Community forum continues discussion of sexual misconduct issues at Steamboat High School
Pretend you’re on the phone; always tell someone where you are going; carry a weapon; never walk alone in the dark.
These are some of the responses women and girls shared when asked what they were told to do to protect themselves from sexual violence.
When asked the same question, the men and boys in the room sat in silence for several seconds.
“It’s the same answer no matter which room I’m in,” said Graham Hackett, social change program manager for the Advocates of Routt County, who led the conversation. “We live in a patriarchy where men are granted extraordinary privileges over other sexes.”
The forum focused on the recent student protest alleging sexual harassment and assault at Steamboat Springs High School and the school’s response. About 30 parents attended the forum, as well as Kelly Latterman, President of the Steamboat Springs School Board, Superintendent Brad Meeks, and student activists Adia Clark Lay and Macy Reisman.
Clark Lay, Reisman and other students held a rally in October to raise awareness of what they described as a âpervasive rape cultureâ in high school.
âThere are a lot of stereotypes and jokes that aren’t acceptable in high school,â Clark Lay said at Tuesday’s forum. âSome kids in our school don’t know the difference between right and wrong, and they need to be taught that. “
A male relative who attended the forum, who declined to share his name with Pilot & Today, raised concerns about the use of words such as “rape culture” and “pervasive” as he felt that the ârape cultureâ implied a much more serious situation. than what the students were describing, which was mostly harassment and inappropriate comments from male students to female students.
In response, Hackett said the term ârape cultureâ is intentionally used to describe a set of harmful behaviors that often begin with harassment and can lead to sexual violence if not punished or corrected quickly.
“The idea that ‘rape culture’ is being used has often been used in a way that creates alarm around the observed condition,” Hackett said. âThese behaviors can lead to rape. “
Marshall University, a public research university in West Virginia, has defined rape culture as “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and culture. popular..
“The culture of rape is perpetuated by the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies and the glorification of sexual violence, thus creating a society that disregards the rights and safety of women,” adds the definition of the University.
The parent also asked if penetrative rape was a âpervasiveâ problem at school, which he believed the message of the protest conveyed.
Another parent suggested that while this is not a pervasive problem, students should modify their post so that they don’t alarm others with the specific language.
“I have no knowledge of penetrating rape in any way,” Hackett said. “But someone being touched, someone being harassed, I’m aware of that.”
Colleen Clark Lay, Adia’s mother, explained that such language is used by younger generations because it raises awareness of a serious problem.
“What a precarious position to tell the children who have had the courage to stand up and speak their truth,” said Colleen. “Who else is there to tell them that they need to clarify this to put someone else at ease?” “
To address concerns about the safety of sending a child to school, Meeks said he believes the school still provides a safe environment for students.
âA vast majority of our students come to school and do the right thing,â Meeks said. “I think we have a very safe environment at school, but I’m not going to decrease these incidents because I know they are happening.”
In 2020, the school board hired a former FBI agent to investigate allegations of misconduct at the school.
The investigation involved more than 100 face-to-face interviews and a review of a large number of documents. At the end of his investigation, the officer said he had identified 28 cases with a component of sexual misconduct over the past four years. Seven of these occurred off campus, she said, three were internet or social media related, and 12 involved some type of referral to law enforcement.
In response to the survey’s findings, the district appointed a task force made up of teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, students and community members to make recommendations to the school on improving prevention and response to sexual violence.
The working group has since expanded to become a district-wide standing committee.
Although the school has made improvements, Meeks said he believes the conversation is far from over.
âI feel good about what we do, but we can always do better, and unfortunately I think that’s something we will always have to work on,â said Meeks. âPeople need to learn the right behaviors. “
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email [email protected]