By Kaitlyn B. and Daniel F.
In today’s society, so many people are faced with issues regarding sexual harassment and assault. These issues most commonly affect women but do affect men as well.
Famous movie producer Harvey Weinstein has had numerous women come out accusing him of sexual assault. This had led to a firestorm surrounding many famous Hollywood entertainers. Junior Jadé P. said, “I think it’s very disrespectful and rude, what has been going on in the industry because people work so hard to get there. Being treated that way is not right for how much they had to do to get to that place.”
This has led to a number of Hollywood stars being accused. Among the accused are comedian Louis C.K. and actor Kevin Spacey. C.K. apologized for his actions while Spacey said he didn’t remember and used the allegations to come out as a gay man. Sophomore William T. said, “It doesn’t matter, he still sexually abused someone.”
Unfortunately, these things don’t just happen in Hollywood. Things like this happen to regular people, just like us. Shouldn’t they have come to an end by now?
Uncountable numbers of people are sexually harassed or assaulted all the time, though their experiences aren’t always spoken about.
When asked why some people do not speak up about issues regarding sexual harassment or assault, junior Caetlin O. said, “Just because people don’t believe them and people belittle them. Some say that they’re doing it for attention, and then it makes you feel awful.”
Sexual assault and harassment hits close to home. On October 17, a sexual assault happened in Weymouth High School.
While what occurred in Weymouth did not happen in Duxbury, it still has a great impact on our town, especially on our students. Jadé P. said, “When I heard about it I was shocked. I was speechless.” Junior Declan D. said. “I’d like to think that wouldn’t happen in Duxbury, and hopefully if it were to happen, the person would be punished here too.”
Vice Principal Ms. McGuire said, “As a community, a place like Weymouth is not far. We share demographically and geographically similar communities, so that right away is relevant.”
After hearing about what has occurred at another regular high school, involving regular students just like those at DHS, many people have begun to question what our school’s policy is for issues regarding sexual harassment or assault.
Principal Mr. Donovan said, “We have a protocol we developed and revised, maybe 3 or 4 years ago with the Duxbury police department and the Duxbury Fire Department, which is part of our multi-hazard plan.”
When students here were asked if they were aware of what steps would be taken if they reported a sexual assault or harassment case, or what kind of protocol would be followed, not a single one knew.
Out of fifteen students, the majority said they would be uncomfortable speaking to the administration if they or someone they knew had experienced sexual harassment or assault. Their reasoning was almost always because they don’t know what will happen afterward since DHS does not often talk about issues like these, though they are so common.
One student, Mel C., said, “I wouldn’t be comfortable because I wouldn’t know what would happen if I did. I think the majority of students don’t know what happens if they tell someone about it. We should make that known.”
Another student, Kacy C., said, “They don’t really talk about what happens, and so I don’t know what would go on if I were to tell someone in the administration about it.”
There is no specific document that students have access to that covers the full, step by step protocol for harassment or assault of this kind, but teachers and staff do follow a specific policy.
“Every teacher has a multi-hazard evacuation plan. So if someone went to a teacher and confided in them about a classmate or about themselves, the teacher can refer to the policy and it gives them a series of steps to follow. So, that document as a whole is what every staff member here has,” Mr. Donovan said. “They can all access that plan. It is not a publicly consumable document, in that we don’t publish it on the website, but that document has everything in it.”
Ms. McGuire said, “The back of our student handbook is explicit about any kind of disciplinary thing. When we talk about sexual assault, that pretty quickly goes to a legal part. We have our student resource officer who’s really a local, immediate resource in the event that something were to occur.”
Duxbury students have brought up ideas like class assemblies, iLab surveys, announcements, or even posters hung up around the school, that discuss what to do when something like this happens.
“I think they should have a class by class assembly almost, about possible situations, if it happens outside of school, what to do, or if it happens in school what to do, like who to talk to,” said junior Allison M. “Unfortunately, it happens so often it should honestly be something people prepare for in an environment like our school, where everyone is involved in the discussion and can be informed on what to do.”
In the past, Duxbury High School has had school assemblies that regarded dating violence, or presentations discussing risky behavior, but sexual harassment and assault are topics that lack discussion in our community.
Mrs. Ryan, the school psychologist, said, “Some of the things that we can do are have some kind of student assembly or something that addresses issues of sexual harassment.” Also, “Maybe we should make that something for the students to see on a consistent basis and follow it up with, like if you know something like this is happening to you or to somebody else, here’s what you should do.”
It is such a surprise that an issue so prominent in our society is so rarely discussed.
Allison M. said, “Sexual harassment happens all the time, and not a lot of people talk about it. It happened to me here in Duxbury High School towards the spring of sophomore year. I called my friend and I was panicking on the walk home because I didn’t want to be alone. It was really scary.”
Outside of smaller communities like our own, awareness has been spreading slowly. More people are beginning to discuss this worldwide issue.
Mrs. McGuire said, “We are in the business of equipping young adults with the skills to navigate the world. You guys are the ones that are going to be creating the culture, and so if you think that this is unacceptable, then you have the power to do something about that.”
If you ever experience sexual harassment or assault, and are unsure what to do, just know that you can speak to an adult here at Duxbury High School, your parents, a friend, or anyone else you trust.
Officer Jamali, our school resource officer, has an office in the police station as well as in the Duxbury High/Middle School on the first floor. He is always available to students by phone, email, or in person.
Officer Nick Jamali – Duxbury School Resource Officer (781) 934-5656
National Sexual Assault Hotline (800) 656-4673
Photo of Harvey Weinstein taken by David Shankbone from Creative Commons.