Hello! We are Ella Ashley and Emmy Sampson, the co-presidents of Berkeley High School (BHS) organization BHS Stop Harassing (BHSSH). We are dedicated to ending the culture of harassment at BHS through educating our peers, and have been working to do so since our respective freshman years. As an organization, BHSSH has created and given presentations about sexual harm and consent to freshmen, hosted Speaker Series’ to highlight advocates in the community, and facilitated middle school focus groups and healing circles. Currently, we are hosting a donation matching campaign to support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) survivors of sexual harm and will soon be hosting online webinars for the student body. Despite school being online this year, our goals remain the same: create a safe place for survivors, spread awareness, and promote change.
COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of the BHS school atmosphere, and as a result, it has presented new challenges for our community and its culture. Teachers have not been trained on how to handle harassment over distance learning, so it has become our responsibility to do our personal best to keep our classmates safe. In the past, BHSSH has collaborated with Green Dot, the bystander intervention program at BHS. Green Dot has educated us on the three D’s: a useful method to deal with sexual harassment — Direct, Distract, and Delegate. We want to share with you all how to utilize the three D’s during distance learning and breakout rooms to prevent online harassment. Here is how we’ve applied them to Zoom:
- Direct: Insert yourself into the situation to stop the harassment. You can unmute your mic or privately chat the perpetrator and tell them they are making you, or perhaps someone else, uncomfortable. If you are the victim and don’t feel comfortable putting yourself in that position, you are not obligated to.
- Distract: Divert attention away from the harassment and return to the main topic. You can say, “Your audio is breaking up,” or “I think your connection is bad.” By distracting the perpetrator, hopefully the harassment will stop.
- Delegate: Alert others to the situation; ask trusted individuals for help. You can use the “Ask for Help” button to summon your teacher into your breakout room. The teacher’s presence will hopefully stop any verbal harassment going on. If that’s not enough, you may want to privately chat your teacher to explain the situation.
Even though our teachers may not be trained on how to deal with online harassment, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help. If you are comfortable, you can ask your teachers how they plan to address harassment during distance learning. Ask them to preface at the beginning of class that harassment won’t be tolerated. Continually communicate with them if you are comfortable, and tell them if issues arise. Our teachers are here to give us support, and until they have been given adequate training, we must work with them to foster inclusive and safe online classrooms.
Online harassment needs to be taken just as seriously as any other form of sexual harm. Every student has a right to feel safe in their learning environment, including this new virtual one. We as students need to work together to protect everyone, and when the administration isn’t prioritizing our safety, it’s up to us to do something about it.
Please reach out to us through our instagram @bhsstopharassing or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Best, Ella & Emmy