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Harassment presentation widely criticized

On March 5, every student at Carmel High School was exposed to a district sexual harassment presentation. The following morning, social studies teacher Bill Schrier surveyed his AP Government and Politics students on their opinions of the presentation. The responses were critical, despondent and, above all, dismissive.

 

“I thought the intention and message behind it was in the right place, but the delivery was weak,” senior Logan Vandenbroucke says. “Most people probably viewed it as a joke because of their [failed] attempt to try and relate to the students.”

 

Sophomore Mia Poletti echoes these concerns.

 

“At this point, we’ve already had similar presentations all throughout middle school, and it becomes just another source that can be used to make jokes—as seen in the Josh Stein text meme-thing,” says Poletti, referring to a slide in the presentation containing an image depicting a sample text conversation using what was described by the speakers as “teenage colloquialisms.” The slide has since become a multiple-week-long, campus-wide joke.

 

The rest of CHS seems to share Vandenbroucke’s and Poletti’s views. In a sampling of 50 students, 36 reported believing the presentation was either unsuccessful or a waste of their time.

 

“I thought it was pretty dumb. It became more of a meme than anything else,” freshman Kento Husted says. “I didn’t learn anything new at all. I think [the presenter] would’ve done a better job if she’d talked to us in a more adult and mature way.”

 

Few students and staff reported receiving a significant amount of new, prevalent or viable information from the presentation—info that wasn’t either saturated by years of repetitive information or, as AP World History instructor Brent Silva notes, simply a matter of common sense.

 

“I didn’t walk away with any new info, outside of the fact that anything off school grounds is something that can have an influence and something students can be subject to,” Silva says. “It was pretty much common sense stuff. When it was presented, everyone went, ‘Well, obviously that’s not OK.’”

 

Holly Lederle, CHS’ long-time Photography and AP Studio Art teacher, was among the more optimistic on the presentation’s effects.

 

“I think it was important…keeping [students] safe is our number one priority…knowing what resources you have to do that is a big thing,” Lederle says. “I would’ve liked to see something that dealt more specifically with high school students and the issues that come up with them. Do I think it was new, mind-blowing information? No. Do I think it’s good to have a periodic refresher on stuff like this? Absolutely.”

 

It is worth noting that Lederle attended a slideshow presented only to CHS faculty and staff, which was different than that shown to the student body, though it received a similar reception from its audience.

 

The collective opinion wasn’t against the presentation’s message itself. What disappointed much of the student body, along with many of the staff, was the presentation’s bland repetition, lack of explicit instruction on action in the case of harassment and minimal effort to identify and relate to the average high schooler.

 

As Vandenbroucke describes, “[The presentations] would have to either be 100 percent formal or actually know high schooler culture to be able to relate. Because when they just attempt to relate it comes off as funny, and its result is futile.”

 

Silva also brings up a point that may play a key role in how the school and its students handle issues of sexual harassment going forward: “It was generally info that teachers would put across if it came up in class. I’ve given it to my students, especially with the current political sphere and everything happening now across the board.”

 

Silva is not alone in this course of action.

 

Silva and Lederle agree that when a presentation such as this one is given, a “follow-up” approach should be taken—a survey of students’ opinions and lessons learned, hypothetically—in order to better the chances of the presentation’s message having a lasting impact.

 

“Just knowing that it’s an ongoing conversation and that the goal is to have transparency with our students, there absolutely should be,” Lederle says on the topic of a follow-up. “Something letting them know they have someone they can talk to if something’s going on. Being shown an image of a dialogue relating to something like that I think is healthy, and it’s good. It was a step in the right direction.”

 

Both students and staff agree that the presentation had its ups and downs, and although harassment education is necessary, many on campus have observed that the messages presented and the methods by which they were presented in the March 5 assembly were suboptimal and left much room for improvement.

 

Students have noted one particularly successful aspect of the presentation: its message regarding gossip and rumors.

 

“What [the presenters] said about gossiping and vulgar rumors about others was valid and should be talked about more,” junior Colleen Lang says. “I constantly struggle with the temptation to gossip. I believe that the best thing we can do as fellow classmates is come with kind, open hearts, not ones that gossip and not ones that try to condemn others.”

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