Students hold protest to increase sexual assault awareness at LT

Health curriculum to include more conversations about consent


LT students wait for sexual assault awareness protest to begin (Mahaney/LION).

Rory Quealy, News Editor, Website Editor

On May 18, the LT Weirdos, a student group of LT sports super fans, made a post on Instagram congratulating the LT girls varsity soccer team on their win against Hinsdale Central. The post was met with waves of backlash from male students using both their own accounts and burner accounts. 

The comments on the post evolved from claims that girls’ sports do not count as real sports, to body shaming girls, to even threatening individual soccer team members with sexual assault, Adeline Volz ‘22 said. Although the comments were striking, they weren’t surprising, she said.

“I have definitely seen stuff like that before at LT,” Volz said. “It has been a pretty prevalent problem. I know a fair amount of boys who are unfair to women [or worse] who get no consequences for their actions.” 

Volz and Maia Halm ‘22, in addition to LT alumni Quinn Riordan ‘21 and Camille Button ‘21 planned and hosted a protest on May 30 against this culture at LT and the administration’s lack of consequences, Halm said. They used social media to promote the protest and recruited a crowd of 50 to 60 LT students. 

The protest took place on May 30 at 2 p.m. and lasted two hours. It began on the steps outside of the North Campus Vaughan building where they allowed for an “open-mic”; anyone could have time to speak and share their experiences at LT, and 15 to 20 people did, Halm said. 

“I was really moved by [the speakers],” Volz said. “We had a lot of brave women come up and tell their story of assault or abuse. It’s a really hard thing for someone to come forward and talk about their trauma like that; it was really amazing to see.” 

The protest then made its way to La Grange Road and into Downtown La Grange before returning to North Campus. 

“We wanted to bring it into the community so we could get even more recognition,” Halm said. 

One of the calls that the protesters made to the LT administration was to include a more in-depth unit on consent in health class, Halm said. Although these new updates were already in the works months prior, the incident with the LT weirdos and the protest further highlighted this issue at LT, Physical Welfare Division Chair Kurt Johns said.

“Certainly, for me on a personal level, [the protest] shed light on what, unfortunately, some of our students experience and the behavior that really impacts the school culture,” Johns said. “It’s not the culture that we want to have. I think this is our opportunity to do what we can to try to help create a culture that we can be proud of and to do all that we can to help our students feel safe and comfortable at school.” 

The new curriculum will teach consent in a variety of ways to ensure that every student will feel comfortable participating in the conversations, Health Class Curriculum Coordinator Brad Skendzel said. For instance, health teachers will utilize Pear Deck, an interactive slideshow site, so that conversations can be anonymous and will possibly bring in guest speakers to address students.

The curriculum will cover numerous learning objectives, several related to sexual assault, Johns said. These include a victim’s options after a sexual assault, understanding that sexual assault is about exerting power, sexual assault risk reduction, and what to expect when filing a police report for sexual assault. 

“[Consent] is something we have covered, but we really covered it at a surface level,” Johns said. “We’re going to try to dive deeper into that subject this year.”

Other learning objectives encompass what consent is and what it is not, as well as the concept of victim blaming and how to avoid it. 

More than ever, health teachers will be sure to foster a classroom environment where all students feel comfortable to have an open conversation about consent and sexual assault without judgment or fear, Skendzel said. This will include developing a rapport with students and getting a chance to know them, as well as having open discussions in the classroom. 

“We’re trying to have all the resources available to the students to really foster that environment for them to not only feel comfortable, but to learn as well,” Skendzel said.  

Consent is a topic discussed frequently in Basic Self Defense for Girls, an optional P.E. class for female students. Teaching consent in a required class will serve to benefit students, self defense teacher Katarina Beyer said. 

“Hopefully, [more conversations about consent] will enhance respect and understanding of each other’s viewpoints, boundaries, and feelings,” Beyer said. 

Both Volz and Halm see the curriculum changes as a major step forward, they said. However, they have more ideas to include additional conversations related to this topic at LT. 

“I would like to see a day dedicated to [conversations about consent], like the Social Emotional Learning day,” Halm said. “Sports coaches should also have these conversations at their practices.”