By Casey Keane
Last year, the Jamesville-DeWitt High School community dealt with an incident involving students who were victims of sexual harassment. This exposed the idea that many female students felt uncomfortable going to the all-male administration with a problem concerning sexual harassment. For many years, sexual harassment has been rising in schools across the globe. J-DHS isn’t avoiding that rise, instead they began the process of educating students on how to prevent acts of abuse from happening.
The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Program was founded in 1993 with the intention of motivating student leaders to play a role in solving problems that have historically been known to be “women’s issues,” according to a handout given to the school about the program. The MVP Program was designed to train male and female student leaders to use their status to speak out to fellow students about the prevention of rape, dating violence, harassment, bullying, and other forms of inappropriate behaviors, according to a description given by health teacher, Melissa Moore.
Mrs. Moore said that this club was brought to the the Building Level Team last year by students who were concerned with the safety in the hallways of their school.
“The original plan was intended for athletes,” Mrs. Moore said. “You would train athletes who then would take the information and go to their teams and coaches.” But Principal Paul Gasparini thought it would be better to make it as expansive as possible and introduce it to the whole school.
“A year ago, a group of students representing the student government and interested students came to the BLT. They came to the BLT to talk about their concerns about student-to-student harassment, the way students are cavalier or loose with their language, that kids make innuendos that they don’t know are inappropriate. They felt as though there ought to be a way for the school to address this positively and through education,” said Mr. Gasparini.
Principal Gasparini was contacted by George Kilpatrick who works for Vera House, and who Mr. Gasparini described as a J-D parent and a well known person in the community. Kilpatrick’s website describes him as, “a respected multimedia advocate for the quiet majority of people who are models of success but whose stories often go untold.”
Kilpatrick works for Vera House, “a comprehensive domestic and sexual violence service agency providing shelter, advocacy, and counseling services for women, children & men, education and prevention programs and community coordination,” according to their website. Kilpatrick proposed the idea of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Program to JD through Vera House. Mrs. Moore, Mr. Gasparini, and the BLT all agreed this program should be brought to the school community.
“It’s students working with students,” is what Principal Gasparini likes about this program. “It’s not some adult nobody knows coming into the auditorium, spouting off and walking away, it’s not the principal telling the kids, ‘You need to do this.’ It’s students taking information, making it their own and then sharing it with their friends,” he said
Senior Maddy VanHusen was invited to go to the first session of this program which was the first time she had heard of it. “I thought it would be a good program. It’s about being a leader in our community against violence and I thought that was something great I wanted to be part of.” VanHusen believes this program will help the JD community if the leaders involved in this program step up to their leadership positions.
Junior Aimee Comanici was invited to join the program because she was on Slate as a sophomore and now as a junior. Comanici thinks the program sounds very interesting and says violence is a topic everyone knows about. “People know it happens but it’s something that is inappropriate to talk about in public and in large groups of people.” Comanci concludes, “I know that it will bring more awareness to the topic. I’m not sure how much of an effect it will have on the people at JD though.”
Sophomore Ben Fleet heard about the program when his homeroom teacher handed him a red sheet of paper with a descritpion of the Mentors In Violence Program. After reading the description he decide to attend the first meeting session. “It could definitely help the JD community,” Fleet says. “It could help any community in reality because preventing violence is going to do exactly that: help communities.”
Students invited by teachers or counselors and administration will attend a six-hour information session on Friday, Nov. 6. This information session, led by Vera House staff will cover topics such as Gender Roles, Types of Abuse, Sexual Harassment, Alcohol and Consent, and Homophobia. After this information session, this group of students will meet every other week to continue to learn about leadership skills. The ultimate goal, according to Mr. Gasparini, is by the beginning of the second semester the school will have peer training classes set up for all students in the school.