School introduces Day of Healthy Relationships



According to surveys conducted by the Love is Respect organization, both domestic violence and sexual abuse are prevalent in high schools nationwide.

Yuen Ting Chow , News Editor

According to a student survey, one in five female identifying students at the high school have experienced sexual contact against their will.

Having noted the abundance of unhealthy relationships both at the high school and in society, student peer leaders, the Students Against Human Trafficking (SAHT) club and faculty members have decided to organize an all-day assembly for mid-March to raise awareness on sexual harassment, sexual assault, human trafficking and healthy relationships.

According to peer leadership teacher and social worker Mary Minott, who is also the coordinator of the prevention intervention team, planning for such an assembly arose after a wellness summit that the peer leadership program put on in December.

“A panel of peer leaders presented information about issues students experience around sexual harassment, and then each table brainstormed ideas about how to create the culture we want around these issues,” Minott said. “One of the ideas that came up was having an awareness day around healthy relationships.”

Dean of Student Support Systems Brian Poon talked about how unhealthy relationships are ubiquitous in society, starting from something as simple as not being able to say ‘yes’ in consensual relationships.

“The Kavanaugh hearings in the fall exacerbated our sense – for many, that hearing was incredibly challenging in that a woman is saying that this happened and no one believes her again,” Poon said. “I definitely think this is a challenge for BHS students in our community, but it is also a societal-wide challenge.”

Minott explained that there is formal health education at the high school during freshman year which only runs for one semester, and this assembly would help fill in some of the gaps.

“There are so many topics that have to get covered, and there’s no health education around any of this afterward,” Minott said. “We are hoping that those students who come to the assembly would get some more information about this.”

Minott said many topics will be covered at the assembly.

“One of them would be around issues around consent,” Minott said. “Another one would be discussions around sexual harassment and maybe the boundary of what constitutes sexual assault and what kids could do here in the high school to raise awareness about the issue, so people are actually aware that stuff like this actually happens.”

According to senior and peer leader Malindi Whyte, there will be a “Telling your Stories” type of block where peer leaders share stories collected through an anonymous Canvas survey. She said that it will be anonymous so that students will not have to be forced to talk to the police about it if they choose not to.

“You can just write a story about sexual assault or harassment if that has happened to you or your opinions about it at the high school, and the peer leaders are going to read those,” Whyte said. “{It is important} to know that peers at the high school are experiencing it.”

Math teacher and SAHT club adviser Kari Buys said that members of her club are trying to show that human trafficking is not just a third world issue.

“The Students Against Human Trafficking group is trying to show that human trafficking is a real issue in Boston and sometimes in Brookline. They will bring in one speaker to talk about the impact of human trafficking in Boston,” Buys said.

Senior Hannah Krantz, co-leader of the SAHT club, said that it might seem scary to talk about human trafficking on a day focused on healthy relationships, but feels it would bring about important lessons.

“It starts with insecurity and wanting to feel wanted, and the worst thing that can come is human trafficking,” Krantz said. “Human trafficking is the worst-case scenario of an unhealthy, toxic relationship, but it really does show the strongest examples of power imbalance.”

Poon said that this new assembly, unlike Asking for Courage and Day of Dialogue, would operate on a smaller scale, using just the MLK room.

“We may not be able to do the perfect day with all the different things and trying to do something to scale might be challenging. So, let’s do it on a smaller scale, and in doing so, do it well, and that could potentially be our pilot for doing something larger next year,” Poon said.

Whyte said that using the MLK room could actually be a benefit, as it would make the assembly more interactive.

“We’ll have a small amount of people and we can have peer leaders leading discussions in smaller groups,” Whyte said. “We think that’s one of the more effective ways to get our point across. A big goal of this day is to normalize the discussion about sexual assault and harassment.”

Overall, peer leader and senior Bella Ghafour hopes that the assembly will help students gain perspective of the problems, including sexual harassment and assault, in relationships.

“We need to educate people on the small things that they don’t see are important and are affecting people because that can lead to bigger and worse things,” Ghafour said. “{It’s about} realizing that every single person has a role to play in stepping out and saying something when you hear something bad being said. Realize the power that everyone has in changing the culture.”