Students, staff recognize sexism at WGHS

Cole Schnell
Junior Editor

Ashli Wagner
Video Editor

Natalie Johnson
Social Media Manager

Caroline Fellows

TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year is “the silence breakers” because more light needs to be shed on the issues of sexual harassment and discrimination, which can take place anywhere, even WGHS.
Assistant principal John Raimondo said sexism is a problem within the high school, and “we need to do more.”

Whereas, activities director Jerry Collins said there isn’t any outstanding problems with sexism that needs more attention with regard to athletics.

This shows some inconsistency of thought whether more needs to be done.

The Board of Education released the Equity Resolution which states, “Webster Groves School District Board of Education on this date May 31, 2017, affirms its commitment to lead efforts to advance a culture of equity and justice leading to better lives for all, including but not limited to the elimination of disparities which exist across groups of children in this school district.”

Part of this commitment was to gender equity. Principal Jon Clark and Raimondo reaffirmed this ideal for the high school.

Artwork by Trinity Madison

Some teachers’ commitment to this resolution is unclear as represented by their actions. Different teachers enforce the dress code differently. Thirty-five students allege some teachers publicly shame female students who are dressed against teachers’ interpretation of the dress code.

However, this conduct is against the dress code, which states, “Attire that is not in compliance with the dress code will be addressed with the student in private.”

The Equity Resolution states, “We believe in the dignity and worth of every person regardless of his or her … sex.”
Some students view most clothing of females that’s ruled inappropriate as not distracting to the learning environment.

Sophomore Noel Spatola said, “We’re in an age now where we are supposed to express ourselves through our clothes.”

Seventy percent of 59 student respondents polled by the ECHO believe teachers and the dress code constrain student expression.

In 2015, Feminist Coalition members lobbied to change the dress code to allow for students to wear spaghetti straps to school, and the code was changed according to their request.

Senior Gracie Kaul said, “[The dress code change] was a big step.”

Despite this change, according to 20 students, teachers haven’t stopped from telling students not to wear spaghetti straps, and students feel the enforcement of the dress code is unfair.

“I’ve been dress coded for a tank top because apparently my shoulders are distracting, which I think is sending a bad message to girls saying that their bodies are distracting, and they need to cover up,” sophomore Cecilia Eldridge said about an experience after the dress code change, which allows students to wear such a top. The dress code for sports is the same as the dress code for the standard school day with the exception of swimmers, who to perform as well as possible can’t follow the standard dress code.

According to Collins, athletes who are hot have no reason to take off their shirts but should get better shirts for the weather.

Ninety-three percent of 60 student respondents told the ECHO athletes should be able to take off their shirts during sports practice.

Thirty-two students have witnessed or participated in a double standard of the enforcement of this rule: the rule being enforced more often on female athletes or on both sexes only after female athletes have taken off their shirts during practice. This has been observed in track, cheerleading, field hockey, basketball and soccer.

“I want to ensure that equal opportunities are available for all students. I had a chance to talk with all sophomore and junior students, and one topic brought up was sexism at WGHS. A few students mentioned a concern, and five-to-six students mentioned sports in particular. Almost all students suggested more consistency in enforcement of the rules, like how some boys are allowed to go shirtless during practice, while girls are told not to wear sports bras,” Clark said regarding the discussion he had with students about sexism at the high school.

Male dominated classes are also a worry of some students, who feel the female students’ voices are heard less often compared to male students.

“I will say an answer. Then another girl would say an answer, and then no one really pays attention to it. Then a boy would say the same answer, and everybody is like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s it,’” Kaul said about male dominated classes.

Spatola said male dominated classes stay male dominated because students shame female students into not taking the classes despite their interests. Spatola said this is caused by “gender stereotypes.”

At WGHS, sexism is an occurrence that females experience walking through the halls of the school.

An ECHO poll asked, “How often have you heard name-calling such as “sl**” or “wh***” used towards girls at school?” Forty-eight students responded that they heard name-calling sometimes at school, and 19 respondents said they heard name-calling used towards females daily.

Senior Kelly Gleeson said she hears girls get catcalled in the hallway daily, and she herself has been cat-called in front of a teacher who “did nothing and acted like they didn’t hear it happen.”

Senior Claudia LeSage has been a part of WGHS A Cappella for all of her high school career and has witnessed the all female group A-Ladies be overshadowed by the male group A-Men.

LeSage said this is in part due to how long each group has been around. A-Men has been around longer than A-Ladies. Although the school is aware that both groups exist, recent mistakes have been made when the groups are mentioned on the announcements, online and even the elementary school tour.

To combat these mistakes, LeSage has taken action like commenting on and correcting an incorrect Facebook post, and emailing WGHS staff.

LeSage said, “Things have gotten better over time,” but she plans to “continue to promote the fact that A-Ladies is just as important as A-Men. Both groups have equal talent and passion for singing a cappella. Our hard work should be acknowledged too. A-Men has done a good job with making us (A-Ladies) feel equally as important as them.”


Student shares harassment story

Sexual impropriety can happen to anyone anywhere. It can take many forms from a simple catcall to something more extreme like this:

“I was at my friend’s house, and there were like six other people there, and we were sitting on the couch playing a hockey video game on his Xbox, and then the guy comes down, and he has the leash and collar of the owner-of-the-house’s dog. Someone pinned me down, and the guy put a collar on my neck and called me, ‘his b****,’ and I’m not that strong, and this guy was on top of me pinning me down, so I couldn’t do anything about it.

“No one was really doing anything about it because they thought it was a joke, but I found it offensive. I did not think it was a joke because they do this a lot; they make it known they do not like feminists, they make fun of me for being a feminist, and they say stuff to me to make me feel bad about being a feminist.

“They think that they’re entitled, that every girl wants them and even if they (the girls) don’t act like it, they want it secretly down inside. They (the boys) think that they’re hot s***, and they think girls think, ‘Oh they’re hot; let me f*** you!’ when they’re (the boys) actually gross and ugly.”

Safe School Hotline
Text or call
314-329-SAFE (7233)

See more: Editorial: More should be done to prevent sexual harassment

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