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Student Speakers Educate on Sexual Harassment

Berkeley High School Stop Harassing (BHSSH) held a presentation on Wednesday, February 13. The student run organization aims to “end the culture of harassment” at Berkeley High School (BHS), as stated by member Tilden Skoble, a BHS sophomore.

Ella Miles-Urdan and Kyra Teigen, the president and policy-coordinator of BHSSH, gave a presentation covering the various forms that sexual harassment can take and showing data which demonstrated how pervasive it is at BHS. Elise Schofield, a BHS senior, also gave a speech on sexual harassment and her personal experience with the fear that is an inextricable part of being a girl.

Afterward, Miles-Urdan and Teigen covered strategies taught by Green Dot, a program that trains people how to be an ally when witnessing sexual harassment. Afterward, they played the video “Charlie Coleman Talks About Rape Culture and His Sister Daisy’s Sexual Assault,” produced by Teen Vogue, and covered Title IX protections and resources at BHS for survivors of sexual harassment. The presentation ended with questions for Miles-Urdan and Teigen. “We wanted it to be a lot about action and what you can do if [sexual harassment is] happening to someone else, because a lot of what we’ve done in the past is … raising awareness of the issue [and] I feel like sometimes people, even when they know something is wrong … don’t really know what to do about it,” said Teigen.

Miles-Urdan, Teigen, and the treasurer of BHSSH, Oscar Ashley, consider the presentation a success, although fewer students attended than in previous years, according to Teigen. All three felt that the students were engaged and listening. Teigen noted that many of the freshman boys who attended the presentation during fourth period had a lot of questions. “What we really are trying to do is start a discussion, and I think that a discussion was definitely started,” said Miles-Urdan

Ashley filmed Schofield’s speech for BHSSH’s upcoming two period presentations to all of ninth grade, in April and May. “It’s a really great opportunity for us to get to the entire grade,” said Ashley of the switch to Universal 9th Grade. Teigen and Miles-Urdan said that presenting to individual classes allows for more questions and discussions, and that many questions asked about consent in the recent presentation have led them to devote more of the upcoming freshmen presentations to the topic. BHSSH members are already training for the freshmen presentations.

The presentation outlined the three Ds of Green Dot allyship training: Direct intervention, Distract, and Delegate. Direct intervention may take the form of confronting the perpetrator(s) or asking someone who looks uncomfortable if they’re alright. Distracting the perpetrator could take the form of asking them for directions. Delegating means getting the help of someone who is better equipped to handle the situation. The presentation named the resources at BHS for survivors of sexual harassment as Jasdeep Malhi, an intervention counselor, and Kiernan Rok, the dean of students. Both are mandated reporters of BHS, along with other faculty, such as teachers and administration members. For students who do not want their case reported, Teigen suggests explaining their situation to a mandated reporter as a hypothetical question or seeking help from BHSSH.

Presenters displayed the data collected from 2,427 BHS students in a 2017 survey written by BHSSH. It showed that 840 responders said they had experienced “unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures to [them] in person.” Miles-Urdan and Teigen added that more people may have experienced this, but even on an anonymous survey may not have been comfortable sharing. “The goal of our presentation, … the goal of pretty much everything we do, is to educate our school and our community on the problem of sexual harassment,” Miles-Urdan said. “In order to make any real change we have to make sure the problem is being recognized as a problem,” she continued.