Promoting leadership among students is very important to the culture of Everest. Because of this, programs such as Student Government are promoted to students. This program, run by AP U.S. History teacher, Emmalee Austin, allows students to take initiative in their school and allows for them to plan events such as Community Night, Winter Formal and Prom.
Student Government Director Emmalee Austin PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer Valencia Chavez
Ms. Austin outlined the purpose of student government as the opportunity to “be the leaders on campus and to plan and execute events for the school.”
Students are organized by roles such as president, vice president, and grade level representatives (this is not the extent of the list). Students were elected to these positions by Ms. Austin and other faculty members. The highest student position that can be held is president, which is currently filled by Everest senior Ignatius Hayer.
Hayer described that the class is meant to “engage the students and make them want to come to school.”
Student Government President Ignatius Hayer PHOTO CREDIT: Marleth Giron
Student Government last worked on Winter Formal, which was held on Jan. 19 at Congregation Beth Jacob. Students worked together to fundraise, plan and eventually host Winter Formal. This is the second largest event Student Government plans for, with the largest being Prom.
In the past, Winter Formal has performed well. Students are often excited for events such as this. In the past, “it’s gone well,” explained Ms. Austin. As the supervisor, she planned Formal 2018, and now Formal 2019. Ms. Austin stated that in years past it has “went a little bit better because Formal wasn’t around Expeditions,” which has been causing some complications for Student Government.
An Everest senior who has attended Formal in years past said that the event “was a great social event to step out of your boundaries and to get to know new people.”
This year students have been planning this Winter Formal since the end of September. A major element of the planning process is fundraising. Students sell items like Candy Grams for holidays and Hot Chocolate to raise money for events. These small items really make a difference for student government and can quickly sell and accumulate a fair amount of funds.
Small flyers were posted around the school to inform students of the event. PHOTO CREDIT: Molly Pigot
Candy Grams are Student Government’s favorite form of fundraising, as the student body gets the most involved in these sales. According to Public Relations Manager Nicola Self, Student Government had a goal to sell 35 Candy Cane Grams, and that goal was exceeded by 60 percent.
Currently, Student Government representatives are working on selling tickets. They have promoted sales with posters, emails, announcements, and classroom-to-classroom marketing. Even with all of these efforts, tickets sales are low. Both Ms. Austin and Hayer attribute the low sales to the Expeditions schedule.
When asked about complications with the planning process, Ms. Austin listed ticket sales: “Because it’s Expeditions.”
This is a unique case, as past Formals have been scheduled separately from Expeditions. With the majority of seniors off campus and students in unfamiliar schedules, ticket sales were lower than expected. The event almost canceled; however, Student Government increased marketing to avoid this.
Everest seniors and AP Calculus teacher, Payton Hagyard, at Winter Formal PHOTO CREDIT: Molly Pigot
They started sending out more emails to students, started making announcements at the start of every lunch, and Student Government members went around to classrooms telling people to buy tickets.
An Everest student who will not be attending Formal attributed this decision to how “not many of [their] friends are going.”
Student Government, although disappointed with ticket sales, overcame other hurdles. Their perseverance through these issues shows that these students don’t give up and that they are more than capable of selling enough tickets and successfully hosting Winter Formal.
The Sunnyvale City Council has decided to continue the conversation regarding approval for Denali’s new high school campus, which would be located on San Aleso Avenue in northern Sunnyvale.
On Jan. 29, Summit Denali appealed to the Sunnyvale City Council after they were voted down by the Sunnyvale Planning Commission on Dec. 10. During the four-hour meeting, the council built off of the planning commission meeting and discussed different aspects of the proposed location.
The main focus of the discussion was directed toward the issue of parking, which was the main reason for the 4-3 vote against the proposed campus during the planning commission meeting. “The concern is that residents will find their streets filled with cars,” Councilmember Michael S. Goldman said.
In response to the 31 parking spaces that the original plan did not provide, the school has begun to search for possible off-site parking. While they do not believe that it is necessary for the approval of the campus, they are willing to look deeper into this to get the campus approved.
Other concerns arose during the meeting, including the lack of open space for students to play in during breaks and lunch. Vice Mayor Russ Melton displayed special interest in this issue.
“It’s very difficult in this environment to find that sort of space at any sort of an affordable-level,” Assistant Director of Community Development Andrew Miner said in response. “This is a new type of school for Sunnyvale.”
Denali students and parents were able to share their perspectives on the issue. Testimonies ranged from how the school has benefited individuals to how families plan to carpool to the new location.
Heather Chen, a parent of two Denali high schoolers, discussed her children’s choices to come to Denali after elementary school: “It gave us a chance for a better fit,” she said. Other parents talked about the educational opportunities Denali provided their children.
“We’re running out of space. We have to adapt,” parent Katy Berg told the council. Other students expressed their concerns for the uncertainty of their future. “I’ve been with Denali since the beginning, and I want to be able to graduate from our school next year,” Denali junior Tamara Pacheco said when asked about why the meeting was important to her.
The San Aleso campus is located in Snail territory, a section of northern Sunnyvale. Members of the Snail community expressed their concerns regarding the parking, construction noise and the architectural aspects that might affect other homeowners’ land.
“I am very concerned about that parking structure,” Snail resident Ann Davis said, discussing the mechanical parking structure on the proposed campus. “To me, it’s a very imposing structure.”
Nonetheless, Snail residents whose children attend Denali showed their support for the new campus location. “When the San Aleso campus opens, hopefully they [my kids] can walk home,” parent James Begole said.
Carpooling, bicycling and other forms of transportation that would limit the amount of cars moving in and out of the campus were also brought up. “That is very efficient,” Councilmember Nancy Smith said in regards to Denali’s carpooling policy.
In response to issues being raised, Councilmember Glenn Hendricks began to focus on the specific parking issue. “How can we create a condition of approval that states Denali will never use any off-site parking?” he asked. Mr. Hendricks hopes to impose a zero-tolerance program with a fine for off-site parking.
In response, a motion was set forward that proposed that Denali continue to work with the city staff to impose a penalty for inappropriate parking and to determine this threshold. The council voted to pass this motion 6-1.
Vice Mayor Melton voted against the motion. “I think we need to get this across the finish line tonight, and frankly there is enough to do so,” he said.
The council plans to meet on April 23 to further discuss and conduct a final vote regarding the approval of the proposed campus. “We hope that you will continue to join us as we fight for the future of Summit Denali together as one campus community,” Denali Executive Director Kevin Bock wrote in an email to Summit Denali families and staff.
Featured image (at the top of this post): Summit Denali parents and students wear blue shirts in support of their school during a Jan. 29 City Council meeting. PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu
For those people, the past endures, maintaining a vice-like grip on their life. They are haunted by a constant reminder of that event, either flashbacks or nightmares. This is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental ailment that is created by encountering a traumatic experience, such as, but not restricted to, acts of intense violence, accidents or deaths.
People who suffer from PTSD suffer from a range of various symptoms. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, these symptoms include re-experiencing trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, lack of emotion, insomnia, social phobia, being easily irritated or angered and an increased fight-or-flight reaction.
Emotionally, PTSD can also stimulate feelings of guilt and depression. When this occurs, people sometimes turn to substance abuse or self-harm. This, unfortunately, leads to suicidal thoughts, and, in extreme cases, actual death by suicide.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, therapy treatment for PTSD comes from two different types of therapy; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a blanket term of therapy that involves changing the thought patterns that disturb your life. Most of the basis for this type of therapy happens by talking through the traumatic event to find where your fears stem from.
Cognitive Processing Therapy, or CPT, is a more scrutinous process of therapy. This process involves not only talking through your trauma but writing it out as well. The reason for this is to examine how you think about your trauma and find new ways to live with it.
Other forms of therapy include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR uses visual and audio stimulants whilst one remembers a traumatic event to think of something positive while you recount the event.
Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) is another type of therapy and another form of CBT. SIT consists of practicing breathing exercises and meditation to relax your mind and body.
The most common way to treat PTSD is through medication. The medications work to regulate the brain’s chemistry, so they are commonly prescribed to patients suffering from nightmares and constant states of fight-or-flight. These medications include Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Sertraline and Venlafaxine.
The Mayo Clinic lists some more common medication that can be used if the symptoms are not as severe. Things such as anti-depressants and diazepam are commonly sought out medications for those affected by PTSD.
Treatment for PTSD might be fairly simple, but it also proves very effective if treated regularly. If you suspect that you or a loved one could be suffering from the effects of PTSD, seek help immediately.
The Reality of PTSD
To get an idea of what living with PTSD is like, I wanted to interview my neighbor, who saw extensive combat in the army. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, my neighbor fell ill and passed away early last year.
I was able to interview his daughter as a sort of character witness, as she lived next door to him and visited him often. Out of respect for the family and the daughter’s request for anonymity, I will refer to the daughter as “Jane” and her father as “the Gunnery Seargent.”
“To be honest, the whole stereotype of being crazy and dangerous is a load of [garbage],” Jane stated. “ I’ve been to some of the support meetings he goes to, and everybody there were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
The Gunnery Sergent experienced the Vietnam War first-hand. He developed PTSD from combat but had been managing it through therapy and medication. I asked Jane about any symptoms he suffered: “He did have trouble sleeping, but it wasn’t as big of a deal because his doctor prescribed him pills.”
Jane also mentioned that he was jumpy at times: “ It’s mostly when there’s loud popping, like fireworks or anything that mimics gunfire. Other than that, he didn’t show any of the other signs they say that people like him show.” Although the Gunnery Seargent had to live with his condition, he seemed to have enjoyed life up until he fell ill.
Another form of PTSD is Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). According to the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide, ASD is defined as trauma or stressor-related disorder with an onset three days to one month (direct exposure or indirectly experienced), characterized by intrusive memories, avoidance of associated stimuli, and changes in mood and arousal that impair daily functioning.
The effects of ASD are similar to those of PTSD, except they don’t have a lasting effect. They usually last only a while after the stress was experienced, whether it was first-hand or second-hand.
Last year, a group of masked assailants came to the front parking lot and assaulted a student. I will fully disclose now that I personally know the student assaulted and was assaulted that day for attempting to defend the student.
The only reason I bring up this story is that it happened in front of the school a little after we were dismissed, meaning almost half of the whole school was witness to the events that unfolded that day.
I asked another student, who will remain anonymous, how she felt after she witnessed the event. “At first, when I saw [the student] hit the ground, my hands began shaking badly, and my heart was racing.”
It was evident that she began to get a bit uncomfortable when I asked her these questions, and, being a part of the actual event, I didn’t blame her. “After the fight broke out, I got picked up to go home. Just as I left I saw the flashing lights of the police cars pulling up.”
“ I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of [the student]’s head hitting the pavement. For a few weeks after, that feeling of nervousness followed me closely; but, thank God, I got over it after a while.” I personally thanked the student for the interview and apologized for any discomfort that she felt.
The reason I included this story was that it gives an example of a form of PTSD that is not as severe but still affects people who witness a traumatic event.
Mental Health Stigma
According to the Mayo Clinic, stigma is classified as viewing someone or a group of people negatively because of distinguishing characteristic or personal trait. For people who suffer from mental illness, the stigma against them is fairly common.
Stigma can be obvious or subconscious, meaning that the person portraying the stigma might or might not be aware that they are discriminating against people who suffer from mental illnesses. Most of the stigma that occurs against people with PTSD occurs because most people believe that sufferers of PTSD are volatile and dangerous.
Stigma can be particularly dangerous for those who suffer from PTSD, as fear of judgment will not only affect the sufferer’s confidence and emotional stability, it will also make them less likely to seek help as they don’t want to accept the fact that they suffer from a mental illness.
Suffering from PTSD can also put a person at a disadvantage when it comes to looking for work. Not only does this affect the sufferer’s emotions, but this also makes it difficult to live in general.
PTSD in the Media
The media’s skewed perspective on those who suffer from PTSD has caused common people to view victims of PTSD as crazy and dangerous. Although films and TV shows mainly contribute to this, news also plays a hand in creating stigma.
Most movies and TV shows we watch mainly portray soldiers as the sole sufferers from PTSD. While they do tend to portray PTSD symptoms accurately, they fail to realize that soldiers aren’t the only people susceptible to PTSD.
A recurring motif in the movies deals with veterans returning home from combat and suffering from PTSD. Again, the portrayal of the symptoms are accurate, yet they are sometimes exaggerated in the films to elicit a reaction from the audience. The exceptions to this list are “American Sniper,” and recently “Thank You For Your Service,” as these movies are based on real-life events.
A few shows demonstrate veterans who suffer from PTSD and portray them as crazed, homicidal maniacs. One such example of this comes from Netflix exclusive show “The Punisher.” The character of Lewis Wilson in the show suffers from PTSD and seeks to return to combat after being discharged.
When rejected, he begins a crusade to fight for his Second Amendment rights. He takes his beliefs too far when he begins mailing bombs to various government agencies.
In a more recent and realistic case, the Thousand Oaks shooting is a prime example of the media’s stigma. The shooter was identified as Ian Long, a 28-year-old retired Marine Corps veteran. Long began opening fire at the Borderline Bar and Grill on Nov. 7 of last year. About 13 people were killed in the shooting, and the shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Questions about his mental state began to arise before all the facts were presented. Immediately, many began to cite PTSD as the motivating factor of the shooting and saying that this idea was further strengthened by the fact that the shooter claimed his own life afterward.
In the end, it’s important to remember that people with PTSD aren’t dangerous. They aren’t violent or time bombs that are waiting to explode; they are normal human beings like us. Instead of helping their symptoms get worse, why don’t we help them get better? Sometimes all a person needs is someone to talk to, so be slow to speak and ready to listen. Maybe they’re tired of being treated differently, so treat them as you would your friends. We all want to live easily, so why don’t we make life easier for each other?
If you or a loved one might be suffering from PTSD, seek help immediately by clicking one of the following links:
*PTSD Alliance.org: Information about what PTSD is and some signs to detect it. For Veterans, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1.800.273.8255.
Schools in the Bay Area need to support the LGBTQ community. Many schools use a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) club, but not everyone does because students might not feel comfortable creating or joining such a public group. Therefore, schools should show support for their LGBTQ communities by encouraging teachers to promote LGBTQ acceptance in their classrooms.
The lack of LGBTQ clubs / programs at Summit Shasta does not seem to affect school-wide acceptance of LGBTQ rights. The GSA club has been inactive for more than a year, and Dean of Instruction and Culture Adelaide Giornelli reports that no student has approached faculty about the issue. Does the lack of a GSA club mean that promoting LGBTQ acceptance in the classroom is now the primary way to make the school environment more welcoming to students?
In the Bay Area, lesbian and gay adolescents are increasingly coming out at younger ages than earlier generations, according to the Family Acceptance Project. The Williams Institute of Law states that 10.3 percent of California’s public middle and high school students identify as LGBTQ. According to a 2009 California Healthy Kids Survey, “Nearly half of LGBT youth surveyed […] reported being ‘pushed or hit at school because of their LGBT identity” and only 37 percent accounted that their school had a GSA club.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that schools should encourage student-led clubs that “promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment” and that teachers should be trained on “how to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Dean of Instruction and Culture Adelaide Giornelli PHOTO CREDIT: Jenny Hu]
At Summit Shasta, there is no GSA club, nor are there many incidents of LGBTQ-targeted harassment/bullying, according to administration. Dean of Instruction and Culture Adelaide Giornelli explains: “Incidents of bullying, which includes any use of homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, anything like that type of language […] that criteria is considered a disciplinary offense […] if it’s a repeated offense, that student will have to do work to restore their standing with the community.” Ms. Giornelli said teachers are supportive of the LGBTQ community by having posters in the classroom. Later, she commented that while there is no active school club / program for LGBTQ discussion at Summit Shasta, “Students who feel like this is an important thing to address […] should please reach out for faculty support.”
Shasta freshman Alonzo Huerta PHOTO CREDIT: Jenny Hu
Shasta freshman Alonzo Huerta, an openly gay student, believes that the LGBTQ community at his school doesn’t need a GSA. At Shasta, Huerta states that having a GSA club would be good for celebrating “the accomplishments that we’ve made but it’s just us being people. […] There are some rude remarks but […] I don’t take offense to them much. […] I feel like it would make things worse because the whole point is that we don’t need one […] to be ourselves.” Huerta later commented that teachers being silently supportive of the LGBTQ community is fine.
Riordan freshman Elijah Calip PHOTO CREDIT: Darren Macario
In contrast, Elijah Calip, a freshman at Archbishop Riordan, a San Francisco private high school, says that LGBTQ support groups allow “deep conversations with students who include themselves in the LGBTQ community and how they are supported in their school.” Calip and his fellow freshman schoolmate, Justin Samaniego, both believe that their school community, including staff, generally is supportive of their LGBTQ population.
Samaniego mentions that there are “derogatory speeches” about the LGBTQ community in their school but adds, ”People with problems they face such as being a part of the LGBTQ community and the criticism they receive is something I want to help them overcome. I want them to embrace the way they feel and […] their sexuality. […] Even though some students may be apart of the LGBTQ community, they treat others equal […] and that should be the way teachers treat their students in all schools.”
Riordan freshman Justin Samaniego PHOTO CREDIT: Darren Macario
According to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), California Education Codes outline that school policy enable student expression of gender identity in dress, thought/speech, name, and faculties. It appears that as LGBTQ peer acceptance thrives in the
Westmoor freshman Jasmine Osuna PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Bodestyne
Bay Area, so does the LGBTQ community in schools. Westmoor freshman Jasmine Osuna believes that there should be more support from school staff. Osuna states that, at her school, people are unwilling to go to counselors because of trust issues: “They don’t really show appreciation to people in that community. The school acts neutral and fair to every kid.”
2016 data from Support Services for LGBTQ Youth, established by SFUSD’s Board of Education, shows that including “LGBTQ-inclusive education, LGBTQ pride and safe space posters, faculty training, Genders and Sexualities Alliances, groups, peer education, restorative practices to address bullying, and referrals to LGBTQ-inclusive sexual and mental health services and programs in the community” quintuples the chance that people will seek services with their school’s wellness center or health clinic. While Bay Area schools foster safe LGBTQ communities, continuing to promote LGBTQ acceptance at school, in the classroom, in discussions, will help students to seek staff support.
Featured image (at the top of this post): Shasta English teacher Laura Friday displays a LGBT Safe Zone Sign in her classroom. PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Bodestyne
When walking through the Summit Public Schools: Shasta campus, you see signs / banners / stickers in multiple classrooms calling that room a “safe space,” a space where everyone is welcome, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. The staff also constantly tell students how this school is a welcoming and accepting place for all.
However, there are still derogatory slurs (such as “gay” being used in a negative way, or the f-word) and harmful actions used in passing, even if it is not directed at a specific person. Instances like these could be a huge problem for students, causing them to not feel safe or welcomed at the school.
How accepting is Shasta of the LGBTQ+ community?
A survey was sent out to the Summit Shasta students, 96 of which responded, and 58.3 percent of the people who responded stated that they are very comfortable with people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, 17.7 percent feel somewhat comfortable, 18.8 percent feel neutral, 4.2 percent feel somewhat uncomfortable and 1 percent feel very uncomfortable. In total, 76 percent of the students who took the survey stated that they feel comfortable in some way around people who are in the LGBTQ+ community.
Student survey data revealed mainly supportive attitudes toward members of the LGBTQ+ community.
As someone who is actively a part of and involved in the LGBTQ+ community, Shasta freshman Evelyn Archibald explained her view of the community at school: “I think it’s a pretty safe space, but I’m not totally sure; I don’t have a lot of experience.”
Archibald’s views on the community are important since she is a part of the community. She is a representation of how LGBTQ+ students feel at Shasta. While there are others who share similar beliefs as her, this is not the only viewpoint among Shasta students.
Another student, who preferred to remain anonymous when contacted, stated on the survey: “Just because I will not support the LGBT community does not mean that I will not accept them as people.” This student said that they felt this way because of their religion: “My beliefs state that the idea of homosexuality is a sin, but that does not mean that the person is bad because of it. We hate the sin, not the committer of the sin.”
Even those who aren’t a part of the community still accept and support the community, regardless of religious beliefs.
Shasta senior Abby Wagner said that she is supportive of people who are in the LGBTQ+ community because she doesn’t think “it’s anyone’s right to pass judgment on who someone is attracted to, what they identify as, or any other characteristic that someone is born with.” She feels like it’s the “equivalent to judging someone based on their eye color” and further explains that “they believe it’s natural. The same thought process should be accepted regarding sexuality and identity.”
As well as Wagner, Shasta freshman Sophia Woehl shared her views on the LGBTQ+ community: “Yes, I support them because they’re just people, and I’m just a person too. We are all equal, and they can be who they want to be.” Woehl also said that if she were to ever see anyone being singled out for their identity / sexuality she “wouldn’t want to be a bystander” and that while it “depends on the situation” if she “[felt] like [she] could do something [she] would speak out.”
Most who responded to the survey and the followup interviews shared similar beliefs. Either they stated that they had no problem with the LGBTQ+ community at all, or they stated that they didn’t accept the community because of religious reasons but that they harbored no ill will toward the community either.
While the students at Shasta still have a few problems fully accepting the LGBTQ+ community, when different head staff members were asked their opinion on how accepting Shasta is of the community, a different light was shed on the issue. It was put very clear when the Shasta Executive Director Wren Maletsky said that Shasta is “overwhelmingly accepting” of the community and that there are efforts being put in to make sure that these students feel safe. As a “protected class” the students are “entitled to extra rights,” Ms. Maletsky further explained.
In addition to this, Adelaide Giornelli, the Dean of Culture and Instruction at Shasta, reinforced the idea of Shasta being an accepting space, not just for LGBTQ+ students but for everyone, by claiming that the campus has a “zero tolerance bullying policy.”
One of the specific things that Shasta does to help the community and culture, Ms. Giornelli went on to explain, is the use of mentor-led Circles. These Circles act as safe spaces for students to be able to reach out and talk about issues going on in their lives. A group of around 20 students guided by a single teacher all sit in a circle and go around checking in with each other on their feelings, emotions and the general well-being of the students. With these Circles being performed every Friday, the overall structure and community of the students is a lot closer and more supportive than it otherwise would have been without this structure in place.
However, just like every high school, there are times when the community at Shasta isn’t as safe and comfortable for everyone as it could be. According to student sources who requested to remain anonymous, there have been instances of sexual assault on campus, and while the faculty at Shasta is quick to find a resolution that makes both parties feel safe and comfortable, this is not the case at all schools across the country.
The LGBTQ+ community and sexual assault
People who identify with the LGBTQ+ community experience sexual assault more often than people who do not identify as LGBTQ+. According to a survey done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women experienced some sort of sexual assault, while only 35 percent of heterosexual women experienced sexual assault by an intimate partner. It also said that 13 percent of lesbian women, 46 percent of bisexual women and 17 percent of heterosexual women have been raped in their lifetime.
The CDC also found that 26 percent of gay men, 37 percent of bisexual men, and 29 percent of heterosexual men experience some type of sexual assault by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Additionally, 40 percent of gay men, 47 percent of bisexual men, and 21 percent of heterosexual men have experienced some type of sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (known as RAINN), college students who identify as transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming (TGQN) are more likely to be sexually assaulted: 21 percent of TGQN college students have been sexually assaulted, 18 percent of non-TGQN female college students have been sexually assaulted, and 4 percent of non-TGQN male college students.
According to Al Jazeera America, 58 percent of students from 7th grade to 12th grade experience some sort of sexual assault. The article also said that girls were much more likely to experience any and all forms of sexual assault than boys.
The same survey said that girls who were more developed or were seen as more attractive were the most likely to be sexually assaulted. The second most likely group to be sexually assaulted were boys who were not very athletic or masculine.
According to RAINN, people who are ages 12-34 are the most likely to be sexually assaulted. 69 percent of people who are sexually assaulted are ages 12-34, while the remaining 31 percent are ages 35 and up.
Safety at Shasta is a very relevant issue going on today. When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community and the safety of students facing sexual assault, the school is continuing to take measures to combat this problem and to bring awareness.
Sarah Day Dayon, the AP United States History teacher at Shasta, helps to explain the importance of this topic, saying that students are not always “aware of each other’s boundaries” and that, in the past, “boundaries were crossed.” In order to better inform the students and staff at Shasta, Ms. Dayon proposes that we should be “talking about [sexual assault] because it affects people of all ages.” She goes on to explain that, “especially at a young age, we aren’t always aware when we are allowed to say ‘no’ to things, or what a safe environment looks like. People often make assumptions that things are okay when they aren’t.”
Shasta history teacher Sarah Day Dayon PHOTO CREDIT: Katie Scribner
In order to help the issue of sexual assault and safety in general here at Shasta, Ms. Dayon suggests that instead of talking about matters after they have already happened, that we should be “thinking more preventative.” She also explains that “this is the time where [students] are starting to get into relationships- it’s important to be able to navigate that. College shouldn’t be the first time you hear about sexual assault or gender pronouns.”
Raising awareness of sexual assault and the use of derogatory language at school can be one of the best ways to help solve the problem. Creating more conversations by means of in class or during Circle will help to ease the struggles faced by students and staff regarding sexual assault and the safety of students at Shasta.
As Ms. Dayon said, “There is always more that we can be doing to improve our policies, to improve our education.”
The Summit Denali Queer Straight Alliance was started in the fall of 2018, with the intent of creating a safe space for queer kids at Denali. Around the time the QSA was formed, the school held a Club Fair, intending to promote different clubs or social gatherings within the Denali community.
This poster advertises the QSA Club. PHOTO CREDIT: Kyle Kobetsky
During this time, clubs were encouraged to distribute flyers across campus. For many clubs, this was not a problem. For Denali QSA, they found all of their posters missing from the walls. Even the poster advertising on the specifically designated club wall was missing.
This was not the first or the last time the members of the QSA would experience normalized discrimination, but it resonated with them. Having contacted the administration and received what was essentially radio silence, the QSA members were left feeling ignored.
A founding member of the QSA, who requested to remain anonymous, said, “The administration at Denali has often tried to make things better for people of certain identities who seem to be on the receiving end of harassment. However, nothing they do seems to make a lasting change for those of us affected.” Many Denali minorities feel these microaggressions and instances of discrimination are becoming normalized without administrative action.
Emma Smith, a key member of the Queer Straight Alliance, commented on the normalized discrimination she experiences: “People say the ‘f’ slur a lot […] they also say the ‘r’ slur but that’s not [homophobic]. Both of those words make me uncomfortable and having them said like where I go to school is not great for me at all […] they are just, like ‘Hey don’t swear!’ and then [the administration thinks] that makes them not do that again. That is a lot more harmful than the thing, like bigger instances [of homophobia].”
Denali sophomore Emma Smith
This is one of many incidents of the administration at Summit Denali not providing for the different identities within the high school community. Similarly, a former student Zaid Yousef, had concerns about a lack of an adequate praying area. Over his year with Denali, these concerns were not suitably addressed to provide the practicing Muslim community with a regular or comfortable praying area.
“[The] main thing for the Muslim minority was the prayer issue […] when all the rooms were occupied, we had to pray separately within our class times,” Yousef said. As you can see from his feedback, he was not too happy with the administration’s efforts in solving their problem. We asked Laura Zado, the Dean of Instruction and Culture at Summit Denali, for a response toward Yousef’s complaints but she did not get back to us.
Denali Dean of Instruction and Culture Laura Zado
We also spoke with Ms. Zado about the minority groups at Denali and how the school works to provide for those with different needs or to prevent discrimination.
“Denali has done some in the past, like ‘what is bullying like’, […] ‘what does racism look like in today’s world’, ‘what does sexism look like in today’s world’ and I think that is something people touch on in classes, I would like to see students do more of that and to raise that awareness,” Ms. Zado responded.
Continuing her point, Ms. Zado said access to the curriculum and the projects needs to be improved. “I think we still have a ways to go in terms of making sure that particularly for students with, either learning differences or who English is not their first language. I think we have a long way to go in terms of providing access to that […] I think that is something our teachers are constantly working really hard with, I would say the other place I would really love to see — wanna push myself to, is bringing myself to kind of awareness events and programming to the school so different identity groups can get students together who are part of that identity group having them do some sort of celebration, presentation with the school.” Ms. Zado’s responses go to show that the administration does encourage awareness for the different identities of Summit Denali, but the students want them to take further action.
Denali has affirmed that one of their main focuses is on encouraging diversity in the community, but the response to hatred and bigotry falls short of their mission statement. However, this is not to say the administration of Denali willfully ignores the concerns of their diverse student body; but even with their current efforts, minorities are left feeling like second-class citizens in their community.
The situation at hand in Summit Denali is not purposeful lenience but an oversight due to frequent turnover, a lack of cultural competence and a diminished response to discrimination.
We then asked Ms. Zado how Denali deals with incidents that involve discrimination or harassment toward different identities in the community. “So the work that I do when we do hear about an incident [that] involves [minorities and homophobia/racism] really trying to understand what was at the core of that, and really try to get to what was the motivation and what was the rationale — just to help prevent it again and then we use something called restorative justice in order to bring in some logical consequences,” she replied.
The reaction from the administration of Summit Denali that students have personally experienced might not deliver the appropriate consequences for their targeting actions, but the lack of punitive justice reduces the awareness, respect and safety for the different identities in Denali’s community.
While the minority student population feels ignored, there is still room for a voice in the Denali community, emphasized by the welcoming student body and the encouragement of the staff.
Pushed to leave your home due to circumstance, remaining stateless for years trying to scrape up an education, leaving your continent for what might be the remainder of your life—this is the story of many millions around the globe, and has an acute similarity to that of Ali, a migrant from Djibouti who, on his journey out of his home, led him to travel through dozens of nations before settling, finally, in the Bay Area. Such stories, in many ways far more revealing than just flat data and information, are what add context and at the same time eloquently uncover a long and unknown history of unthinkable tribulations of millions.
The major aspect of any story, the destination, reflects the journey taken by each refugee, as where they go will spell the fates of their families and future generations. In the Bay Area, a destination for multitudes of immigrants from dozens of countries all over the world, many of these such experiences can be seen and learned from, allowing us to better understand why they have come here—and why they deserve to stay.
Migrants in Silicon Valley who originate from the Middle East and Africa, forming and joining communities of their own, have especially rich stories. As student reporters who are also members of the local Muslim Community Association—a mosque that is also home to many of those respective immigrant groups—we have been able to uncover several such stories through interviewing community members.
Fawzy Ismail, the MCA building manager, an experienced man who spends much of his time keeping the happenings of the building in order, is well-versed in the occurrences of the community and anything that brings change to it. As student reporters and Boy Scouts taking part in our community meetings, we were able to take some time with him to understand more about how refugees and migrants from African and Middle Eastern regions are able to fit in with their livelihoods and families, on top of processing old experiences as well as new information.
In the context of the MCA community itself, Ismail gave his own general understanding of the role in the community in the integration of immigrant populations. “The MCA helps out … to give due opportunities to live in the community, stay around the community, benefit from the community.” He added, “They are adapting to the way of life here, becoming familiar, and the community is trying to help in financial help …They’re struggling, like any newcomer here … he is struggling in the beginning, until he becomes familiar with the area, and gets to know the community.”
After further pressing, Ismail revealed that despite their eventual successes through determination, the difficulties faced by them are prevalent. “But I have to admit, they suffer a lot when they come here because it is a new land and a new tradition … and some of them have language barriers, some of them have experience barriers also, the local experience he used to have there is not really the same here.”
Ismail discussed the story of a man he was acquainted with, an example of a refugee success story that truly represents the strength of the community in the integration of immigrants. “This guy, his name is Muhammad Abood … he came with his family—his wife and children—and his wife couldn’t take it.” Despite this, he stayed in the United States, building his livelihood from $10 to $30 an hour. In the end, he would become a U.S. citizen and work as a contractor. Ismail credited all this to his knowledge, skill, and perseverance. “He is a very successful human being I am proud of … he had the strength to bring his family back here.”
Another community member, who provided his name simply as ‘Ali,’ described a tumultuous year’s long life journey from his home country of Djibouti to eventually settle a family in the United States. From his home in Djibouti, he would begin his journey at a young age searching for opportunity. “I left my family in 1999 … I was trying to get a job and I couldn’t find it.”
He would traverse the continent of Africa, completing his education in South Africa after crossing the turmoil rampant in the Congo and Rwanda—where there was a genocide in progress. He would eventually cross the Atlantic to Brazil with a handful of his friends, where he would begin a five thousand-mile-long journey to the United States. Following the migrant caravans, his group faced obstacles at every border, but would eventually form a strong group with one goal. “Those [who] came from Spanish [countries], I don’t understand them, those who came from African countries [I could].”
By the end of the journey, he was given asylum in the United States, where he would start a family and gain a job in networking firm. Years later, sitting in the main prayer hall of our Community Center, this deep and heavy history seems to linger in his eyes, but otherwise is gone from a seemingly untroubled man.
Through all this reporting, a sort of new understanding has developed in us, and that has caused us to look with ever more scrutiny at our own lives and the hardships we might have had to face (or lack thereof). Perhaps it is the inexcusable tragedies that are taking place in so many nations that push them to this level of effort, and this can be clearly seen in the statement provided by the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. “Over 65 million people are currently displaced from their homes due to unthinkable crises around the world. As a result, they are often forced to live in harsh and unfavorable conditions”
It is only despite all of this that so many, including Ali and Muhammad, have come to see our country, and the Bay Area, as their home. The amount of suffering the refugee and immigrant population has faced has arguably raised their diligence, moral integrity and perseverance, and the level at which they contribute to our nation can clearly be seen in our local communities. It is difficult then to assume that the vast majority of them are unable to integrate, contribute and thrive in our society.