During the past 2017-2018 academic year, the Big Sibs program has been helping freshmen to become acquainted with the school. The program is aimed at teaching freshmen about school resources, how to manage their time in high school, and how to best take advantage of everything that Bronx Science has to offer them. While the program has been very successful, it was lacking in one area, that of sexual harassment education.
The Sexual Assault Board, a group of students, faculty, and administrators that was started this year, realized that while the Big Sibs program spoke about mental and physical health resources at Bronx Science, it did not mention sexual health, or address the issues connected with sexual harassment and assault.
In response to this gap, the students of this board put together a presentation teaching the freshmen about consent, the differences between sexual harassment and sexual assault, and engaging the freshmen in discussions about how our culture shapes, and even perpetuates, sexual assault within our communities. The presentation informed students how stigmas against people of color makes it harder for victims to come forward, why victims often do not report assault, and problems within our judicial system that prevent rapists from being prosecuted.
“Some people may think that freshmen are too young to learn about consent or about sexual assault, but the reality is that students as young as middle schoolers experience some form of sexual harassment every day. The younger that we teach people the importance of clear consent, the sooner we can decrease the statistic that one in four women experience some form of sexual assault in colleges in America,” said Julia Catrambone ’19, a member of the Sexual Assault Board.
Nafisa Zaman ’21 also commented on the importance of teaching students about consent early on. “As our Big Sibs gave us the lesson, they mentioned some serious facts, and I think it was nice that they presented the issue realistically and didn’t censor certain things because they weren’t ‘age appropriate.’ I think that everyone should know how horrible and terrifying these issues can be, and I believe that censoring the information would cause people to take the issue less seriously than they already do.”
Mr. Nasser, Assistant Principal of Guidance and Big Sib supervisor, commented on the success of the lesson. “I was so impressed with the development and delivery of the recent Sexual Assault/Consent Lessons. It is an important topic, and it was conveyed in a professional, respectful, and age-appropriate fashion. The Sexual Assault Board and the Big Sibs really took this initiative seriously. I witnessed one of the lessons, and the ninth graders were attentive and engaged, and they produced thoughtful dialogue that is essential, not just in high school, but in life.”
“As our Big Sibs gave us the lesson, they mentioned some serious facts, and I think it was nice that they presented the issue realistically and didn’t censor certain things because they weren’t ‘age appropriate,’” said Nafisa Zaman ’21.
“It was genuinely the most engaging lesson of freshman guidance by far. It’s a fantastic addition to the program, especially considering the controversies in Hollywood right now,” Zaman said.
Joy Hwoang ’21 added that even though she loved the lesson and thought it was very important, she would like to see more inclusion within the lesson, as she noticed that the victims shown were mainly female. “It’s understandable that this topic is mostly related or common to women and women’s issues, but I think that, as a whole, men should be more included in the topic.”
Next, the Sexual Assault Board hopes to be able to implement the same lesson within Sophomore Guidance, and eventually into all health classes, so that all students have access to this information. They are also striving to be more inclusive with gender, ethnicity, and race when addressing the issue of consent.
“The lessons are a work in progress, and we are looking forward to hearing student input, so that we can improve the lessons for everyone,” said Catrambone. The lessons will be slightly modified for each grade, with senior lessons containing more information on rape culture in college, but the Board truly wants all students to have the same information available to them throughout their time in Bronx Science. With the year coming to a close and seniors going off to college, the importance of consent awareness cannot be overemphasized.