Berkeley High School Stop Harassing (BHSSH) presented on a variety of topics to every Universal 9th Grade (U9) Social Living class from April 22 to May 3.
BHSSH is a student-led grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness of sexual harassment, changing the culture around sexual harassment, and educating students at Berkeley High School (BHS), Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), and beyond.
For two consecutive days, each Social Living class received information from a pair of student presenters representing the organization. The presentations on the first day consisted of discussions about a range of topics including sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape culture, allyship, and how to report incidents of harassment at BHS in a timely fashion.
On the second day, the presenters discussed healthy versus unhealthy relationships as well as consent. The presenters were BHSSH members and some boys that the organization recruited from the Green Dot program, a program which trains students to prevent and diffuse dangerous situations. The members from Green Dot presented with the hope of engaging more freshmen boys with the material.
“We are incredibly grateful to have gotten the opportunity this year to present to every freshman class, instead of just a few teachers like we have in previous years,” said Kyra Teigen, the policy coordinator and co-president of BHSSH. “It was a huge organizational effort to schedule the presentations for every section, so I’m really glad it all worked out.”
BHSSH has been presenting to as many freshmen classes as possible for the past four years. President Ella Miles-Urdan said that BHSSH believes education is one of the most effective tools for raising awareness and changing the culture of sexual harassment, making the presentations very significant to them.
“I’m so grateful that this year, because of the new U9 program, we were able to schedule presentations in every single freshman Social Living class, including but not limited to fourth and fifth periods, through the U9 lead teacher, Ms. Minassian,” Miles-Urdan said.
BHSSH plans to continue giving presentations to every U9 Social Living class next year and the following years.
According to Teigen, BHSSH strongly believes that educating new students is a key part of improving school culture around harassment and allyship, and the organization will continue to take advantage of every opportunity for peer mentorship and education.
“The organizational process of putting on two-day presentations in twenty eight different class sections with student presenters was definitely challenging, but we now have experience with it so my hope is that it will be easier and more efficient next year,” Teigen said. “We expect that the administration continues to support us in this important work.”
The organization is also currently working with the BHS administration to finalize the yearly school-wide survey on sexual harassment that was started by BHSSH several years ago. Teigen said the administration is currently working with BHSSH to revise the survey and give it this spring, promising to give it every year hereafter.
“We need survey data every year so we can see if things are changing for the better and what still needs work. The data helps the admin decide what programs and initiatives we need and where to direct funding to help improve school culture,” Teigen said.
BHSSH strongly believes that educating new students is a key part of improving school culture around harassment and allyship.
Along with updating their presentations with the feedback received from freshmen students and teachers, BHSSH is preparing a booth at the Spring Carnival. It is also working on the final t-shirt and bake sales for this school year, speaking at the recent Berkeley School Board meeting to support continued funding for Green Dot, as well as exploring the possibility of peer mentorship programs in BUSD middle schools.
Miles-Urdan said that she is very proud of her organization’s presentations and hopes that the students who saw them were impacted by the curriculum BHSSH put together. She wants them to feel more prepared to help their friends and themselves in situations involving sexual harassment and assault.
“I am also very proud of the presenters because these topics can be really difficult to discuss, especially with a completely new group of people in a short amount of time. They all handled it very well,” said Miles-Urdan.
Moreover, Teigen is proud of the presentations and all of the hard work that went into them, from creating the slide content and training presenters to the time presenters took out of their own classes and their lives to educate the freshman students. She believes that BHSSH is doing well and will continue to expand on their goals of peer education, raising awareness, and policy reform.
“These freshmen are the future of Berkeley High, and I hope that through our presentations, we are able to give them the knowledge and tools to impact our school culture in a positive way going forward,” said Teigen.