BHSEC Sit-­In Sheds Light on Students’ Experiences with Oppression

Grace Wan, ‘18

BHSEC students have challenged the disparities within today’s society through both walk­-outs and a teach-­in; BHSEC’s first sit-­in continued to address such imbalances by challenging the discrepancies in the school community itself. The event took place on December 2, 2015, and was organized by the Diversity Initiative. The sit-­in aimed to provide a safe space for students to share their personal stories regarding oppression and marginalization as well as to listen to what their peers had to say. Tina Ou, a representative of the Diversity Initiative, commented, “We were trying to merge students from different backgrounds. We wanted to make BHSEC a more comfortable space.”

The first four periods of the day progressed as they normally would. At 1 PM, though, students left their classrooms to convene in the hallways. Student sharers told stories of personal experiences involving oppression, whether founded on race, gender, religion, or any other basis. Those without a tale to read aloud listened to their peers in a show of support. The corridors soon filled with voices discussing, sharing, and sympathizing as harsh facts were revealed about oppression both in and out of the BHSEC community. Some stories spoke of discomfort within the classroom; others detailed being marginalized by strangers, friends, and even teachers. Diversity Initiative representatives oversaw the event, helping to keep spaces organized despite the large turnout. “I really like how people opened up in their own small groups,” commented Kathleen Miao, a Y2. “It was really nice to hear how people felt about the BHSEC community.”

While the initial plan was to organize a walk-­out, the event was later changed to a sit-­in. “We wanted the experience to be more personal,” explained Ou. At first, there were concerns of how many people would participate in the event and whether or not students would opt to submit their stories. On the day of the sit­-in, such worries were relieved when students joined together in the halls, slowly creating larger and larger groups.

At the start of sixth period, 9th and 10th graders proceeded to their advisories. They spent the class reflecting and talking about what they had heard, then took time to read the written narratives that had been posted throughout the school building. The halls once again filled with students as they took in the realities that were presented before them. Sharers’ stories can still be found on the third, fourth, and fifth floor bulletin boards.

At 2 PM, Y1s and Y2s proceeded to gather in the auditorium to view The Hunting Ground, a film documenting the cases of sexual abuse faced by college students on campus. “I didn’t realize that a large portion of sexual assaults are real, violent attacks,” stated an anonymous student. “I’ll be going to college soon. It’s scary.”

The sit­-in brought unpleasant truths to light about the BHSEC community. The stories that were told and read aloud were a reminder that oppression may come in unexpected forms or environments, including BHSEC’s. The students’ active engagement in the event shows that steps can and will still be taken to ensure that everyone is able to be uninhibited whether in or out of school.

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