MARIN, Calif. - Two veteran teachers in Marin County have decided to speak out against sexual harassment, describing a climate of intimidation and abuse- but not from adult colleagues. They say teenage boys- their students- are the abusers.
"There's a woman who has had had condoms put on her car by male students, " testified Redwood High School math teacher Jessica Crabtree at a Feb. 6 Tamalpais Union High School District school board meeting.
During public comment, Crabtree took to the microphone to describe multiple episodes affecting female teachers.
"Male students were asking a teacher what she looks like with no clothes on," Crabtree said. "Two or three boys were watching porn on their cell phone in class, and refused to stop.”
Crabree has been with the school district for 21 years and her story was echoed by Eva Rieder, an English and math teacher at Tamalpais High, who said she’s been harassed at least 12 times over 15 years. Both teachers said that they reported the problems to the district and nothing was done.
Crabtree, like Rieder, alleged a lackluster response or no consequences at all, when misconduct is reported to administrators.
"When we look on the national scene and we wonder how the Harvey Weinsteins are made, we're making them, " Crabtree declared.
The high school website, Tam News Online, broke the story.
The district superintendent doesn't deny a problem.
"Yeah, I think we can do better," said Supt. David Yoshihara, who joined the district in 2015.
He asserted that the scope of the harassment, and the mishandling of complaints, will be reviewed by an independent investigator, an attorney who specializes in hostile workplace issues.
"We want to take a look at that, and see what the investigation shows," Yoshihara said, "so we know where we've done well, and areas we can improve on."
Yoshihara insisted top administrators and trustees take sexual harassment seriously.
Staff receives ongoing training on the issue.
He acknowledged students may need training, too.
"Having children, I've been a parent and it's what I call ‘knucklehead behavior,’ and making poor decisions," he said.
Parents of students in the district expressed surprise at the allegations.
"These are kids, that's weird," said Caroline Shearer, who has a child at Redwood and another at Tam High. "But it must be stopped, because everyone must feel safe in their workplace."
The father of a sophomore son worried the problem might mushroom.
"If that behavior isn't reprimanded or brought to light as wrong, chances are it will be repeated," said Andrew Finnegan.
Students seemed to be less surprised than parents.
"There are a lot of people at this school, so I don't put anything past anyone," said Tam senior Alex Naqui, "and it's bad but I can see it happening, not just here, but with other high school students."
Students who had not witnessed harassing behavior firsthand said nonetheless, they were inclined to believe the teachers.
"I think it's not okay in any way, shape or form," said Tam junior Mikayla Phillips, " and if that's going on at our school, I think the administration should really be acting upon it.