New interest group created to address sexual violence

TAKE+INITIATIVE.+At+an+US+assembly+on+Nov.+15%2C+the+group+took+to+the+stage+to+introduce+themselves+and+the+initiative+they+created.

Kathryn Campbell

TAKE INITIATIVE. At an US assembly on Nov. 15, the group took to the stage to introduce themselves and the initiative they created.

Conversations about sexual abuse and harassment led to the creation of a self-selected interest group. They partnered with the US administration to address the lack of education and current policies regarding sexual violence. The group introduced themselves and the initiative they constructed at a US Assembly Nov. 15.

Concerns about how SPA addresses sexual violence are not unique to this school year. Starting in 2017, SADD made efforts to inform the community on topics such as consent and sexual assault. The question is, what initiated the sudden action being taken?

Member Leo Sampsell-Jones explains why he joined the group: “I’ve heard lots of accounts from my female friends of the things they’ve heard male members of the community saying about them or their peers. Sexist ‘jokes’ come from the same place as sexual harassment and assault.”

The group hopes to focus on increasing education about sexual violence along with reframing current policies and procedures.

The self-selected group of students reached out to Upper School administrators to partner up. Principal Ken Jaffe while new this year, expressed how appreciative he is to have been invited to partner with the students: “The group has solidified the partnership between the students and administration via our commitment to working collaboratively on an important issue to the school community,” Jaffe said.

Jaffe highlighted three key points from the current policy that aligns with the necessary collaboration between students and administrators:

– “Dedicated to providing a safe environment in which students can learn without fear or threat of sexual aggression.”

– “SPA will take any such allegations seriously and respond appropriately.”

– “Will strive to create a community that is aware of and sensitive to the issues of sexual aggression, where all students can thrive.”

According to Dean of Students Stacy Tepp, “students and faculty are consulting on improving education and facilitating discussions about sexual aggression in developmentally appropriate ways as students advance through 9th-12th grade in the Upper School.”

The group has solidified the partnership between the students and administration via our commitment to working collaboratively on an important issue to the school community.”

— Ken Jaffe

The group’s intention was not to be made up of all seniors: “We had a few juniors and underclassmen who were interested in coming to some of the early meetings, but they didn’t end up showing.” Sampsell-Jones said.

Sampsell-Jones looks on the bright side of the lack of first- and second-year students and junior presence: “As a group, we hope to use our status as seniors to be able to reach younger students.”

The group intends to put sexual aggression allegations brought forward by students high on their list of focus points: “Sexism has been very prevalent in the SPA community this year,” Sampsell-Jones said.

Other subjects the group targets are defining procedures, revising policies, enhancing education, and providing opportunities in school for ongoing conversation.