The text below is from a school letter sent to one of my American friends by the principal of his son's school. Any of us who have young daughters are concerned about the way they are treated, and how they are taught to navigate the shoals of social life [I have changed the names to protect the identity of various fragile souls...]
Dear Seventh Grade Families,
Today, it came to our attention that some seventh grade students have been making negative comments about some seventh grade girls and their bodies. Students reached out to teachers over the course of the morning to share their discomfort with this language and this pattern of behavior.
This afternoon, students who identify as girls were invited to process their feelings and concerns together with Gloria Juarez and Tamara Boldini. Many girls reported that one impact of these comments is that they feel self-conscious about how they look. They made it clear that they wanted to make sure everyone - students and adults - understands the harmful impact of these comments, even while they recognized that boys must feel peer pressure to participate in these conversations, and that many of the comments might be framed “as a joke". Gloria and Tamara reported that many students left this meeting feeling empowered and affirmed.
A group of students who identify as boys also asked for a chance to process their thoughts and feelings, and Jonah Wilkinson and I met with all of the boys in the seventh grade. I made it clear that we know that not every boy has been involved in speaking disrespectfully to girls. However, I did share with them that they will likely all be in situations in the future -- in high school, college, and adulthood -- in which other boys or men make inappropriate comments and objectify girls and women. We talked about planning ahead for those predictable and uncomfortable situations. I also asked them: How would they want their classmates who identify as girls to describe them? Many hands went up. “Honest, kind, and trustworthy,” they said.
Today was about providing space for students to process their feelings about harm done in the seventh grade community. I will be working with individual families in the coming days. Next week, we will bring each house together for a Restorative Justice Circle. This is a protocol for facilitating conversations that students have been using since fifth grade. The purpose is to repair the harm that was done and make commitments to one another about how we talk to and about one another at our school.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.
James Clark, A School Class, 1861