District offers resources for sexual harassment awareness



The Revere Local School District offers many resources for students.

Kaylynn Waldron, Reporter

“There remains what seems like an impenetrable wall of skin around violence, and we must all play a role in breaking this silence.” – Reese Witherspoon. Anyone who has been victim to a demoralizing comment, destructive rumors or direct harassment can attest to the pain that it causes. It is near impossible to find an unscathed student or adult, who wasn’t subjected to some form of bullying thus far. A particularly dehumanizing form of bullying can be found in sexual harassment. 

Throughout the Revere Schools, sexual harassment is a situation taken very seriously. Sexual harassment is directly defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation.” But the dictionary cannot always do a word justice, nor can it truly define this act in a way that ecompasses everyone. Sexual harassment is the battering down of a mind, and one’s mentality, overtime through demoralizing comments and actions that steals ones identity. 

The issue is not just centered around a particular grade level, even a school, it is a district wide situation ranging from middle school up to the senior class. Though not a new issue in schools worldwide, sexual harassment and verbal abuse has become more prominent due to involvement of technology as seen in the rise of harassment reports in recent years. 

Revere High School Principal Dr. Andy Peltz says it is not that there is an uptick in the comments but instead a manipulation of how those comments spread. 

“It’s hard for kids to sit there and think, ‘She said this mean thing’. She said it once but you’ve seen it 20 times. Or he said this one thing about you once, but now it’s being shared and every time you see someone there like, ‘Did you hear what so-and-so said about you?’ That is what technology is, it’s not increasing the number of comments, [it’s] increasing the recycling of those comments,” Peltz said.

Similarly, Revere High School counselor Emily Rion believes that communication through technology is very difficult, because there is not an opportunity for students to read body language or hear the tone of voice the person they are communicating with is using. This can sometimes cause the wrong message to be received. Peltz attested to this, explaining that a mean message written in secrecy can always be spread and eventually get back to the victim. Rion also warned against the danger of sending explicit content through technology.

“If you send something to somebody, expect it to be sent 100 times over,” Rion said. 

It is impossible to monitor every student in every classroom, hallway and bus. Meaning that when an incident does occur, it is as much on the student to report it as it would be on the adult to take action after witnessing it. Students who have been victims of these dehumanizing remarks and continuing abuse may eventually become used to it or feel that maybe those comments are true. This is when it becomes extremely important for witnesses to the harassment along with the student themselves to report it to a trusted adult. 

“If you don’t feel safe, you can’t learn, it is proven. So if someone is scared or timid and feels unsafe, talking about algebra problems isn’t going to connect with them,” Peltz said. 

Rion described counselors as well as Officer Dressler and other trusted adults as great resources. 

“Apart from talking to counselors, let’s go even deeper. If there are therapies that are needed, [counselors can help with] getting referrals for that. Then the administration will talk to them, working through specific things,” she said. 

She emphasizes that these conversations are extremely important to have because instilling the right ideas at an early age is detrimental to the spread of awareness later in life. 

“[These discussions are] important to have especially as teenagers and as youth because you are all the future. Change is not gonna happen unless it comes from within the generations, so I think having these conversations and being open to them is going to be very very important,” Rion said.

Certain clubs at Revere are in place for the sole purpose of supporting students and guiding them towards help. One of those is the Save Promise club, headed by Senior Cassie Keaton. It works to give students safe places to reach out to when they are being bullied or harassed as well as introduces them to hotlines for every type of problem. 

“Some of the many resources is being able to reach out to a trusted adult which is a main aspect of SAVE Promise. Trusted adults are adults who students feel comfortable coming to in order to share knowledge with, whether it is bullying or harassment,” Keaton said. 

The Student Handbook is another resource for students and parents looking for information on the schools policy regarding sexual harassment and associated behavior. Code 15 of the handbook is set aside to define inappropriate behavior. It states, “Any behavior deemed inappropriate in school, including but not limited to unwelcome touching, play fighting, unwanted advances, physical intimidation, sexual contact, public displays of affection, throwing items, and excessively loud hallway or classroom behavior.” 

Sexual harassment can range from small incidents to extremes. Dr. Peltz makes sure to determine that a situation falls under the definition of sexual harassment before deciding what action to take. He has to ask if it is an isolated incident or a repetitive issue. As well as, Peltz must determine if there is a threat involved. If so, he directly involves Officer Dressler along with other police. Just above Code 15, outlined in Code 12, the Student Handbook defines sexual harassment as, “Any action which subjects an individual or group to unwanted behavior of a nonverbal, verbal, written, or physical nature. An act that injures, degrades, or disgraces or attempts to injure, degrade, or disgrace a student falls within this category.” If a threat does not present itself, the administration will begin an investigation.

In the midst of a situation, both Peltz and Rion say it is important to stay neutral. Many times, students are not aware of what they are saying and how it affects their peers. 

“We recognize [we] have 14 to 18 year olds that are still developing. So they make a comment and they don’t understand the gravity of it. They don’t understand sarcasm fully so when you’re taking a look at a 14 year old, especially compared to an 18-year-old, you have to sit there and take a look [to see if] they understand completely what the situation was,” Peltz said. 

Another issue is not labeling students as their past actions. A lot of times comments are made purely for laughs or to seem cool. 

“We also need to make sure to remind them that they have said something inappropriate, that doesn’t mean they are sexual predators or that they are horrible people. You said something mean, you said something inappropriate. Now how do you identify, do you see that as a problem?” Peltz said.

Taking the right approach to an incident is extremely important. It has to be done swiftly and fairly. Peltz recognizes though that using tactics like shame or intimidation to try to punish a student who is shaming and intimidating others creates a cycle.  

Disciplinary action is given out by the principals. After a student comes to a counselor and reports an incident, the counselor’s job is then to be there to support the student, not hand out any punishments. Rion believes this is very important because it gives students more comfort when confiding in counselors. 

“We need students to feel comfortable coming to us and talking to us about things and if we were giving out discipline, I don’t know if they would. And that’s not to say that people aren’t comfortable with this. We just need to be very neutral for everybody,” Rion said. 

As there are already resources in place to help viticims of sexual harassment, the next step is pushing awareness and helping students understand the big picture of their actions to lower to amount of harassment taking place. 

Revere Middle School Vice Principal Dan Oberhauser is a big believer in the popular slogan “See Something, Say Something.” It is important to stand up for others when they cannot or are unwilling to stand up for themselves. 

“Obviously if I see it myself, I’m going to handle it right there or a teacher will bring something to me and that is handled. But a lot of the time, adults don’t see everything that kids do and it doesn’t always happen in school,” Oberhauser said. 

Revere Middle School Principal Bill Conley agrees, elaborating on the work being done in the middle school to discourage crude behavior; such as, grade level meetings to discuss behavior and talking about it in classrooms.  

“I think it’s the message that you send on a daily, weekly basis about how we just treat people. It’s to the point in the year now, where people should know how to treat each other, if you don’t show each other there are consequences for your actions,” Conley said. 

The consequences mentioned could include; office visits, detentions, suspensions and expulsions.  

The students walking the halls everyday and being exposed to things like bullying, harassment and peer pressure should be the first resource to turn to when looking to improve the situation. They have hands-on experience with people who make the comments and a unique perspective into its effects. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “56% of girls have experienced any kind of sexual harassment and 40% of boys.” 

Mya Jaber, a freshman at Revere, offered a solution in comforting victims by making announcements in support of those who are victims of harassment. She also suggested creating a box in the guidance office where students could “say it right then and there”. Keaton came to a similar conclusion that helping people comprehend the effect of their actions will be important to drastically reduce harassment claims.  

“In order to bring awareness to sexual harassment I think people need to understand what it is and that it is not okay. We can bring awareness to this by putting up posters and other signs up around our school and community. As well as create hot lines for this easily accessible to students,” Keaton said. 

Madison Bales, a junior, figures that sexual harassment should not just be focused on females but also support and validate claims from males. 

Another student, Maggie Zurn agreed with Keaton that bringing awareness through posters would be beneficial to giving students resources. 

Conley recognizes that students are not fully developed and under the influence of social pressure equipped with a small understanding of what their words mean. He also gave some examples of ways teachers could be more receptive to what’s going on. 

“Not leaving your kids unmonitored, make sure you’re vigilant in the hallways between classroom transitions and make sure that you are aware of what’s going on within the classroom. All of our classrooms work in small groups, so making sure to moderate listening to conversations, making sure kids are engaging and not participating in different activities,” Conley said. 

Peltz added to Conely’s statement saying that an open dialogue is extremely important along with determining what the outcome of the situation needs to be. 

“We need to be not dismissive right away. We need to sit there and see what’s the ultimate goal. The consequence could just be an uncomfortable conversation to make you realize this person‘s feelings,” Peltz said. 

In Revere Schools the principals and counselors are able to work hand in hand to spread awareness. Overall, the high school and middle school principals reported minimum to zero claims.

“I have not had any sexual harassment claims,” said Oberhauser. 

Overall sexual harassment in schools is an issue that the Revere Schools System has many resources implemented to fight back against it. Students are provided with safe spaces and a promise to be heard and supported equally. It is important to remember that there are always two sides to every story and there is always help somewhere, it just has to be sought out.