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Respect and Inclusivity News

Faculty and Staff Engage in Second Two-Day Bystander Training

Mentors in Violence Prevention Training at De La Salle
Faculty and Staff Engage in Second Two-Day Bystander Training
Date: June 2019

During the Spring Semester of the 2018-19 school year, the second round of Mentors in Violence Prevention Training took place for members of the De La Salle High School faculty and staff. This  two-day training, was led by MVP Trainers Craig Alimo and La Shonda Coleman.

These sessions were designed for the faculty and staff where they could engage in  a dynamic blend of highly interactive, facilitated dialogues that touched on bystander scenarios with experimental exercises, basic media literacy education, and leadership training.

“The training reminded me of the importance of having difficult conversations, and encouraged me to have those conversations in that direct and deliberate way with my students. More than anything, it helped me see things more critically and will allow me to be better prepared to handle those teachable moments,” said Andrew Berkes, Department Chair, Religious Studies.

The tools learned during these training sessions are designed to help people think through their responsibilities to others and themselves, while exploring possible options for intervention before, during, or after an incident.

“Most men don’t realize the potential violence that women are navigating through day after day. The precautions that women must take regularly is saddening. Violence against women isn’t an over there issue, it’s presence is felt throughout. The issue is at hand for each of our mothers, wives, and daughters,” said Religious Studies Teacher Jason Shelton.

MVP training seminars, which are designed to give people the tools to intervene the “right” way, allow people to think through their decision-making process and hear the kinds of ethical choices their peers have made or would make. The process helps clarify what participants value, both as individuals and as a group.  

“The MVP training was a great way to bring up some issues that are tough to talk about. We need to teach young men how to be good people, and that needs to continually to be done. During the training we were able to pose questions that are difficult to ask, and we were able to openly share ideas, share our opinions, and speak candidly about some tough subjects,” said Science Teacher and Baseball Coach David Jeans.

Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) is one of the longest-running and most widely influential gender violence, sexual harassment and bullying prevention programs in the world. Founded in 1993, MVP has inspired countless men, women, boys and girls to challenge and change social, cultural and institutional norms that support abusive behavior. For more information on the the MVP Program, please visit: https://www.mvpstrat.com/

What faculty/staff members that attended the 2019 training are doing to continue the conversation around bystander training at De La Salle:

Terry Eidson, Religious Studies Teacher, Varsity Golf Coach, Assistant Football Coach
“I've been implementing that over the last couple years because of a teacher workshop we had earlier. I’ve heard Jackson Katz three times, so it just enriched my understanding of what MVP training is about.  I’ve started talking more about active bystander with my students and pushing our students to step up and say something when others use racist, sexist, or aggressive talk when amongst their friends.”

David Jeans, Science Teacher and Varsity Baseball Coach
“Right after the training sessions, I started meeting with my freshman and JV baseball teams. We started talking about the subject, as we’ve had some hiccups with our younger kids. We’re learning that there are not well trained on what’s right and wrong, what they can and can’t say, or how to step up. We’re going to start meeting with freshman students and parents to discuss these topics and bring it up sooner.”

Andrew Berkes, Religious Studies Department Chair
“My junior curriculum during the 2019 spring semester was about morality. One of the things that my juniors did was pick a contemporary moral issue, like a situation or courtroom case, and try to unpack the morality of it. I definitely see that this training helped equip me for the conversations I was going to have with my students. It prepared me, not only for some of the things I would hear my students say, but also prepared me for how can I respond in a constructive way.”

Jason Shelton, Religious Studies Teacher
“The ‘Agree, Disagree, Undecided’ or ADU group forums require students to take a stance on social norms/dysfunctions in front of their peers. The group discusses uncivil actions and verbiage that have become acceptable social norms.  Individuals stand in a space that indicates whether they agree, disagree, or are uncertain and are challenged by their classmates in an “invite/not indict” intellectual dialogue. It’s a powerful exercise, and it allows young minds the ability to physically move to a different space as their understanding of the issue changes.”

Here are additional reference materials that De La Salle’s Michael Aquino provided to the Spring MVP participants following the training sessions:

Helping Teens Stop Violence, Build Community, and Stand for Justice

Educating For A Change

Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making

Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation

Recap of De La Salle Respect Week 2019

Respect Week 2019 Photo Gallery

For two weeks in February, De La Salle and Carondelet focused on the issue of human dignity and respect through De La Salle’s Respect Week and Carondelet’s RISE Week. During the week of February 11-14, De La Salle High School held its annual Respect Week, centered around the theme: "Living with Dignity and Respect for Yourself and Others."

The school’s annual mental health awareness led into these two weeks, as the school held its Laps for Life activity on Saturday, February 2, supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Contra Costa Crisis Center. Hundreds of De La Salle and Carondelet students and families came out on a blustery, cold, and rainy day to hear the inspiring messages of hope, resilience, healing, and the importance of being there for one another. They learned that there is no shame in getting help for themselves or their family members and that mental illness is as important to treat as cancer.

As part of RISE Week on the Carondelet campus, CHS and De La Salle students participated in One Billion Rising, a global movement drawing attention to the issue of violence and sexual assault suffered by women around the world, for the seventh year. The second week of awareness-raising, education, and empowerment was complemented by De La Salle students learning how they can be allies in the fight to end gender-based violence. For the last three years, De La Salle has used its Respect Week to educate and raise awareness on the role of men’s leadership in combatting and ending harassment and violence, as we “Rise Together, Respect Each Other”.

Respect Week activities on the De La Salle campus included the Ever Forward Club’s 100K Mask Challenge, a screening of the new film Bystander Moment, and presentations by Ashanti Branch from the Ever Forward Club, for freshmen and sophomores, and Devon Bell from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, for juniors and seniors.

The 100K Mask Challenge provided freshman students an opportunity all week at lunch to consider the masks they wear: what do you allow others to see about you and who are you really on the inside. Bystander Moment is a 49-minute film that talks about the current political and social discussion around sexual assault and what impact we can have in this moment.

To wrap of the 2019 Respect Week, De La Salle students attended two different assemblies. The freshman and sophomore students took part in a presentation by Ashanti Branch, focusing on life goals and setting personal boundaries, while the juniors and seniors had a special presentation from Contra Costa County’s Deputy District Attorney, Devon Bell, which continued the school’s education on bystander training to prevent harassment and violence.

De La Salle’s final Respect Week activity was February 22, with its Day of Silence. The Day of Silence marked an opportunity for students to highlight the voice-lessness of those who are oppressed into silence by harassment and violence.

De La Salle Hosts Second Boys' Schools Consortium in November

by Michael Aquino

On November 14th, 2018, De La Salle again played host for the second Consortium of Boys’ Schools meeting, welcoming representatives from Jesuit HS, Bellarmine Prep, Riordan HS, East Bay School for Boys, and the Ever Forward Club.

The Consortium is a twice-yearly gathering of Northern California educators working exclusively with boys, founded by De La Salle High School. The purpose of the Consortium is to collectively discuss pertinent issues facing our communities, to collaborate and strategize for common solutions, and to share best practices.

The fall meeting a number of timely topics were discussed. The group explored how different campuses are educating young men about consent and sexual assault, sexism in the school culture (particularly the experience of female faculty working in a boys’ school), and the issue of on-campus vaping/e-cigarette use. Representatives from each campus shared how these issues are playing out in their communities and shared resources and programming ideas.

Members schools are looking forward to reconvening in Summer 2019 to share their progress and advance our collective leadership in teaching and reaching young men.

MVP Leadership Training Continues on De La Salle Campus

MVP Leadership Training Continues on De La Salle Campus

by Mr. Michael Aquino, Director of Educational Technology Integration, Social Studies Instructor
Sept. 1, 2018

On Monday, August 13, while freshmen and sophomores took part in orientation, a select group of juniors and seniors came to school, a day early, for a new type of leadership training and experience. They came from a variety of De La Salle sports teams, Company, Band, and student leadership groups; nominated by moderators and coaches. This Leadership Summit was a call to action for all De La Salle students that had its genesis in Spring of 2017.

Last April, 20 teachers, coaches, and administrators went through the Mentors in Violence Prevention intensive training and immediately called for students to be exposed to the idea of the bystander as leadership in action. In the spring and summer, both the varsity lacrosse and football teams took part in the training.

The August Leadership Summit was a further opportunity to seed the idea of the bystander approach as a crucial leadership skill to a wider swath of the De La Salle culture and community. For a full day, 20 young men met with Dr. Jackson Katz and learned some of the tools to begin interrupting and changing the norms that allow gender-based (and other forms) of harassment and violence to exist.

The following day, the entire junior and senior classes of De La Salle and Carondelet heard a similar message from Dr. Katz and his colleague, LaShonda Coleman (Title IX Coordinator, Pepperdine University) in keynote addresses aimed at challenging both student bodies to work to eliminate harassment and violence and promote a culture that respects the individual dignity of each person.



Habitat for Humanity Club Visits Florida During Summer of 2018

Habitat for Humanity Club Visits Florida During Summer of 2018
by Mr. Sean Bristol, Special Needs Counselor / Spartan Success
Sept. 14, 2018

During the summer of 2018, nine members of the De La Salle Habitat for Humanity Club took a trip to Florida, where they helped build three houses for the Southeast Volusia Habitat for Humanity. The nine De La Salle students, along with three parent chaperones, and the Habitat for Humanity leader, worked 30 hours each, contributing a combined 360 hours towards the construction of three homes in New Smyrna Beach, Flo.  

“The build was a lot of fun and it was a great way to bond,” said De La Salle Habitat for Humanity Club President Jack Castillo. “It was rewarding to help out people in need. Everyone should be able to have decent housing. I want to continue to keep doing this kind of service work, because I can see how it truly helps others and it makes a difference.”

Just a year after forming the De La Salle Habitat for Humanity Club, a 12-member build group of eight juniors and one sophomore, along with three father chaperones, scheduled a build trip to Florida in the summer of 2018. They also had a habitat leader, Chuck Peterson, who led the boys during the weeklong build and helped coordinate efforts with the local habitat group. The nine members of the De La Salle Habitat for Humanity Club were Alex Peters, Jack Castillo, Peter Mazzetti, Cole Leone, Grant Backhaus, Gunnar Rask, Moises Limon, Cole Duchene, and Kevin Connolly. The parents that joined the group were Bill Peters, Edwin Castillo and Myron Backhaus.  

Each student had to fund raise $1,505 for building supplies and cost of trip, plus pay for their own airfare. Together the group raised $16,865 for building expenses and supplies.

While most Habitat trips focus on other less fortunate countries, the club decided to help those in need, here in the United States. There are 610,000 homeless people in USA, 48.5 million people live in poverty, and one third of families in the USA have housing problems.

The build was done in New Smyrna Beach, Flo., which has one of the highest poverty rates in the country for its population size – some residents have been victims of tough economic conditions, while others suffer from the damage caused by hurricanes. In addition, many of the residents cannot afford housing as they make the minimum wage or below. Most residents of the area, perform service jobs paying $8-$10 per hour. New Smyrna and Edgewater have a number of poorly maintained apartment, overpriced rental houses, shabby efficiencies and trailer parks. A lot of people share a small space and live in unsafe conditions.

The Southeast Volusia Habitat for Humanity owns a sub division of houses, building 130 houses. The De La Salle club worked this summer on completing three houses for S.E. Volusia Habitat. The work consisted of building the frames for the walls, supporting walls with hurricanes brackets, painting, and landscape work. The first house is going to an older woman, who is caring for her deceased sister’s five children. The second house will go to single mother, who works two jobs and has three children under the age of 5. The last house will go a family of six.

“I thought the trip went very smoothly and got us to bond over good work,” Grant Backhaus said. “I loved the people, the work, and the impact we left there. Hopefully we do something like that again soon.”

The De La Salle Bystander:  Changing Observation to Action (Union Magazine, Spring 2018)

The De La Salle Bystander:  Changing Observation to Action

Teacher Mike Aquino remembers exactly how the topic arose. Several years ago, he began his criminal justice class by asking students what subject matter they would most like to learn about.

"In that particular class, we had students representing De La Salle and Carondelet,” he said. "And during the discussion, several young women said they talk a lot at Carondelet about women's empowerment and protecting ourselves, about sexual assault and consent, but we haven't talked about this issue in class.'"

That started Aquino thinking about how best to address a sensitive topic. For years, high schools, including De La Salle, have participated in programs around a wide range of curriculum dedicated to making safe and informed decisions – drinking and driving, bullying and sexual harassment. But presenting the definition of sexual assault and discussing the topic in class, as well as how to identify and confront such behavior in the kinds of social circumstances to which young adults are often exposed, required an even broader, if not global, perspective.

His research quickly led him to Jackson Katz, an internationally known educator and counselor whose Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program specializes in combating gender violence. An important part of the training, which Katz has presented to military and educational institutions across the country, focuses on bystander intervention -- third parties recognizing and defusing inappropriate behavior.

Aquino put it more bluntly: "It means stopping bullying, stopping harassment, as opposed to saying nothing and not doing anything."

At a time when incidents of sexual misconduct have tainted virtually every element of society, from politics to entertainment to academia, no subject could be sensitive and important to young adults. During the last two years, De La Salle, which prides itself on teaching a brotherhood of faith, scholarship and integrity, has experienced incidents that raised the question: is the school doing enough to help its students understand and take action when an incident of harassment occurs?

All of which is why Dr. Heather Alumbaugh, vice president of academics, recently reached out to Katz to bring his widely acknowledged program to the De La Salle campus. Alumbaugh is more than a little familiar with the "bystander" strategy, which she said closely parallels a model supported by behavioral experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Here's how MIT defines it," Alumbaugh said. "A bystander is someone who observes a conflict or unacceptable behavior. An active bystander takes steps that can make a difference."

“The bottom line is this, just because you are not a participant doesn't mean you don't have a responsibility."

De La Salle has no shortage of groups and activities on campus designed to promote social and personal responsibility, from Peer Helpers to Service Learning to SCORE (Student Coalition on Respectful Education). But the school’s leadership has a broader goal for MVP. It believes the holistic training is necessary to help young individuals develop good decision-making skills in everyday social interactions.

Alumbaugh said Carondelet High School will also participate in the program, and training for both campuses will begin with adults -- teachers, counselors, staff -- who will be instructed by Katz on how to implement this comprehensive training.

Aquino has already undergone the program and assessed it this way.

"The basic idea," he said, "is engaging kids in discussions around prevailing norms, around things like locker room talk, homophobic slurs, and real-life situations that they will face in the near future.

“For example, if you are out with friends and are witnessing any number of difficult situations, what should do?” said Aquino. “From there, the program probes deeper discussions about sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, and respect for others – both males and females.

Aquino says the goal of the effort is to advance the conversation and dissect best options in different cases There really isn't one answer. The kids, through the process, come to their own answer and make the best decision possible based on the circumstances that are presented.

Some of the kids are already trying to come up with answers.

Jack Dyer, Vice President for Campus Life, whose leadership class coordinates a number of various activities across both campuses, said students from both De La Salle and Carondelet are troubled by recent incidents involving their classmates. They already have discussed measures to lessen the pressures surrounding male-female relationships.

"Right now," Dyer said, "we have coed classes mainly with upperclassmen -- juniors and seniors -- and what we've heard from most juniors is the first time they had a class with boys or girls was somewhat of an adjustment. They didn't really know one another before classes have started.”

And the leadership of both schools are responding by encouraging more interactions that can have both student body representatives collaborate on more than just social efforts. So far, both campuses offer leadership exchanges, which encourages more opportunities for specific dialog around campus issues in and out of the class room; a wide range of study programming including the arts (such as band and performing arts) and numerous clubs, including Robotics and Healing Spaces. And the students want more.

Dyer said his students hit upon another aspect of the challenge in fostering respect between genders.

"The kids said, very astutely, that they recognize the people in this room are mostly leaders who get the message around no tolerance and by-stander training. The kids who don't get the message aren't being talked to. How do we reach them?"

That's precisely what Alumbaugh hopes will come from MVP, a program that will take some time to fully digest and more time to implement.

"We have to identify what student groups we're going to train," she said. "We have to figure out what curriculum we're going to use. "We have to expand what we're already doing for more sustained messaging and training around respectful masculinity and what we expect from our students as men of integrity."

This undertaking is not intended to be a quick fix, Alumbaugh added. Nor will it erase what has transpired in the last two years. This is an investment in a learning experience that is expected to become part of the De La Salle culture.

"This moment is not about defending De La Salle High School," Alumbaugh said.  "This moment is about doing what is right."