Speak Up, FLHS—Sexual Assault Victims Cannot Wait Any Longer

A white glowing box is held in every teenager’s hand across the world with the option to scroll through any social media platform. Apps like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are places where teenagers can post pictures and share what’s on their mind. However, teenagers have found another purpose with these apps — sharing sexual assault allegations. 

Such allegations are taking place on social media within the Francis Lewis community as well. While FLHS News cannot confirm any of these allegations of sexual assault, they are indicative of a big problem at Francis Lewis High School: there is a lack of understanding around consent among students. It will persist until the school decides to take the proper actions to educate their students and bring awareness to these issues. 

The first step the school needs to take is to offer better and more comprehensive health education classes. In Francis Lewis High School, health classes are either taught during freshman year or senior year for one semester. Even then, these classes are not taught daily. While topics such as nutrition and mental health are covered in the curriculum, there is barely any time to discuss lessons pertaining to sex education and the topic of sex assault and consent. 

By not covering important topics like these, we are creating an environment that is conducive to sexual assault. Sweeping the topic of sexual assault under the rug does not make it go away. It simply encourages this behavior. 

Olivia Ugarte, a senior at Francis Lewis, also sees the flaws in the health classes that are taught to students. She took health class during the first semester of her senior year, but does not recall any lessons regarding consent or sexual assault. 

“Although health classes at school cover a lot, I feel like it is not enough,” Ugarte said. “Yes, we go through important topics like how to practice safe sex, but the lessons are only the tip of the iceberg. Consent is definitely not taught in the curriculum, or at least, not well enough. And because of that, it could lead to a lot of confusion when it comes to sex and possibly sexual assault cases because students just don’t understand how complex the situation could be.”

Ms. Ishmael, a health teacher at Francis Lewis, agrees that teaching consent is critical in health classes. 

“People in general have wrong ideas about consent and sex,” said Ishmael. “That’s why education is so important when it comes to consent and sex. It is a disservice to high school students that we do not teach these things. We spend more time on Algebra and Shakespeare than we do on self-advocacy.”

Dahee Lee, a coordinator for the Youth Community Planning Team, whose objective is to educate teens on sexual assault, shares why there is confusion surrounding consent.

“I think students don’t understand consent because it’s not properly taught to them,” Lee said.   “Either it’s taught with vocabulary that isn’t familiar with high school students or the base of it is really a lack of sexual education in public or private educational institutes. I think it’s a lack of simplicity with consent education and lack of sexual health education surrounding it. And the scope of that really is why people don’t understand, which is unfortunate.”

With the lack of understanding surrounding these topics, sexual assault will continue to be an issue in the Francis Lewis community. After all, we have already witnessed a case where the school failed a student. 

In November 2018, a FLHS student came forward with their story about how they were sexually assaulted by teammates with a hot iron on a school trip. In a NY Post article about the incident, it was stated that sexual assault and hazing were a part of the JROTC Raider’s tradition. The school handled the situation with the NYPD and DOE, but they never addressed the situation with their own students. 

Again, this is a prime example of how the FLHS administration failed to acknowledge these problems. Although the student body was buzzing with the news of the story, the school neglected to properly address the situation and teach students why situations regarding sexual assault were wrong. 

According to the National Education Association, “Schools must take the initiative to eliminate sexual harassment and assault, first by acknowledging that these problems exist and then by tackling the problem in curriculum, policy, and the very fabric of school culture and community.”

This was a highly upsetting incident that shook the student body, and the situation should have been properly addressed in a meaningful way instead of allowing it to remain as gossip. The school could of hosted workshops concerning sexual assault as well as raised awareness within the FLHS community. They could have provided resources for sexual assault – including help from professionals and hotlines. Truth be told, our school did nothing – and that caused more harm than help. We cannot sweep this issue under the rug and hope it goes away. It is vital for students to be aware of consent and to be aware of the fact that sexual assault is wrong. No FLHS student should go through a similar experience again.

In addition to better health classes, we need to offer more opportunities for health professionals and trained staff to be able to talk to students about topics like these. As the current school year was held remotely, Francis Lewis held workshops regarding Black Lives Matter and Asian American Pacific Islanders Month to gain awareness. While these are crucial workshops, the school remained silent in April, which was Sexual Assault Awareness Month

It is a form of denial to assume that sexual assault is nonexistent in a school of almost 5,000 students. Confusion will continue to surround the issues of sexual assault and consent until students are properly taught what’s right and wrong. Educate your students on consent. Inform your students on sexual assault and sexual harassment. Provide resources. Host workshops. Train your staff.  Include sexual assault and consent in your curriculum

As a school, you have a responsibility to create a safe space for students and we have yet to witness it. By staying silent, Francis Lewis contributes to the problem.