Opinion: Berkeley Unified — It’s time to step up your game addressing sexual harassment

As founders of BHS Stop Harassing, we call for more prevention education on campus and a full-time Title IX coordinator specifically for Berkeley High.

We are the original steering committee of BHS Stop Harassing (BHSSH). We were founded out of frustration over the lack of education, awareness and conversation about healthy relationships, sexual harassment and sexual assault at Berkeley High School.

BHS Stop Harassing was born in 2014 after the annual “welcome” assembly of Berkeley High School when a male senior staffer told the audience if girls wanted to avoid harassment, they should respect themselves and cover-up. After the assembly, several of us met to talk about our experiences with sexual harassment in the Berkeley school system. As we began to engage more of our fellow students, as well as parents, teachers, and other community members, the stories poured out.

Every student had a story to tell about sexual harassment at school, from catcalls in the hallway to being touched inappropriately, to sexual violence. As we realized the scope of the problem, we knew that we couldn’t stand by and let this behavior continue. We all had stories, and we all recognized we were being failed by our school.

Because Berkeley High was not talking about it, we had to take it into our own hands to advocate for education and policy change.

We have been watching the current situation unfold in shock and horror. Years after we first raised concerns, very little has changed. Students enter and leave Berkeley High School under-educated on matters of consent and boundaries, and with no support system. Board members and administrators who oversee the education and policies surrounding sexual harassment have not taken adequate steps to protect students, even after BHS Stop Harassing successfully lobbied the school board to change their weak, outdated sexual harassment policy in 2015.

Because every student deserves to be safe and heard on campus, we are calling on the current administration to meet the current BHSSH demands: bring prevention education to campus, support students who experience sexual harassment, hire a Title IX coordinator specifically for Berkeley High, and create a safer campus culture for all.

Brea Kaye, BHS ’15, recently moved back to the Bay Area where she does relationship violence prevention education. Emily Levenson, BHS ’18, is a sophomore in urban studies and planning at MIT. Maya Siskin-Lavine, BHS ’16 is a senior at Macalester College studying anthropology and psychology. Rachel Siskin-Lavine, BHS '16, is a senior at American University where she is majoring in communications, law, economics and government. Liana Thompson. BHS ’15, lives in Washington DC, where she educates women about their workplace rights regarding sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination.