The Assembly


By Savy Behr

Along with presumably all Tamalpais High School juniors and seniors, I attended the mandatory meeting during tutorial on Nov. 18. As stated in an email sent out to junior and senior families by Tam principal, Dr. JC Farr, the purpose of this meeting was “resetting behavioral expectations.” 

The meeting was organized in response to recent events involving Tam High students, including the party on Nov. 5 that led to altercations between students and police in the East Blithedale CVS parking lot. However, other recent events were referenced, such as an incident where a group of teens robbed the 7-11 on Miller Avenue. 

I believe it is absolutely warranted for Tam’s administration to respond to these behaviors that reflect a lack of respect, consideration, and accountability. I wasn’t at the party, nor have I been involved in any of the actions referenced. I still attended because I had to, and believe accountability is in order. 

However, I was disappointed in the Tam administration. 

The content of the meeting completely left out an important incident, “the list,” which reflected an unwillingness to speak candidly beyond repeating already established, vague expectations of unity and respect. 

I felt that the speech given specifically by Dr. Farr focused primarily on Tam’s image, which failed to acknowledge the impacts of harmful behavior beyond our school’s reputation and the reasons behind this behavior. The overarching point I, and numerous peers I spoke to, drew from this meeting was that the main concern of our administration was how others perceive Tam High rather than how we, as students and administrators, experience it. 

The perception of Tam to the greater community does matter, yet this does not matter above issues such as sexual assault and student wellbeing. Overall, I left the meeting feeling frustrated and like our most severe problems were unaddressed in a space where they should’ve been the focus. 

“The list,” as it’s referred to by many Tam students and reported on by The Tam News, was a list of the names of alleged sexual assaulters at Tam posted on the Wood Hall girls’ bathroom wall. I acknowledge that Tam’s administration is limited when it comes to taking action against sexual assault both on and off campus when there is no named victim. However, the differences are disappointing when comparing admins’ response to the list to their response to the CVS incident.

 “The list” reflects a prevalent sexual-assault culture at Tam, one that administration did not address in the assembly. 

In response to the list, the administration sent out an email on Oct. 21, stating that “affirmative consent lessons” would be taught in all social studies classes “in the coming weeks.” The email also contained a form for students to sign up for a meeting during Tutorial to voice concerns and ask questions about the situation. The form states, “sessions are limited to 50 students,” with one session being held. Six students attended. This is not because students don’t care about sexual assault. This is because very few students knew this meeting was happening. 

Dean of Student Services, Nathan Bernstein, admitted this mistake on administration’s part. “What should have been mentioned and publicized were the informational meetings we’re going to continue to have [regarding] the list.” Bernstein said. Personally, this was the first time I’d been made aware there would be future meetings to discuss the list. 

If administration can hold a mandatory meeting on student behavior, with multiple speakers in the gym, where hundreds of students attend because they were told they had to or would experience repercussions, is this not possible to also discuss sexual assault within our community? Could a discussion of his incident at least be incorporated into the mandatory meeting content? There was not a single acknowledgment of sexual assault occurring at Tam or the fact that a list of names was put up at any point during the meeting. 

The events of Nov 5., as well as the other examples of our poor decision making are undeniably bad. Administration is right to make us, as students, think about how that reflects on our community, but how does this minimal response to sexual assault reflect on our community and our administration? 

Tam senior Gabby Brandt attended both the mandatory assembly and the tutorial meeting regarding “the list.” She’s been working with the school board on developing a more effective curriculum on consent. “The principal told us we needed to respect our learning environment and school while continuing to ignore that a list of accused sexual assaulters was posted in the bathroom clearly as a cry for help and [this cry for help] was still silenced just like every victim of those people. I don’t know how I’m supposed to respect their “learning environment” when I have spent weeks in and out of the principals’ office and working with board members of the school district on raising awareness for the sexual assault at tam and still they haven’t addressed it in person.”

“You know, certain topics, and certain things are harder to discuss in a large group format, you know, where there are multiple, multiple interests involved in multiple perspectives and passion on both sides,” Farr told me, in response to the same criticisms discussed by Brandt.

The meeting’s content lacked a focus on why students are so full of anger towards authority, so inclined to party and use substances, so restless, and so clearly struggling that they do exhibit these behaviors, beyond administration’s vague references to entitlement. Entitlement is a valid reason. I do believe that, as a student body, we aren’t held accountable as much as we should be, especially the white, upper-middle-class majority. However, citing entitlement as the only reason ignores the fact that the rate of teen mental health issues was increasing before the pandemic and has worsened post-pandemic, according to a press release by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in March 2022. 

Administration briefly stated that our high school experience did not turn out as expected. This is understating the very formative experience of a quarantine that prevented us from attending school in-person for upwards of a year.

The behaviors described in the meeting are not specific to Tam. A press release by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provided statistics proving that the disruptions Tam has observed are occurring nationally and are a result of the pandemic. Fifty-six percent of public schools reported an increase in “classroom disruptions from student misconduct,” 48 percent reported an increase in “acts of disrespect towards teachers and staff,” and 49 percent reported an increase in “rowdiness outside the classroom.”

Entitlement is certainly a factor in Tam students’ poor decision-making, and these poor decisions require accountability. I’m not saying that this isn’t true. Entitlement isn’t the sole reason, so it shouldn’t have been the sole focus. As a student body, we do deserve accountability for our actions. Equally, we deserve as much attention given to sexual assault as to other crimes committed by Tam students. 

I believe that, like the creation of “the list,” the events of Nov. 5 and other disruptive, dangerous, and inconsiderate acts are a cry for help from the collective student body. National statistics agree with me. Tam students agree as well. Post-pandemic, in a climate unlike anything we, as a country, have experienced, traditional approaches of reprimanding don’t seem to get through to us, as teens. Our actions and our experiences warrant support. I don’t believe the brief, vague lecture by the administration provides this.