Aftermath: sexual harrassment training

An email sent by Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) superintendent Tara Taupier to members of the community on September 11 discussed the district’s “ongoing response to the issues of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.” One of the strategies cited by Taupier was the sexual harassment prevention training that “all 9th, 10th and 11th grade students” were given by their social studies teachers last year.

The sexual harassment curriculum was designed by Taupier, district wellness director Jessica Colvin, and Tam social studies teacher Aaron Pribble. Pribble was also the social studies teacher leader last year before that position was eliminated.

“We used information from various sources including materials published by several law firms,” Taupier wrote in an email, adding that the curriculum incorporated student feedback.

California law dictates that its high school students receive sexual harassment training, and, according to Taupier, “we were developing the workshop when information was shared that led us to believe we needed to accelerate our implementation timeline.” In the spring, as the workshop was being developed, two TUHSD employees spoke out at board meetings about their experiences with sexual harassment by students.

Freshman training was incorporated into the Social Issues curriculum and former seniors received a more in-depth affirmative consent training.

Taupier’s assertion that “all 9th, 10th and 11th grade students” received training is contradicted by recent data. On September 12 the Tam News surveyed 211 current sophomores, juniors, and seniors, all of whom should have received training last year. Since the materials given to social studies teachers included both a slideshow presentation and a worksheet, the respondents chose from the following options: sexual harassment training included a teacher presentation and a worksheet; or just a presentation, or just a worksheet; or respondent received no sexual harassment training. The mean scores from the survey, with the middle two options consolidated and individual teacher names replaced by letters, are displayed below.

Generally, freshman teachers appeared to have taught more of the training than junior teachers, who appeared to have taught more of the training than sophomore teachers. Based on the most common response for each teacher, four of the five junior teachers appeared not to have taught the curriculum to the extent asked by the district, and three of the four sophomore teachers appeared not to have taught it at all.

An alternate explanation might be that students did receive the training but had forgotten it by the time of the survey, but that some teachers performed significantly better than others suggests otherwise.

“If kids aren’t remembering they had it, how effective was it really?” social studies teacher Tim Morgan said.

None of the teachers interviewed for this article said that they had not taught the training, but many offered factors that made its implementation difficult.

“There’s a lot of pressure put on teachers, especially social studies teachers, to fill in for lots of different areas,” social studies teacher Luc Chamberlin said. “Lots of things are given to us and I think there’s some teachers that feel overloaded.”

Another commonly cited concern was that the curriculum, which should have taken 90 minutes to present, was introduced in May — near the end of the second semester — and so it might have been difficult to work into teachers’ schedules.

According to social studies teacher Arielle Lehmann, conducting the training was “difficult because of end-of-the-year things like SBAC testing, AP testing … it’s hard to not make it feel like it’s something you’re not just cramming in there, when it’s such an important topic and you don’t want it to be like that — but it was kind of one of those things where I had to squeeze it in.”

“I think it would be nice at the beginning of the year to know everything we’re expected to teach for planning and flexibility purposes,” Pribble said. “But as things arise, as things come up, it’s also important to address issues in the moment.”

Principal J.C. Farr stressed that as the pilot year of the sexual harassment training, things were likely not to have gone as smoothly as would be ideal.

“I think it does not surprise me to see that there is varying degrees of implementation,” Farr said, adding that this year’s training would likely have a “stronger delivery and I would expect for it to be more impactful than the first time.”

Tam administration checked with its social studies teachers via email to verify that they had completed the training. Two social studies teachers in the district had reported not doing the training, according to Taupier, but she was unable to comment on the names of those teachers or whether they worked at Tam or another school.

Taupier later clarified in an email that she didn’t think her initial statement “said ‘all,’ if so that was not accurate on my part. We are only trying to share information not mislead anyone.”