In light of the sexual harassment controversy that rocked the district last school year, many Palo Alto High School students have scrutinized the administration’s efforts to prevent similar incidents. The recent “consent assemblies” organized by Palo Alto Unified School District’s Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment task force are a step in the right direction.
These seminars about the importance of consent in sexual relationships had a notable impact on the student body. For instance, sophomore Jasmine Sun says she was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
“I thought that everyone was somewhat engaged and it was better than I expected,” she says. “The games that we played were really fun and we’ve also learned a lot, as a grade, about consent.”
However, Verde has suggestions for how future assemblies and events regarding this topic could be executed better.
First, the event details should have been more transparent and there should have been a clearer trigger warning at the beginning of the assembly, along with people for students to talk to waiting in the room.
Furthermore, the presentation should explore more deeply the line between coercion and flirting. Many of the examples provided were very extreme cases, leaving some confused about how the information would apply to everyday interactions.
Another barrier to sexual assault prevention at Paly is the option students are given to take Living Skills at any point during their time at Paly, causing many students to leave this class until their senior year. Paly should either require students to take Living Skills as underclassmen or make sure to provide alternative sex education, including sexual harassment and consent, to all students.
While Verde strongly supports the actions taken by the RISE task force to combat the issue of sexual harassment, we urge the administration to continue working toward meaningful change in our schools.