexual misconduct is by providing informational presentations and instructing teachers on how to deliver them to students of all grades. According to Redwood English teacher Kendall DeAndreis, the objective of this instruction is for students to understand basic information regarding definitions of highly utilized terms related to sexual misconduct, state laws and the district’s policies.
“I think that the goal [of the presentations] is just for students to understand the state law around sexual harassment, sexual assault and the district’s policy too. And for them to know how to get help and how to access the district policy if they do need to access it, in any way,” DeAndreis said.
However, the district mandated presentations have several shortcomings that have been recognized by both teachers and administrators. In Farr’s opinion, the presentations are outdated and do not reflect student feedback.
“As with any educational resource, it’s subject to review and revision based on student feedback. We’ve implemented the information, and I’m hearing from students that there are gaps in ways that we need to streamline and improve [the presentation],” Farr said.
According to DeAndreis, there is limited to no follow up for students on the presented material after the presentation is delivered or confirmation that the presentation was delivered in the first place. This allows for students to not fully absorb the material and for some students to not receive the required material at all if a teacher forgets to present it.
Additionally, DeAndreis emphasised that sexual misconduct is an extremely sensitive subject matter for both teachers and students. With teachers receiving limited training, it can be uncomfortable to deliver the presentation and foster an emotional connection between students.
“I don’t feel like I’m an expert by any means, and I know that. Sexual harassment and sexual assault goes on at Redwood and in our community and in our country, so I can’t say that
I really feel comfortable. I’ve talked to some other English teachers and they sort of feel the same way,” DeAndreis said.
In addition to the district-mandated presentations, TUHSD schools partner with campus resources to continue sexual misconduct education and foster a comfortable community. At Drake, the Student’s Organized for Antiracism (SOAR) program wears glow sticks during school dances so students can easily find a resource if they feel as if they have been sexually violated and their Peer Resource hosts a workshop around safe sex, harassment and consent, according to Seabury.
Lyle Belger, a senior at Redwood High School and a member of its Peer Resource, says that activities such as condom certification and the “safe is sexy” campaign focus on sexual health but also emphasize the importance of consent.
“Consent has to be given, and it has to be received throughout the entire process. And so while the condom education program is focused on having students know how to put on condoms, it’s also about teaching them that consent has to be there throughout the entire thing. This is more of an underlying theme that students don’t really get,” Belger said.
While Peer Resource programs educate students on the importance of consent during sex, Belger said students learn about what consists of sexual harassment through presentations in freshmen social issues classes as well as the annual presentations in English classes. Personally, Belger does not think the presentations are effective and there’s more that the administration could do to educate students on sexual misconduct.
“I feel like once a year in an hour-and-a-half block period isn’t really going to do it for most students. I honestly can’t remember 95 percent of the presentation…I understand that [admin is] trying [to educate students on sexual misconduct], but I think especially now, we need to ramp it up a little bit,” Belger siad.
Although he recognizes improvement is needed, Farr hopes that educating students about sexual misconduct and consent at school will translate into their social lives.
“We try to do a lot of education because I feel that education is an important piece of prevention and getting the information about affirmative consent and appropriate interactions between students. We try to educate and get the information out into the hands of our student body so that they can make appropriate social decisions,” Farr said.