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Summit Shasta confronts the concept of safe space

By Katie Scribner and Amanda Yon

Staff Writers

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. 

Shasta freshman Evelyn Archibald PHOTO CREDIT: Katie Scribner

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.

Sexual assault statistics: high school

sexual assault in high school histogram
Age groups and sexual assault rates GRAPHIC CREDIT: Al Jazeera America

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.

high school specific sexual assault histogram
Specific groups of teens who are sexually assaulted GRAPHIC CREDIT: Al Jazeera America

Overall safety at Shasta

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.”


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