MCHS students get lessons on sexual harassment issues
November 19, 2000
“Since Columbine, everyone has spent a lot more time thinking about how we want kids to interact with one another,” said Susan Whinery, junior dean and English teacher at Moffat Country High School.
For administrators at the high school, interaction includes sexual harassment.
“Nationwide there is a problem with sexual harassment with adults and kids,” Whinery said. “And there has certainly been some sexual harassment going on at the school.”
According to Whinery, the high school dean’s office receives approximately one complaint of sexual harassment each month.
“You know if you get a report once a month that there are many other situations nobody’s talking about,” she said.
The high school has had sexual discrimination and harassment policies for at least six years, but this is the first year the school has held assemblies to teach students the specifics about harassment.
At the beginning of the school year, a few faculty members went through a special training seminar on how to teach the students about harassment. These faculty members will use a series of presentations and assemblies to educate the students, hoping to prevent future incidents.
“We want to teach these kids that this is sexual harassment, and if they continue to behave in that manner that something will happen to them,” Whinery said. “We aren’t going to say ‘Oh, you’re just being silly kids’.”
The presentations are based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s definition of sexual harassment: unwanted, unwelcome, unsolicited sexual advances; requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The definition states that the conduct must be made a condition of academic advancement, something that interferes with the person’s academic performance or behavior that creates a hostile learning environment.
Several students were surprised to learn what can be considered sexual harassment, including rating games, name calling, winking, looking at people’s bodies with elevator eyes and purposely bumping into someone. Many were also unaware that anyone can be sexually harassed or be an offender regardless of gender, age or occupation.
“I thought it was interesting,” Sabrina Latham, a 15-year-old sophomore, said. “There was a lot of stuff that they mentioned that I never thought about. But I don’t take offence to most of it.”
“It changed my view of what is and what’s not (sexual harassment),” Colton Grinolds, a 17-year-old junior, said. “And just opened up my eyes a little more.”
After going through the first in a series of presentations, some students didn’t think the assembly addressed some of their questions.
“It didn’t tell you how to defend yourself against sexual harassment,” said Christi Bingham, a sophomore.
Bingham also had a hard time taking the movie shown during the presentation seriously.
“It was so cheesy. It was like a demented infomercial,” she said.
Latham thought the first presentation didn’t tackle one of the biggest problems facing students who have been harassed: embarrassment.
“I think a lot of kids are sexually harassed, but they’re too embarrassed to do anything about it,” she said.
The high school’s sexual harassment educational series consists of three parts. Each grade will see a general presentation accompanied by a movie. Then the students will split into advisory groups for a more specific presentation, including examples of landmark court cases. For the last session, the students will work with advisors, looking at scenarios and evaluating if what they saw is harassment.
So far the freshman, sophomore and junior classes have been through the first part of the series, and all of the freshmen and part of the sophomore classes have had the second session. By Christmas break, all the high school students will have gone through the entire series.