APS Sexual Harassment Policy 2020-21

Posted on September 18, 2020

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According to the most-recent BOE agenda, Adrian Public School Board is reviewing the district’s sexual harassment policy, an action I applaud as necessary and urgent. I hope that the BOE is working with educators who have experience in creating effective policies and practices regarding the numerous complex issues related to sexual harassment.

However, what I have observed since 1994, is that district administrators are uninformed–by choice–about the rampant gender-based harassment that targets women and LGBTQ community at AHS and that leaves people traumatized by the daily onslaught of degrading micro- and macro-aggressions from adults and peers over the course of their sojourn at AHS.

I’m not sure what the overall goal of the new policy is, but without real education and leadership by an expert in gender equity, the district will bring forth yet another policy that will do nothing to make students safe, but will allow APS to cover their shame with a legal figleaf that makes it look like people can report harassment and that actions will be taken to increase safety, but that almost NO victims will use because they know that reporting brings retaliation.

I have heard numerous accounts told to me by alumni who carry their trauma in silence because they had zero faith in the system. Teens have excellent bullshit detectors, and the men running the show at AHS rarely passed the test.

I learned the truth of their experience first-hand in my first semester in the district. It was spring 1994, and I was in a long-term sub job, teaching Speech. Like most teachers, I had a group of students who came in after school to talk about their day, their exciting news, their struggles. One day, a group of about four-six young women were in the room, and one shared that she had experienced sexual harassment—which released a torrent of corroborating stories from the others–which brought them around to wonder if they might start a group for AHS girls to support and educate one another about the gender-based challenges they faced at school. They dreamed about being able to feel safe at school.

Normally, as a somewhat compulsive researcher, I would have written notes in a file that would tell me who the girls were and what was said, but if I did write notes at the time, I destroyed them. It is possible that I was too traumatized to write about it; I didn’t have the strength for it after some traumas, especially as a new teacher. It is also possible that I felt unsafe to have a written record after I spoke with the principal about it.

I was very concerned for the students, and I was impressed that they didn’t want revenge: they wanted to organize and work together to support one another and improve the school climate.

Since no record exists, I’ve beaten my brain trying to remember who was there. And then she appeared as a Facebook friend, one of the students who was there that day.

I took the students’ proposal to the principal, who, it turned out, had no interest in supporting these students, no interest in addressing the issue, and every intention of denying their right to assemble and silencing the discussion ASAP.

I reported to the students that their request was denied, and I realized that none of us would be safe to go about our lives at AHS without the constant dehumanization that results from a culture of toxic masculinity.

As with many issues of school climate that could be addressed through education, the discussion and the support group didn’t cease to exist; it went underground. And it continues. If you’re reading this and you want to talk, I’m here, and I still want to see the district make real, evidence-based, and measurable progress toward gender equity. I also still hope that some students will report their experiences and urge the district to change the culture.

After a few private messages re-introducing ourselves to one another, I asked my former student, who is quickly approaching two decades as a high school teacher herself, if she recalled any of the specific concerns she and her peers had in 1994.

My jaw dropped when she reminded me of one of the group’s complaints: boys “would wear shirts that said ‘bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks’ under a sweatshirt and then strategically flash [girls].”

And there you have it: my introduction to the toxic masculinity of AHS that would not only continue until my retirement 25 years later–but would actually worsen!

How could the climate get worse? Oh, reader! Stay tuned for future installments!

In the mean time, perhaps you’ve been out of school long enough that you are safe enough to draw the BOE’s attention to something related to their work on updating the district sexual harassment policy, you can find their emails here.

#FeminismIsGenderEquality


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lisa eddy is a writer-for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com