From the Courtroom to the Classroom: How One Teacher Has Addressed the Kavanaugh Hearing

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I’deyah Ricketts In light of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, teachers at Latin have integrated the public inquisition into classroom conversation. For teachers, the #MeToo stories hitting the news are emblematic of a triggering topic that needs to be talked about: sexual misconduct. History and politics teacher Ms. Gallagher has made an effort to address the Kavanaugh hearing with her students. For Ms. Gallagher, the red flag was Homecoming, as she could draw a clear parallel between party culture and sexual assault. She encouraged her students to think cautiously and rationally at the social outing because she “wanted people to think about taking care of themselves.” With the assistance of The Political Classroom, a book on how to navigate uncomfortable conversations, Ms. Gallagher has been curating a harmonious environment for discussion within the classroom walls. Ms. Gallagher acknowledged that “there was so much noise on both sides that I wanted to make sure students could ask honest questions and also get informative answers.” As a teacher, she handles the conversation methodically. Ms. Gallagher acts as a facilitator during the discussion by enforcing classroom norms, deviating from inconsiderate comments, and leaving the talking up to the students. But with a diverse range of learners, Ms. Gallagher has trouble tailoring the sensitive subject matter to everyone in the room. She strives to “protect people who aren’t feeling safe and who have to endure that conversation.” Her slight hesitancy stems from the likelihood of a sexual assault victim sitting right in the room without her knowing. Junior Briannah Cook, an Honors U.S. History (HUSH) student, noticed that her teacher distanced the class from the touchy subject itself. “In my class, we looked at an archive of old newspapers. We went through the Times Machine to discuss the implications and precedents of similar situations. For me, the Kavanaugh trial was addressed indirectly.” Ms. Gallagher and teachers alike recognize their obligation to bring to light the controversial topics embedded in American society. But every teacher has their limit; Ms. Gallagher realizes that she’s not as qualified as a guidance counselor to address sexual assault, despite her best efforts to do so. She directs students to Ms. Lawrence or Ms. Stevens for a one-on-one talk when necessary. In her eyes, LAW, YWOC, or various affinity groups also serve as appropriate outlets for students. When asked about the point at which parents and teachers become co-dependent in educating the students, Ms. Gallagher stated, “I hope parents and teachers are working in tandem. Teachers have a fine line that they can’t overstep but I hope what I say sticks with [the student] at the breakfast or dinner table. I love that the conversation is happening at home.” Junior Kaela Brandt touched on how conversations at school reoccur in her personal life. “We don’t talk that much about current events at my house, mainly because it causes a lot of tensions as my parents often have different views on many topics. I normally talk about current events just among my sisters or friends instead.” Whether it’s happening in 1983 or 2018, sexual misconduct continues to be an important conversation in political and social spheres. It’s crucial that schools like Latin find the space to continue the conversation and educate the young adults of our society, particularly given the age that Dr. Blasey Ford and Mr. Kavanaugh were at the time of the alleged assault. ]]>