Dear Mr. Kuehnle,
Shaker Heights High School is failing its women.
Sexual misconduct is arguably the loudest current national conversation, yet somehow, our thick walls soundproof our sensitive ears from the noise. A prominent teacher is headed to prison, but by erasing his face from the walls, we have avoided the subject. In 2013, a male Shaker student forced a female student into a locker room during the school day and raped her. Girls are groped in overcrowded staircases, but this casual assault is washed away in the sea of students traversing the halls. Now, the nation flocks to social media, begging one another to raise their young men better. You, yourself, even tweeted, “Our young men need to learn to treat everyone with respect.”
Our young men will never learn if you do not teach them.
The only class where students learn about sex — its dangers, its science, its moral rights and wrongs — is among the least-respected classes in the school, treated more as a box to check on a transcript than an integral course. The popular online option through Brigham Young University is not only a waste of time, it’s also more harmful than helpful. Its outdated curriculum is permeated with religion, promoting abstinence as the best birth control, and advising female students to avoid getting raped.
Needless to say, Shaker Heights schools are not doing enough.
Just as academic education does not start in the high school, social and mental development does not start that late, either. We know this; we send high school students to educate elementary students on race relations because they are developing a sense of racial awareness, and Shaker wishes to make this awareness a positive one. We do not, however, teach our little boys how, and how not, to treat little girls. We do not teach our young men how to respect young women. We do not give our young women the tools, advice and strength to respond in the event of sexual misconduct. We do not prove to them that their safety, comfort, and welfare are paramount and that abuse will never be tolerated. We do not encourage them to speak up, loudly, fearlessly.
Shaker Heights claims to strive for equity, assembling an Equity Task Force whose bullet-point mission statements do not explicitly name girls and women. Until we teach our boys how to treat our girls, how can we ever expect to reach our level playing fields?
Know Abuse isn’t enough. A yearly assembly is not enough. A lengthy PA announcement is, obviously, not enough. It is past time to prioritize this curriculum, whether this means emphasizing the importance of a thorough, comprehensive Health class, or creating a new class devoted to teaching Shaker students how to be good human beings. If there is no time, no funds, no staff — make time, find funds, hire staff. Your Strategic Plan demands this from you, under Strategic Initiative 1.6: Support Personal Growth, which prioritizes “maintaining a safe and nurturing learning environment.” Prioritize the humanity of your students. Prioritize the safety and comfort of Shaker women. Prioritize the success of us all.
Sexual misconduct in Shaker is undeniably real. To believe Shaker’s negligence does not negatively affect its women is to ignore these women entirely.
They will not be ignored, nor should they be.
They deserve better.
On behalf of the 863 female students in Shaker Heights High School,