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Douglas High student video helps to reduce sexual harassment, principal says

by Merrie Leininger

The peer service class wanted an educational project, and Principal Bev Jeans was looking for a way to stop the increasingly frequent sexual harassment incidents at Douglas High School.

“The top priority is that we have a safe campus, otherwise students are put in an emotional fear mode,” Jeans said.

Last year Jeans had to discipline seven or eight students in connection with sexual harassment.

“This year I have had only one so far and that was a senior,” she said.

The senior class is the only one that has not seen the video or listened to the presentation put on by the peer service class.

Students who teach the class say the problem has all but disappeared, but seniors still create some problems.

The 15-minute video was made by the class and Jeans says it is one of the best student productions she has ever seen.

The video goes over what sexual harassment is and what Douglas High School rules are about it. It reinforces the ideas the students try to get across in their presentation.

Ashlee Paster, 15, is a 10th grader who is in the peer services class for the first time this year. Teaching the sophomores about sexual harassment was a positive experience for her.

“It was awesome,” she said. “A lot of things we told them they didn’t know and it made them open their eyes.”

Paster said the class has changed attitudes in the school because the students are more willing to learn when the message is coming from their peers.

“It was awful. It was really bad with the students. You couldn’t walk down the hall without hearing or seeing somebody grab somebody or saying, ‘Hey, baby,’ and now everyone knows better,” Paster said.

She said the experience has taught her how to deal with different kinds of people in a teaching or counseling-type situation, helpful to her because she want to be a counselor.

n Peers. Senior Lindsay Sagers, 18, was in the class that organized the sexual harassment materials last year.

She said students decided to make their own video after watching what videos were available.

“We watched a lot of videos, but most of them were very outdated. I think the fact that we shot our own video helps them relate more and pay more attention. It is more effective. The other videos our class couldn’t even take seriously, so we knew the rest of the school wouldn’t,” Sagers said.

Another member of the original class, senior Chad Harmon, said students had to do some research on what the problem was in the school before they could teach about it.

The class learned a lot about the extent of the problem – three out of four students have experienced sexual harassment in some way, according to the Douglas County health figures. Students also learned sexual harassment can take different forms from verbal to physical and how it differs from intimidation, another big problem at the high school.

“It made me feel more sympathy toward people who get sexually harassed,” Harmon said.

n A challenge. Teacher Julie Franklin, who teaches drama, speech, English and the peer services class, said the class has carried the ball on its own.

“It is pretty scary to go into a group of peers, but they saw it as a challenge,” she said.

She said the group is thinking about presenting it to the seniors next semester.

They will also be looking for more support and input from the world history teachers while they are giving the presentations in the classes, she said, because when teachers participated, the students got more out of it.

“It’s what works best in class and making them more aware and supportive should help,” she said.

The peer services class regularly takes on issues to make students more aware, she said. Peer services students also teach AIDS awareness and help organize the mentor program and the tutoring program.

n Changes. Jeans said she is proud of the group and believes they have instituted real changes in the school. “Because sexual harassment was an issue in the school, they have taken on the job of really making the campus safe for themselves and not just letting it continue,” she said.

Jeans said sexual harassment does not have one set punishment in the school. Discipline depends on the severity of the incident.

She said she investigates each allegation and brings in witnesses who are neutral – friends with neither of the parties. Then, if the claim is substantiated, she doles out a suspension of one day or more.

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