Sexual harassment in schools is a very difficult topic to talk about, not just as a topic itself, but as individuals as well. Coming forward and talking about one’s experiences is extremely difficult. That is why the lack of training for sexual harassment prevention is an extremely dire issue, as once someone comes forward, it’s extremely vital that they receive the help they need.
Kerry Veritas, Feminism Club advisor, is at the forefront of the efforts to give MHS staff sexual harassment training. She said that the first step of solving the issue is “making sure everyone understands the nature of the problem, especially the adults in the district.” Currently, the staff has been trained for situations like bullying and helping non-binary and trans students, however, there is a lack of sexual harassment prevention training. Tonijoy Pimental, a member of the club, further elaborated on the point of recognizing the issue, saying that the training would allow “teachers to know what exactly sexual harassment is and how to teach the aggressors that what they’re doing is wrong.”
Sophia Duffy, president of the club, stated that if a student came forward and said that they were sexually harassed, a staff member should be able to put aside their personal beliefs on individual situations in order to respond to the situation. Duffy said that “as of right now, the Feminism Club has tried to implement a few workshops for the teachers to really hone in on response to sexual harassment.” She added that while they have workshops that generalize the training, they’re aiming for something that focuses on the issue more directly.
Ultimately, Veritas hopes that the club’s efforts can reach as far as grade six. Asking questions like “what is a healthy relationship?” and “what are the boundaries?” is extremely important, because if kids don’t ask questions like these, then they do not grasp an understanding of the topic, and in turn, sexual harassment can become normalized in a way, almost like a part of the environment.
Recently, the club has been able to jump a major hurdle in its efforts. On January 13th, during the school committee meeting at the senior center, several girls came forward and spoke about their personal experiences regarding sexual harassment. Veritas stated that “getting [the problems] on people’s radar and getting them to agree that it is important,” was a huge development. While she stated that she did not know what the future roadblocks would be, she added that money and time would be a big one, seeing as fitting in staff training would be difficult with the loaded schedules teachers already have to deal with.
All in all, what the club believes it is trying to accomplish is incredibly important. While it may not be a short or easy task, Duffy believes “it is only a matter of time before things start to change.”