The #MeToo social media movement of women speaking out about sexual harassment and assault took a wider scope earlier this month at the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s monthly Board of Education meeting. Not only are high school girls increasingly concerned with sex crimes and misconduct, they’re also speaking out about racism, LGBTQ equality, mental-health issues, fear of deportation, and a need for appropriate mentors, counselors, and after-school programs, according to Dr. Anna Everett, who chairs the County of Santa Barbara Commission for Women. Speaking to boardmembers, Everett relayed testimonies from the commission’s “Women Speak Up” fact-finding forum held earlier this year at the Faulkner Gallery.
“Girls live in fear of being deported and are afraid to go to school, [and] there’s [been] an uptick in … genitalia grabbing,” reported Everett, a longtime UCSB professor of film and media studies. Tasked since 1970 with addressing the status and well-being of women countywide, the commission outlined preliminary talks with Dos Pueblos High School to create student-produced educational videos featuring kids district-wide getting their stories heard and the help they need.
Health Officer Charity Dean with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has offered to help write and review appropriate “teaching tools” and related curriculum, added Commissioner Suzanne Peck, who has also met with health teachers about increasing resources from within the district instead of having to rely on help from outside nonprofits. “Having heard from so many girls about sexual assault [and] violence in schools, we really started to think, ‘What can we do? How can we help?’” she said. “We really need student-centered engagement,” she said. “What we’re asking for is an active collaboration with us.”
By Paul Wellman (file)