Andrea Parker, Assistant Principal, presented the Sexual Harassment Awareness Campaign for Students during academic study halls to share with students the changes in OHS’ sexual harassment procedures. The campaign was created based on the need for change evident from the results of the Student Advisory Board survey last year. OHS will be handling sexual harassment in three new ways: education structure, safety, and support in the building.
42Fifty covered the survey results last year in a news article before changes to the procedure were made. It was discovered that sexual harassment was a problem for both Oswego High School and Oswego East High School. The Student Advisory Board took action and worked with the district to change the steps students and ambassadors take for sexual assault and harassment in the building.
“If enough students in the building felt like they didn’t have an avenue to report or a channel of communication that they felt comfortable with then clearly our schools had to step up and do something better,” social studies teacher Brenda Shay said. Shay is one of several adults in the building who have been designated as Safe Space Ambassadors or adults who have volunteered their classrooms as a safe space to keep students safe and help speed up the reporting process.
Parker addresses the three forms of sexual harassment during the session: verbal sexual harassment, non-verbal sexual harassment, and physical sexual contact.
“It’s not comfortable to talk about these things but it’s important to be able to educate ourselves and identify things and we’re go[ing] to talk about that as we go over on this process so that unfortunately if or when we ever witness this or were to experience it that we can identify it,” Parker said.
OHS has posted a QR code to further explain the different forms of sexual harassment; everyone in SD308 has full access to this in their Graduating Class Google Classrooms as well as the Sexual Harassment Campaign. Students being harassed in any kind of way is prohibited by SD308 Board Policy 7.20 and can be found here.
“It’s [the student and staff’s] collective responsibility as a part of the school community to help create a safe environment,” Parker said.
This means reporting when you see any form of harassment—verbal sexual harassment, non-verbal sexual harassment, and physical sexual contact—and treating others respectfully by respecting others’ boundaries.
Be sure to stay enrolled in your graduating Google Classroom; not only does it hold important information to help you toward graduation, but it also holds learning updates and sexual harassment brochures to keep students educated.
OHS feels it’s important to not only keep students educated on what exactly Sexual Assault is, but how to report it and where.
Witnesses should create a distraction, ask the person to stop, and contact a Safe Space Ambassador or safe adult nearby.
As a student, Student Services is the place to go if you need help with any sort of incident. If you see something, say something and report it in student services or online.
Do you want to use your student voice to help students feel more comfortable at school? Join the OHS Student Advisory Committee to meet with the OHS Administration monthly and give constructive feedback on what is and isn’t working for OHS. Recommendation letters are needed, and the advisory board is chosen by the superintendent.
“What we want you to remember is that your voice matters, and being able to think, ‘what would I do if’ is an important part of being prepared to handle things that might happen that we didn’t anticipate,” Shay said.
When reporting to any faculty or Safe Space Ambassador, confidentiality will be given except for three exceptions: you give permission to share your information, you or others are planning to hurt someone, or you are planning to hurt yourself.
Safe Space Ambassadors have accepted the position of being safe adults in the building for everyone at OHS. A rainbow safe-space decal can be found on the outside of spaces where a Safe Space Ambassador will be.
Below are all the Safe Space Ambassadors and where they can be found:
Brenda Shay: Room 205
Colleen Predl: Gym/Field House
Jamie Piper: Room 135
Sarah Carlson: Room 211
Nancy Wyatt: Room 149
Katherine Conant: Room 38
Megan Jansen: Special Education Office
Anne Sweeney: Room 221
Wendy Monn: Room 12
Milica Leone: Room 141
Jandy Sleyko: Room 259
Karen Ferguson: Room 260
Kelly Tobin-Martin: Room 233
Jacqueline Wojtyszyn: Room 223
Elizabeth Gustin: Room 157
Erin Holtz: Room 241
Pamela Phelps: Room 253
Jen Keto: Room 207
Shay is one of many Safe Space Ambassadors who has a safe classroom for you to talk to her in whenever you need.
“I am a very strong advocate for women’s rights and children’s rights, and so when I heard that young girls in this building might be feeling vulnerable in that area, I really wanted to step up, because it really does match with my values as well,” Shay said.
The responsibilities of a Safe Space Ambassador help gait the reporting process.
“My role as a Safe Space Ambassador is to let students know with that decal in my classroom window that I’m here to help them through the process… I am available to be a trusted adult that will keep their concerns confidential and make sure that I listen and make them feel validated,” Shay said.
As Safe Space Ambassadors, adults are there for students that need an outlet or safe space they may not have anywhere else.
“Number one, you give them a private place to talk about what happened to them, and then if it’s a situation where they’re not safe in the moment, make sure I escort them to a safe place, and if it’s something that doesn’t need to be handled in the moment…then I would make sure that I report that to the appropriate individual to then follow up and contact that student in the near future,” Shay said.
OHS students need support in the building, whether it’s to help with reporting or just to have someone to talk to.
“Even if there’s nothing legal that can be done, it can still be a very traumatic experience and people need support. They need to be heard and they need to know that their feelings matter,” Shay said.
My name is Trinity Heard, I am a Senior at Oswego High School, and this is my second year writing for 42Fifty. I am very excited to continue working with the team and help other learn more about journalism. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, baking, and editing. I also am a part of the Student Council as President and work as a crew member at Culvers. I look forward to being involved in 42Fifty as a managing editor for this year.