School administrators hope to reach a majority of Jackson Hole’s older students with information about healthy relationships in the next week, the first week of “teen dating awareness” month.
To kick off a month of conversations about respect and relationships, speaker Jeff Bucholtz is coming to town.
Bucholtz, the president of the San Diego Domestic Violence Council and a public speaker, has talked to local high schoolers in the past. This year he’s scheduled to speak at the Jackson Hole Community School and Journeys School.
Not all the instruction will take place in school, though. Jackson Hole High School administrators decided against a school-hours presentation.
The Community Safety Network has instead planned a free bowling night for students and families, and a parent outreach event.
Safety Network Executive Director Sharel Love said the organization’s goal is to reach 1,000 students.
“I really believe in what Jeff does,” she said. “He’s super fun and engaging and all of that, but it’s his content about safe and healthy relationships that I really think is so important for kids.”
Teton County School District No. 1 Superintendent Gillian Chapman said the district decided not to have Bucholtz back this year because classroom time is limited.
“If we provide the time for one speaker, we feel like we have to have other speakers,” Chapman said. “We can’t really open that door. He’s been here in the past so we are not sure he needs to be an annual visit.”
Chapman said similar topics are often covered in the classroom and thinks the other community talks are an “outstanding opportunity” for parents and children to attend together.
The district walked into a major public relations mess last year when a controversial sex ed speaker was scheduled to make a presentation during school hours. The planned in-school meeting was dropped in the face of opposition from parents who thought the speaker focused on religious views and shaming students.
Jackson high schoolers will have the opportunity Tuesday to bowl at Hole Bowl and talk with Bucholtz on the subject of respectful relationships, consent, pop culture and sexual violence. The event starts at 4 p.m., with Bucholtz’s discussion scheduled from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. with free bowling after until 6:30 p.m. for students.
On Wednesday, a free program designed for parents and teens will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Hansen Hall at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Bucholtz’s goal for the talk includes providing participants with realistic strategies for teen dating relationships and ending abuse.
A free screening and discussion of the documentary “Audrie and Daisy,” which takes a look at sexual assault and the role of social media, will take place after from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Teton Twin Cinema.
It’s important this conversation involves people throughout the community, Love said.
“A positive peer community that is supportive is so powerful,” she said. “I’m not sure we can completely make sexual assault go away, but we can absolutely lessen the traumatic impact on our friends and neighbors by creating a supportive environment.”
Love said that in some cases it’s just knowing what to say.
“I don’t know how many times I hear people say, ‘I felt really bad but I didn’t know what to say,’ ” she said. “Often the most devastating part from what we see, day in and day out here, is the stigma and shame and lack of support victims get from peers. It was how they were ostracized or isolated or let down by their support system that has the longest effect.”
Love said saying simple things like, “You didn’t deserve that” can make a huge difference.
“No matter whether you were drunk, or dressed showing a lot of skin, or partway engaged in a makeout session and changed your mind — you don’t deserve that,” she said. “You can’t imagine what something like that means in the midst of self blame and being afraid to come forward. And it’s not that hard.”
Love said the organization will verify community service hours for students who come “to learn how to be a respectful member of their community.”