Strengthening Respect, Consent, and Safety at O’Dowd

Sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault are unfortunately all too prevalent in our society. O’Dowd, within this broader cultural context, is working with great care and vigilance to both educate students about expectations to maintain a culture of respect and safety, and proactively responding to the needs of young people in our community regarding student-to-student sexual misconduct.

We recognize that a safe, respectful culture does not happen solely through the work of any one person, set of policies and procedures, or education. It will take all of us, and it will take persistence. We can succeed if we all take responsibility for making change. And in doing this courageous work together, we enact our mission: to create a more just and joyful world.

Reporting Misconduct

We care deeply about our students’ experiences and want to protect their safety.

Students and families, we encourage direct, open conversations about personal consent and boundaries – this includes conversation about alcohol use, texting, and social media communications. Please use this resource as a guide: How to Talk to Kids About Sex and Consent (The Child Mind Institute)

We urge students who have been harmed to report to safe, trusted adults – whether parents/guardians or O’Dowd faculty/staff. O’Dowd also has a digital reporting tool. You can further understand our reporting and discipline process by watching this short video. We also advise you review the O’Dowd Student-Family Handbook, which includes specific language about the potential consequences for various forms of sexual misconduct

Anonymous reports on Instagram and accusations in text threads are not the safest, most actionable ways of reporting, ensuring accountability for, and resolving harm.

What We Have Achieved to Date

In the past five years, O’Dowd has undertaken a variety of education efforts for students.

In 2016-2017, we tailored existing curriculum to ensure a safe environment based on the teaching film Audrie and Daisy. This curriculum helped students critically reflect on the pervasive culture that condones and normalizes violence against women.

In 2017-2018 we continued a focus on gender-based violence prevention using lessons based on the film The Mask You Live In.

The 2018-2019 we added lessons on consent in relationships, including an all-school assembly from The Center for Respect called Can I Kiss You?, hosting a Consent Assembly for 11th grade students, and having Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR) speak to 12th grade students about sexual assault awareness and prevention.

Starting in 2019-2021, we began integrating this more specific curriculum into required classes for grades 9 through 11, and also piloted senior class meetings regarding boundaries and assault prevention.

In the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years, student leaders participated in Step Up! Bystander Intervention Training to lead culture change within the student population.

In late July 2020, a group of students created an Instagram account, O’Dowd Protectors, for O’Dowd students to anonymously share experiences of sexual assault. Shortly after the creation of the account, O’Dowd leaders invited students into a student-school partnership to enhance lasting culture change at O’Dowd – The Gender Justice Group. This partnership has yielded valuable resources and changes, including:

In October of 2021, a small group of students organized a walkout to stand against sexual assault. Students at several Bay Area high schools led similar actions. The walkout spurred O’Dowd to be more proactive in communicating how issues of sexual misconduct are handled by the school, as well as clarifying our reporting systems. It also prompted us to review and enhance policies and education efforts to strengthen respect and safety for all, including:

  • Student Leader Education Student leaders from all O’Dowd’s student leadership groups have been and will continue to receive training on both the processes and protocols for reporting, as well as discipline procedures related to harassment and assaults, so they may inform and educate their peers as conversations and issues arise.
  • Parent Education Events with Natasha Singh Sexual literacy educator and author Natasha Singh leads a presentation and conversation with O’Dowd parents/guardians about having discussions with teenagers on sexual ethics, consent in relationships, and ethical activism.
  • Family Education Events on Reporting Processes and Protocols Hosted by O’Dowd’s President and Principal, these Zoom sessions for families and students shared reporting processes, protocols, and community expectations. The recording was shared in Weekly enews to students and families, as well with additional resources.
  • Digital Reporting Tool accessible through Schoology and QR codes posted on campus, this Digital Reporting Tool helps students to make reports. Note that while students have the option to report anonymously, the action that can be taken on anonymous reports is very limited.
  • Consent Assemblies with consultant Natasha Singh for individual class levels.This annual assembly is performed by O’Dowd students, with carefully curated true stories from teens about nonconsensual sexual experiences, feeling objectified or pressured to perform, and bystander behavior. Students define consent, share how to report acts of sexual violence, respond to peers who are identified as victims or perpetrators, and help others understand how to give and ask for consent. The assembly concludes with models of healthy relationships.
  • Strengthening Policy and Procedure with Megan Farrell, a school-based gender justice attorney. Working with Ms. Farrell, O’Dowd will continue to hold listening sessions with students and families, streamline our sexual harrasment policies and procedures, and train staff to identify, report and investigate misconduct.

Work Underway

We have engaged consultant and attorney Meghan Farrell of Title IX Consult to review and advise on our processes and procedures for sexual misconduct.

We are reviewing and enhancing our Safe Environment Curriculum for grades 9-12

We are developing education and messaging for our Student Orientation and Advanced Leaders Retreat to weave in key messages for a culture of respect specific to gender violence.

We will hold annual parent education events, consent assemblies, and Advanced Leader education.

We are investing in Restorative Justice training for our Student Care Team for student issues that may be suited to the restorative process.