In the last week of October, Berkeley High School students watched three videos on consent education in the video bulletin at BHS. Behind these videos is the Consent Education Club. Initially started by Berkeley International High School’s (BIHS) class of 2022 as a leadership project, the club has now expanded school-wide, open to all students.
Walkouts in February 2020, which protested Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) lack of action on sexual assault cases, first sparked the consent education movement at BHS. These took place a year after former teacher Matthew Bissell resigned from BHS in exchange for BUSD’s silence regarding his sexual misconduct.
Sasha Spanier, a member of the club and a junior in BIHS, said that the club’s goal is to “make a change with the rape culture at Berkeley High and make it a place where everyone, like students (and) staff, feel safe in the environment we’re in.”
The main way the club plans on doing this is through a series of videos on consent that are to be shown in class during the morning bulletin. Eva Fostovsky-Geckeler, a junior in BIHS and president of the club, hopes that students may be more receptive and engaged in consent, as the videos are coming from their peers.
According to Fostosvsky-Geckeler, each video is created in a long process that takes between one and two months to complete. A topic must be chosen, while keeping in mind that it must be specific enough to be achievable. The idea is then explored from various angles, before writing a script that is revised multiple times to use language sensitive to the topic. This process occurs while the artists and animators work on finding visuals that work with the theme of the video.
“We still have to get that all approved with Shafia and everything,” Spanier said. Shafia Zaloom is a professional consent educator. “(We) make sure the script is good before we use it, the art is good before we use it,” Spanier added. “So it’s like finish something, roadblock, finish something, roadblock,” Spanier added.
After Zaloom and BHS principal Juan Raygoza approve everything, a voice actor records the script, and the video editing team stitches everything together to produce the final piece, Spanier said.
For their next video, the club hopes to talk about flirting and initiating romantic scenarios in an appropriate manner. She said that when creating a new video, the group keeps in mind the importance of portraying the complexities of consent, with a variety of situations, rather than in a simplified way. They also like to give suggestions about phrases one can use when asking for consent to ease any awkwardness or discomfort.
Kaelan Thouati De Tazoult, a member of the club and a senior in Academic Choice, remains skeptical of how fast and immediate change will be, since BUSD has been slow to act in the past.
“I think it’s going to take multiple iterations of change and I think each of those … are going to take years, ” Thouati De Tazoult said. “It’ll be a while before we see any significant improvement. And (like)any significant cultural change, I don’t think (it’s)going to come easy.”