New Anti-harassment Committee at MHS

No school wants to hear that there are issues of harassment and sexual harassment within their walls. It’s what a school does when these issues are brought to light that shows the strength of the community.

Earlier this year, a group of Messalonskee High School students went to some of their teachers to address issues of harassment they had witnessed or been hearing about in the school halls.  Together they created a committee of faculty and students to brainstorm ways to stop the problem before it grew any further.

Senior Alex Brann has enjoyed working more closely with staff to solve the problem. “It’s very easy for students to feel that teachers are disconnected from these issues,” said Brann, “but all of the staff involved in this committee are very dedicated to improving the culture of Messalonskee and learning to best help students facing various types of harassment.”

The group decided that the first step was to make the full faculty aware of the issue. The students gathered anonymous stories about sexual harassment within the MHS community and volunteered to read them at a faculty meeting as a way to illustrate the problem that needed to be addressed.  “It was extremely powerful seeing the students stand up in front of their teachers and read out loud the horrifying stories that had come from their peers,” said science teacher Bryan Quigley who heads up the Anti-harassment Committee with English teacher Margaux DePue. “These stories had not been previously reported to admin, and some did not happen on our campus, but all of them described a hidden culture that the students wanted to change.”

The group did extensive research, compiled resources for school staff and developed several advisory activities for students. Two of the advisory activities have already taken place, one centered on helping students understand the basics of bullying and harassment and another involving scenario-based discussions. “The students had a really positive response to this experience,” said DePue, “and many of them asked some important questions about more complex harassment scenarios, like what to do if they’re a bystander in a situation.”

The committee also worked to connect staff and students with multiple professionals to provide helpful resources and opportunities for open dialogue. The administration brought in two different speakers on staff development days to discuss types of bullying and harassment and how to help students develop resiliency.  Librarian Sylvia Jadczak obtained a grant to fund a visit from author Marian Padian who spent the lunch period speaking to a group of students about her book “Wrecked,” which deals with a sexual assault case on a college campus. Students that attended the discussion mentioned that they wished they could have this kind of conversation much earlier in their education as these issues are not typically addressed until sophomore year health class.  

The committee describes the initiative as a work in progress, but they are pleased with the positive response from both students and staff.  “I think that what we have done is pretty amazing,” said senior Ryan Boyle, “people are definitely talking about it now and are more aware.” The group hopes to do more trainings next year, potentially including a whole-day activity for students addressing bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. “It truly is a school-wide effort that is needed in order to fully address these problems,” added junior Autumn Littlefield, “but [each step is] part of a larger goal of a culture change within our school.” The committee is optimistic about the long-term impact of their work. “Have we solved the problem? Of course not,” said Boyle, “but at least we got the ball rolling and have a good starting point.”

“We really are just trying to help educate our students so that they will be better prepared for life as young adults,” said Quigley. “If we help them figure out the right and wrong ways to address these situations at a young age, then they will be less likely to make mistakes in the future.”

 

Early this year, students and faculty at MHS banded together to form an Anti-Harassment committee with the goal of addressing bullying/harassment issues that were occuring in the school.  The committee developed educational activities and workshops to better educate both students and staff on issues of harassment and how to address them.

 

Bryan and Margaux have really been the leaders on this initiative along with some students and additional faculty members. The committee was established to address the bullying/harassment that was happening in our school. We have had 2 or 3 advisory activities centered around this issue (they went very well) and staff has had 2 workshops recently that covered this material as well. We had Elyse Pratt Ronco meet with staff to talk about building resiliency within our students and we also had Sarah Ricker speak with staff about what bullying and harassment mean, what it looks like, and how to address it. Both sessions were well received, I think.

 

Thanks for contacting us! Honestly, our work was started by the students. We had been hearing quite a few stories about harassment and sexual harassment, and the students were upset and wanted to do something about it. So, we formed a committee made up of faculty and students and started brainstorming things we could do.  As Paula mentioned, we had staff training and have had two advisory activities, but I think the most powerful piece so far came during a faculty meeting earlier this year.

 

Earlier this year, a group of students went to some of their teachers with concerns about issues of harassment and sexual harassment they had been seeing and hearing about in the halls. Together they pulled together a committee of faculty and students to brainstorm ways to stop the problem before it grew any further.

 

No school community wants to believe that harassment has become a problem within their walls.  In order to shed light on the problem and the need to address it, the students gathered anonymous stories about sexual harassment and volunteered to read them at a faculty meeting.  “It was extremely powerful seeing the students stand up in front of their teachers and read out loud the horrifying stories that had come from their peers,” said science teacher Bryan Quigley and one of the faculty members responsible for starting the committee. “These stories had not been previously reported to admin, and some did not happen on our campus, but all of them described a hidden culture that they wanted to change.”

 

The call to action has been answered by the whole community.  The school hosted two different speakers on staff development days.  Elyse Pratt Ronco

We have had 2 or 3 advisory activities centered around this issue (they went very well) and staff has had 2 workshops recently that covered this material as well. We had Elyse Pratt Ronco meet with staff to talk about building resiliency within our students and we also had Sarah Ricker speak with staff about what bullying and harassment mean, what it looks like, and how to address it. Both sessions were well received, I think.

 

   

 

    

    Next year we plan to do more trainings and to potentially have an all day activity for the students addressing bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment. This is definitely a work in progress, but the students are receiving it well. Ultimately the goal is to change the community around us, so that our students are better educated, and are working in a more comfortable and safe environment.

     

    On Wednesday this week the author, Marian Padian, was at Messalonskee giving a talk to english classes about her book, “Out of Nowhere.” She also spoke at lunch with a group of students about her book “Wrecked” which focuses around a sexual assault/rape case on a college campus. In this discussion the students expressed that they wish they could have had training like this at an earlier age. They don’t take Health class until their sophomore year and feel the conversation needs to start a lot earlier.

   

 

“We really are just trying to help educate our students so that they will be better prepared for life as young adults,” said Science teacher Bryan Quigley. “If we help them figure out the right and wrong ways to address these situations at a young age, then they will be less likely to make mistakes in the future.”

 

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