Illustration by Siena Laws
The Green Dot Bystander Initiative is a program that trains peers to prevent and diffuse dangerous situations. At Berkeley High School (BHS), this program was adopted in early 2017 in response to the alarming frequency of reported sexual harassment incidents, and the frustration within the BHS community about how certain instances of sexual harassment were handled by the administration and other leaders in the community.
The goal of Green Dot is to actively and visibly reduce power based personal violence. Specifically, the program focuses on abuse in relationships and other sexual violence. According to Chelsea Yogerst, the new Title IX coordinator at BHS, the program “strives to create a safer school culture and eliminate bullying, relationship violence, and sexual harm.”
Green Dot trains students to step in when they observe a situation going in a potentially dangerous direction, and create a distraction or diffuse the tension with different strategies. “During these trainings, students are given an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences and given strategies and techniques for stopping violence and harm in the future,” Yogerst said. Becoming a Green Dot means having the agency to step in and appropriately handle situations to actively and visibly reduce power based personal violence while simultaneously creating a safer learning environment.
BHS Principal Erin Schweng added why it is important that BHS utilizes Green Dot. “It’s one of the most powerful affirmative and preventative responses we have to bullying and harassment on our campus, and it [involves] students directly helping other students,” said Schweng. Yogerst defined the need for Green Dot, and said “It is important to educate the youth about bystander intervention strategies so that power-based personal violence can be reduced and prevented.”
Schweng also emphasized how many actions the BHS administration has taken to address harm have been remedial. “So much of what we have done in the past is reactive… but with Green Dot the idea is that there are trained Green Dot ambassadors all over campus who are standing up as allies and being a positive presence wherever they are,” she said.
Yogerst, as the Title IX coordinator, oversees the District’s sex discrimination and sexual violence prevention initiatives, as well as “coordinating student trainings such as Green Dot to help prevent sexual violence in schools, such as dating and domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and harassment.”
According to Dean of Students Kiernan Rok, intervention trainings are usually delivered to groups of juniors, based on their role as influencers of their peers in the classroom and out.
These trainings are full day events that equip the recipients with the tools and strategies they can utilize to intervene in potentially dangerous situations. “[Green Dot] is effective because it puts students in the driver seat of creating change by equipping them with specific skills to stop harmful behaviors in the moment,” said Rok.
While the presence of Green Dot may not be widely publicized or known about on campus currently, that is likely to change as more and more students are exposed to trainings and student-facilitated presentations.
“There will be student-led presentations about Green Dot throughout the year in various classrooms and other spaces to teach all students the strategies for intervening as a bystander,” Rok stated. For example, Green Dot students gave a presentation to all BHS ninth grade students at the ninth grade assembly. “I hope to see Green Dot continue to grow and grow,” Schweng said.