Faculty at William Allen Middle School has taken a proactive approach to dealing with the student body’s overactive hormones by holding separate assemblies for boys and girls the past two years.
“These are their middle school years,” said principal Carole Butler. “The children are becoming aware of themselves … and they’re just noticing boys and girls for the first time.”
It comes as a shock to no one that this adolescent development sometimes leads to inappropriate interactions between students—often with boys as the culprits and girls as their targets.
Butler said the past few years school officials have noticed an increase in these types of incidents—including a pair of episodes last fall that got two students suspended from school for 10 days each—and decided last year to address the problem head-on.
School staff arranged a pair of assemblies—one for the boys and one for the girls—to talk to the students about what constitutes inappropriate behavior, and how to protect themselves against it.
“In a group setting, kids sometimes don’t know how to react or respond to it,” Butler said.
Butler said she and the school’s guidance counselors emcee the assembly with the female students and have what she described as essentially “a girls talk.”
“We tell them to be protective of their bodies. It’s OK to say, ‘No,’” she said. “We’re finding more and more the kids think (this kind of behavior) is OK, and the girls are uncomfortable.”
Assistant principal Ray Kelly and district police officer Bryan Wright host the boys assembly with a somewhat different message, explaining to them that “no means no” and the consequences for engaging in improper behavior.
The district’s 2011-2012 Violence and Vandalism Report contained two incidents of violence at the middle school last October, each described as a “sex offense.”
Butler said one involved an eighth grade boy making unwanted advances on a female classmate and the second involved a special education student showing his “parts,” both occurring on school buses. Both students received 10-day out-of-school suspensions.
In the case of the special education student, Butler said a meeting was held prior to the suspension to determine whether his disability affected his understanding of school rules. School faculty decided he understood, and took disciplinary action.
Butler said the assemblies were “impactful” and the school got a very positive response from parents. The school will be scheduling another pair of assemblies in the next couple weeks.
“(The parents) are thankful we’re having the conversation,” she said. “We don’t want the parents to be out of the loop … and we encourage (the students) to continue the conversation at home.”
There were only three other incidents on the 2011-2012 Violence and Vandalism Report, all at the high school. One incident was classified as “violence” and described as a “threat,” the second labeled as “vandalism” and described as a “theft,” and the third involved the possession of unauthorized prescription drugs. The first two incidents resulted in three-day suspensions, while the drug offense resulted in a 10-day suspension.
The five incidents contained in the report represent a fairly significant drop from last year’s 22 incidents.
Superintendent Brian Betze was at somewhat of a loss to explain the cause of the lower number—since he didn’t start until July 2012—but praised school staff for how they’ve handled such incidents.
“A lot of kudos go out to the staff and administration for staying on top of issues and not letting them get out of hand,” he said.
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