School is back in session. And this back to school season, more and more students believe they can’t rely on federal leadership or school administrations to support policies that ensure student safety and inclusion.
Title IX, an amendment of the U.S. Department of Education that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education program, is in danger of being dismantled. Gun control is continuously swept under the rug. Students — particularly girls of color — are still regularly punished for their appearances. And sexual assault remains a problem on high school and college campuses.
Students, however, hold a lot more power than some might think. Changing the day-to-day reality of your school’s culture can start with you. Here are a few easy things you can do right now to ensure your school is a safe, welcoming, and comfortable environment for you and your fellow students.
1. Run for student government and leadership positions.
2. Always respect the personal space of others.
3. That includes respecting where students choose to catch some z’s — which is just about anywhere and everywhere they can on campus.
4. Movies and TV insist everyone has to have one “true” high school or college experience. Letting go of these expectations will free you to create the pathway that’s right for you.
5. Remember that communication is important in all encounters.
6. Make friends with people outside of your grade, class, or dorm. Wide-reaching and intentional friendships decrease bullying and increase support networks.
7. Go to class! Participate! Do the reading! (But don’t sign up for that 8 AM class. That’s good advice for all of us).
8. We bet you’ve noticed that the above videos are actually all about consent. And consent really is the easiest of all of these to remember and practice right now, consistently, and intentionally. No means no. A yes that’s later retracted means no. Silence means no.
Betsy DeVos may be preparing new policies that would severely weaken the rights of survivors of violence, but you have the power to create a culture that doesn’t allow violence and harassment in the first place. Human rights start with you.