Berkeley High School (BHS) students demanded consent education during their walkouts in February 2020. Now, over a year later, the school has followed through with several school-wide assemblies.
Dean of Students Claudia Gonzalez, along with BHS’s Sexual Harm Advisory Committee (SHAC), helped organize the assemblies and hired sexual educator Shafia Zaloom to run them. Zaloom is an author and educator who has been helping young people cultivate healthy relationships for more than 30 years.
The presentations covered a wide variety of topics, including rape culture, sex, — both in terms of consent and enjoyment — and several scenarios.
The need to reform consent education at BHS is a dire one, according to Lindsey Chou, co-president of Women’s Student Union and student member of the SHAC.
Chou said she received minimal consent education in her freshman year social living class.
“[The teacher] probably said something about ‘no means no’ and ‘you can’t give consent if you’re under the influence’ and that’s pretty much it. … That’s all people have gotten for a long time,” said Chou.
The pandemic also left some classes with no consent education at all.
“Because of [COVID-19], entire freshman and sophomore classes had never gotten any education, which was a really big deal. … That’s when the push for [consent education] got really big,” Chou said.
The presentations garnered mixed reviews, but many students saw them as an overall positive.
“[Zaloom] had a good gauge of what kids our age are dealing with today and the challenges we face creating relationships with our peers,” said Alison Gutierrez, a BHS junior. “The presentation seemed pretty insightful … it’s way better than nothing.”
Zaloom will return for follow up presentations in classrooms in the spring.
Chou is proud of the fact that something has come of student activism.
“Finally seeing something happen has, I think, given a lot of people hope,” Chou said.