Friday’s Special Assembly to Focus on Difficult Issues

During advisor meetings on Wednesday morning, Williston Northampton students bent over their phones and Surfaces for a special school-wide quiz.

The quiz asked about such difficult topics as consent, sexual assault, and violence in relationships. Students had to decide whether statements such as “if someone keeps following someone else online without permission, that can be considered stalking,” were true, false, or somewhere in between. They were also asked how likely they were to stop violent behavior if they saw it happening and other questions about their own reactions.

Faculty member Adrienne Mantegna said that the quiz had both tough and thought provoking for her advisees.

“They struggled with terminology, worried about getting questions right or wrong, and talked about what the questions might be asking,” she said, adding that students slowly realized that some of the questions might not have a definitive answer.

The advisor meetings were part of a three-day series on healthy relationships this week that will culminate in a special assembly on Friday. First, though, faculty members will meet with two presenters from Campus Outreach Services on Thursday night as part of an advanced training session on relationships and how to facilitate discussions on sexual assault.

The focus of Friday’s assembly will be “He Said, She Said,” a presentation which follows the story of students Jake and Erica from their class to a night of partying. As they watch the events unfold, Williston students will have a chance to vote on what lines are being crossed and by whom.

In an email to the community, Dean of Students Kathy Noble said she decided to bring the Campus Outreach Services presenters to campus to help students understand issues of consent, communication, and steps they can take to help prevent sexual assaults.

As another of the advisors guiding the preliminary discussions on Wednesday, English teacher Jen Gross that even though such topics can be uncomfortable, she thinks it will be important to continue these type of conversations throughout the year.

“I’ve heard kids talk about uncomfortable things in relationships,” she said. “I think that’s part of what they’re learning about at this age. It’s something we’re trying to help guide them through and have them think about.”

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