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When the sheepdogs are preying on the sheep at boarding school

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Replies to: When the sheepdogs are preying on the sheep at boarding school

  • Zoe728Zoe728 Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    @Harvest. St. Paul's goes out of their way to educate all students about the laws surrounding "intimate encounters",and to suggest anything different is wrong. Also, it is very naive to think that this is not pervasive at other boarding schools as well as any other school. Look up "Harkness Club" in the Urban Dictionary.

  • anothermom2anothermom2 Registered User Posts: 1,753 Senior Member
    Sorry to hear that such a "tradition" exists. This type of attitude is part of the subculture of boys/men that objectifies women and views them as potential sexual conquests, not as human beings. Unfortunately, this attitude is prevalent on many university campuses. The environment of groups of boys/men together, such as many college fraternities inspire frequently generates such "contests", with the girls/women being used and abused. I can imagine that the young lady felt flattered that the popular prefect wanted to see her, and that she didn't know that she was just part of some contest to show male dominance. Whether he raped her or not, the fact is that she was abused mentally and used as sex object. He didn't care about her as a person. This is the great failing in all the so called character building.

    Unfortunately, I don't believe that any school, despite much vaunted honor codes, close scrutiny of boarding students, etc can eradicate this horrible attitude. Parents should keep on the schools to have education, etc., but the education isn't enough. This awful viewpoint is pervasive in our American culture.

    Gmt, just because the school picked him to be a prefect didn't mean he was a good guy. He was just good at working the system. More frequently than your realize, those picked by administrators of schools to be on the Honor board and similar vaunted positions are the worst offenders. One of the things that is pointed out in the books on the "mean girls" culture is that the worst offenders are often the darlings of the school administrators. This is true for the boys as well. Some people know how to be charming, get others to follow them (whether for good or for evil), and will be elected to almost anything. Isn't that true in "real life" as well?

  • HarvestMoon1HarvestMoon1 Registered User Posts: 6,204 Senior Member
    Zoe728, not naive at all - thats my experience with the schools I know. It is an unspoken rule that there are limits to the extent to which upperclassmen socialize with underclassmen, and especially freshman girls. Your reference to "harkness club" is irrelevant as it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue involved in this particular case. Some BS students are sexually active, just like high school students anywhere.

    And I did not "suggest" anything, the story speaks for itself.
  • AgincourtAgincourt Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    @anothermom2, I agree with you in the main (though I seriously doubt GMT is unaware of your points in the last para). Per my point previously, many schools went coed eagerly but failed to make basic adjustments. That meant, in many cases, girls simply had to live with that objectifying, predatory boys/men mentality you describe rather than requiring such boys to make adjustments themselves. "Hooking up" is the result. Sex in American high schools and colleges is often described in sporting or game terms. This mind set is pervasive and popular "culture" reinforces this relentlessly. I have observed boarding school administrations taking a decidedly dualistic approach to this subject. The catalogue and student manuals outline proper behavior but in day-to-day practice many administrators throw up their hands, shrug and intervene as little as possible - until incidents such as this one arise (as they infrequently but regularly do) and crisis management kicks in.

    Does any of this indicate that all of the 300+ US boarding schools are facing such problems? No it does not, but we aren't seeing much progress in this area as decades of coeducational boarding roll by. Personally, I would like to see schools that I know spend as much time and effort emphasizing kindness, honor and common decency as they do building new science centers and dining halls.
  • HarvestMoon1HarvestMoon1 Registered User Posts: 6,204 Senior Member
    The eradication of the " subculture of boys/men that objectifies women and views them as potential sexual conquests" is not going to play out on BS campuses. It is a much broader and deeper issue.

    However, on a more pragmatic level, it would not appear to be too difficult to ensure that a general understanding exists among the upperclassmen that there are certain barriers one does not cross. The seniors have a lot of clout in BS's, it is inherent in the hierarchy that exists on these campuses. Generally it is done by the previous graduating class instilling in those coming up that it is not "cool" to be hanging out with freshmen/sophomores. They also rarely have classes together. Seniors have pretty much outgrown the "all school" Saturday night activities and are pre-occupied with college apps. The barriers are almost inherent.

    So, maybe this is a outlier, who knows.
  • AgincourtAgincourt Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    Agreed that personal conduct is learned at home. There are however decisive steps that schools can and should take. I think we agree here that it's the tacit campus culture understandings that tend to abet or discourage this kind of predatory behavior. It's doubtful that the rape suspect recklessly chose to throw away his sterling academic prospects if he knew he would immediately face peer censure. The opposite, more like. He probably wanted to gain status. One can't fault teenagers for not stepping up and speaking out in advance of such crimes, but we see numerous examples of bad behavior that result when there is a lack of positive peer pressure. That can be taught and encouraged by the schools, not merely hoped for. I don't think this is done effectively by school assemblies or policy statements. It has to be done person to person, faculty with student, student with student. The strongest aspect of these schools, more than the academics, more than the opportunities, is their enduring, unique communities. But such gifts come with burdens. In dark circumstances such as this, the entire community has to accept responsibility to create an environment that protects and honors one another.
  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 Registered User Posts: 14,567 Senior Member

    @anothermom2,
    Gmt, just because the school picked him to be a prefect didn't mean he was good guy. He was just good at working the system. 
    Agreed. My implication was that this prep perp knew better. As a prefect in a coed school he surely would have received training about the definition of statutory rape.
  • ThacherParentThacherParent Registered User Posts: 837 Member
    edited September 2014
    I do agree that bad things can happen at any school no matter how "healthy" it is. You can have a bad class, you can have a rotten egg (or two or three), you can have a predatorial teacher - and the list goes on. In 2014, none of us should be the least bit surprised by bad behavior, at elite institutions or elsewhere.

    Whether a boarding school that you like has the stomach for constant self-examination and improvement is a whole other issue, and to my mind a central factor in deciding where to apply. Many of our elite boarding schools are comfortable with how things are and can lapse into a "boys will be boys" mentality that stubbornly persists today, only called into question when bad behavior is made public. After all, most of the marquis schools, including Thacher, became great and traditions were established when they were all-male.

    Real self-examination and change - not lip service - means upending unhealthy traditions (sanctioned or otherwise), confronting the power of money, suffering institutional embarrassment and a whole host of other unpleasantness devoutly to be ignored. However, differentiating the schools that believe they are works in progress from schools that believe that they are finished masterpieces is the first step in identifying a healthy place for your child. Where is your school on that continuum?

    If I had a daughter looking at any of the schools below, I would want to know how the school fared in the Independent School Gender Project, a bi-annual survey of the school's community health - with special emphasis on how women are treated. I would want to know what the survey results revealed about the intended school, and how the school is responding. Most schools don't publicize the results, but they're quite telling. And if my desired school didn't participate at all, I'd be curious why. Being an EQUALLY great boarding school for adolescent boys and girls is hard, ongoing work and there's just no getting around it.


    http://www.isgpwomen.org/

    The research is designed for coed independent schools at the high school level. Participants include schools that are day schools only, have a combination of day and boarding students, and exclusively boarding schools. Schools in every geographic area of the United States, as well as schools in Canada and the United Kingdom, have participated in the research.

    Students in grade 9 and in grade 12 participate in the research through completing the questionnaire for students. Adults in the community (administrators, teaching faculty, and residential life staff) complete the questionnaire for adults.

    Participating Schools: past and present

    Albuquerque Academy, NM
    The American School in London, ENG
    Appleby College School, ON
    Baylor School, TN
    The Bishop's School, CA
    The Bishop Strachan School, ON
    Brooks School, MA
    Cate School, CA
    Choate Rosemary Hall, CT
    Conserve School, WI
    Dana Hall School, MA
    Deerfield Academy, MA
    Episcopal High School, VA
    Gould Academy, ME
    Groton School, MA
    The Gunnery, CT
    Hawaii Preparatory Academy, HI
    Hawken School, OH
    The Hotchkiss School, CT
    Kent School, CT
    Lakefield College School, ON
    The Loomis Chaffee School, CT
    The Masters School, NY
    Milton Academy, MA
    Miss Porter's School, CT
    Pomfret School, CT
    Proctor Academy, NH
    Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School, UT
    Saint Mary's School, NC
    Shattuck-St. Mary's School, MN
    Shawnigan Lake School, BC
    St. George's School, RI
    St. Mark's School, MA
    St. Paul's School, NH
    St. Stephen's Episcopal School, TX
    Tabor Academy, MA
    Taft School, CT
    The Thacher School, CA
    Verde Valley School, AZ
    Wasatch Academy, UT
    The Webb Schools, CA
    Westminster School, CT
  • AgincourtAgincourt Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    @ThatcherParent, most interesting information; I intend to review this closely. Thanks very much. Appreciate also the Hamlet quip.
  • redbluegoldgreenredbluegoldgreen Registered User Posts: 1,256 Senior Member
    Agree that Rape Culture doesn't just start in College. When I approached our BS to include more in its Sophomore Seminar on No means No;, I didn't get a favorable response. I really think the BSs have a real responsibility to keeping all students safe and to address this issue.
  • AgincourtAgincourt Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    @redbluegoldgreen‌ "When I approached our BS to include more in its Sophomore Seminar on No means No;, I didn't get a favorable response."

    That is deeply troubling...

    T
  • AgincourtAgincourt Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    I hope there is some reasonable explanation. I have been trying, but I can't think of one.
  • redbluegoldgreenredbluegoldgreen Registered User Posts: 1,256 Senior Member
    The sense I got from the Dean of Students who also had kids at the BS, was that although there was value in it, it wasn't a priority.
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