On September 17, members of Berkeley High Stop Harassing (BHSSH) attended the San Francisco Giants’ annual Strike Out Violence game day. The club members attended a brunch before the game and were given the opportunity to throw the first pitch in order to congratulate the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) on its new set of progressive policies regarding sexual harassment and strongly recommend that Berkeley follow suit.
According to Daniela Vieira, a speaker at the brunch and a senior member of BHSSH, their intent was to congratulate SFUSD for leading the way in sexual harassment prevention in their schools. The Giants also commended SFUSD for its implementation of a new program designed by Futures Without Violence, commonly referred to as FUTURES, called “coaching boys into men” (CBIM).
FUTURES is a nonprofit that seeks to eradicate violence and abuse as well as serve those who have been subjected to it.
Their CBIM program aims to reduce sexual harassment perpetrated by male student athletes as well as address homophobia and various forms of discrimination, according to Rebecca Levenson, a senior health policy consultant at FUTURES, parent advisor to BHSSH, and member of Berkeley High School’s (BHS) Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee.
With the implementation of CBIM, all SFUSD coaches will be trained to educate their students about various forms of discrimination and abuse. Coaches will teach students how to identify such actions, and how to protect their fellow students from harm.
The program aims to make male athletes part of the solution for such problems as sexual harassment, of which they have thus far been seen as the perpetrators. Dr. Vincent Matthews, the superintendent of SFUSD, said he would encourage any school district which hasn’t adopted a policy or program like CBIM to seriously consider doing so. “It really makes a huge difference,” Matthews stated.
During the brunch, Vieira described her experiences as a victim of sexual harassment in order to show coaches the horrors which they aimed to eliminate. Levenson, in agreement with many students who attended the event, stated her belief that Berkeley has fallen behind Oakland and San Francisco in regards to this issue. Levenson said she actually pushed for the implementation of CBIM last year at BHS.
She understands the school didn’t have sufficient staffing to adopt the program; however, she holds the BUSD School Board responsible for the district’s “absolute lack of Restorative Justice staffing with expertise in sexual harm and harassment and a refusal to include this expertise thus far in the newly circulating job description for this position.”
She said she is disappointed because if any community should care about these issues, it should be Berkeley, “based on years worth of student testimony highlighting case after case of sexual harassment and harm handled badly.”
For Levenson and some students in BHS Stop Harassing, such as Justice Paraiso-Caceres, co-treasurer of BHSSH and a speaker at the brunch, the school’s actions are not surprising. Levenson and Paraiso-Caceres, co-treasurer of BH agree that BUSD consistently “talks the talk” but doesn’t “walk the walk.” They cite a similar turn of events in the last academic year: BUSD adopted an evidence based sexual harm prevention program known to reduce sexual harm by fifty percent when implemented correctly. However, BHS did not follow explicit instructions issued by the program regarding how to implement it, according to Levenson.
Jeremy Affeldt, retired pitcher for the Giants, said, “youth everywhere need to understand the value of human life, and valuing the human life is understanding what it means to live in a community with each other and knowing that everybody has a purpose in life, and it’s a positive purpose and bullying and shaming is actually taking that away … Your voice should be heard from the positive, not the negative.”