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The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

A New Approach to Preventing Misconduct on Campus


Over a year ago, former Los Osos Football Coach David Riden was arrested for having hidden cameras in the girls’ water polo bathroom and locker rooms. 

Following this tragic incident, our staff offered new resources for those impacted, including on-campus therapists-in-training, and our well-established Peer Counseling program. Thanks to these groups, we were given the opportunity to explore our thoughts about the whole situation.

Though the topic was heavy on our minds for a while, eventually, everybody moved on to the next new hot-button issue. With the recent news regarding inappropriate behavior on behalf of the former head athletic trainer on campus, students have begun to take note of a predictable cycle of responses to problems like these, creating a culture on campus that promotes desensitization and ignorant disregard. Our Grizzly Gazette staff felt the need to address this.

As a community, it’s essential that we are all educated on sexual assault as well as racial and gender/sexuality discrimination in order to ensure all students feel that our campus is a welcoming environment.

Many high school students are not informed as to what sexual assault and/or harrassment is defined as. The line between the two is often blurred, and when a victim attributes their experience to either of these, a sense of doubt and the question of whether they are “truly” a victim often accompanies it.

The definition of sexual assault typically includes some form of “sexual penetration”. However, this is not always the case, but on behalf of our staff, we can not tell you the precise definition because we have never had an encounter on campus where a teacher has taken time out of class to define what assault is. 

Many young people find that talking to an older, more experienced person opens up new possibilities and enables them to further their knowledge of the world. However, those who are in charge of shaping our minds are unable to initiate the conversation that has been begging to take place. 

According to Freshman Honors English and American Mosaic teacher Mrs. Visconti, the Chaffey Joint Union District Office has never opened the topic to be publicly communicated between students and staff.

Mr. Lyne, social science teacher, attested to this by saying that the discussion regarding misconduct is never held in a professional setting. Rather, it is discussed on a more personal level between colleagues.

When discussing the education of the student body on what defines sexual assault, Los Osos Principal Eric Cypher said, “It’s a great question, but I don’t have the answer to that. It’s not something that we’ve really considered, but it sounds like something we should.” 

Though it is reassuring to know that the conversation is being had at all, it’s extremely unsettling to know that there has been no situation in which the discussion has been brought up campuswide, aside from when administrators are forced to face the issue after danger makes itself known on campus. Students should not have to wait for the worst for their experiences to be validated.

There tends to be plenty of misinformation among students as well. When cases like that of Riden or the athletic trainer come up, the story of what really happened becomes twisted among peers, which can reinforce a harmful stereotype of coaches and create mistrust.

We are never updated beyond the initial story, and this leads to confusion and fear. As students, it’s important to know that the authority figures that we look up to on a daily basis are not potential criminals. 

There needs to be an emphasis on informing students. Ultimately, we are affected the most in predatory situations. 

Out of three teachers that were asked whether they have been approached with a situation regarding inappropriate student-teacher relationships, all three responded affirmatively. As far as these teachers know, no responsibility was taken and no punishments were received. 

Five out of six students said that they were familiar with victims of an inappropriate student-teacher dynamic, and four out of these accounts expressed that they had directly been in the vulnerable positions of those victims.

In events where the perpetrator was forced to take responsibility, there is a tendency for the suspect in question to resign rather than face termination of employment. Visconti said, “I realize that because we live in a capitalist society, it’s better if they resign because we don’t have to pay for their unemployment.” If they leave before any blame can be assigned, the controversy does not follow that teacher in their next line of work. 

Instead of facing the consequences of their actions, the perpetrator can reach what Visconti described as a “mutual agreement”, where the person is able to step off scotch free while the victims continue to suffer the effects of trauma, simply because it’s easier than the firing process.

In regards to the hiring practices on campus, Cypher said, “We go through their unemployment history, their criminal records, DMV records, and even fingerprinting processes through the FBI.” 

Despite this rigorous background check, there remains no definitive way to initially detect a predator through their interview or a resume. 

Regular check-ins with teachers as well as evaluations from students would be a great way to highlight positive student-teacher interactions while also providing students the opportunity to be heard in case an authority figure is exhibiting inappropriate behaviors. 

Once new information hits our campus about an unprofessional relationship between a student and teacher, there is often talk among peers about how we “had a feeling” that they were strange

This happens more often than we talk about, because we are afraid that if we come forward, we won’t be believed or taken seriously simply because there isn’t tangible proof. 

Though a student’s discomfort around an authority figure is incredibly valid, the circumstances are way more complex than that. 

We do not expect that the teacher should be immediately fired, however, it’s important to know that our own safety and comfort is being brought to the attention of staff, and that if something were to happen, we would be believed. 

An anonymous student said, “I didn’t tell anyone about my experience not because I was scared to, it just felt like I wouldn’t be listened to. Nobody really cares about that stuff.”

By taking the time to acknowledge student experiences, administrators would be validating not only the student themselves, but also the entire student body, because doing so would create a safe space for those who feel isolated in their classrooms. 

There are many ways safe spaces can be created on smaller scales on campus. Parslow said, “I ask my students about their weekends, any recent life events… I don’t force students to share anything that they don’t want to share.” Parslow also mentioned that she shares personal information as well, “My students know that I’m married with two kids, and other things about my personal interests, like Taylor Swift.”

Establishing a connection like this with students is extremely important. We get to know the teacher better and they get to know us better. Something as simple as a favorite artist humanizes the teacher and makes room for shared interests to be discussed whilst also allowing for an appropriate boundary to be drawn.

It is certainly possible for students to have appropriate close relationships with their teachers. From a student perspective, things like this make it easier to engage in academic settings and to come forward when faced with a personal problem. 

Visconti said, “(My students) know that I’ve been through trauma and I think that’s part of the reason they come to me, and it’s just easier to talk about it with somebody who has gone through the same thing.”

For many students, going to a parent or guardian with a negative sexual, racial, or sexuality/gender-related issue is not an option. To have this safe space at school, whether it be with a teacher, our Peer Counseling program or the on-campus therapists-in-training, is extremely important to the well-being of victims. 

It is unfair and devastating that multiple students on our campus have had their own personal boundaries disrespected due to the vile actions of such selfish individuals. However, the fact that there are still teachers at Los Osos who welcome students with open arms with the intention to attempt to rebuild a sense of safety and belonging is a huge comfort. 

We acknowledge and thank you for all of your efforts. It never goes unnoticed.

This is a conversation that will never be resolved through one article, one class discussion, or an announcement over the loudspeaker. The unfortunate truth is that we must keep talking about it, because it is an unrelenting part of society.

Though there will never be one particular solution, providing a space to talk about a controversial topic like sexual assault within a classroom is enough for at least one student to recognize that what they are feeling is normal. 

If you are a victim of any type of misconduct, know that you are heard and you are not alone.

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