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Babb students warn classmates about sexual harassment

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Khadijah Casey, and Rodriquez Garrett, are relatives of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, so they've seen, first-hand, what it can do to a person.

Casey, Garrett and Justin Gordon, all seventh-graders at Babb Middle School, also see their classmates walking around school without considering the potential forms of sexual harassment. They see students walk up to other students in the hallway and plant a hug on their classmates, without realizing the action might be interpreted as harassment.

"We're tired of seeing it in school, and people treating it like a joke," Casey said.

This fall, Casey, Garrett and Gordon created a presentation on the various ways a person can commit verbal, or non-verbal, sexual harassment. The presentation won first place -- out of eight schools -- in the "illustrated talk" competition on Oct. 10, at Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Day at the Georgia National Fair in Perry.

They are now tweaking their presentation, so they can enter it in the regional FCCLA competition in March 2008, and possibly the state and national competitions in April and July of that same year. They are working on a script for a short film warning people about sexual harassment. It will be included when the presentation is given at future competitions.

"A lot of people want to do the talking activities at FCCLA competitions," said Lillian Mitchell, one of the faculty co-sponsors of the FCCLA chapter at Babb Middle School. "These kids will really have to be on their game to make it to nationals, and then do well at that competition."

The trio came up with the idea for their presentation during the first week of school, in August. They began researching the topic on the internet, and looking into how their own relatives dealt with sexual harassment. They got classmates to act out actions, which could be interpreted as sexual harassment, for pictures used in the presentation.

The actors posed as if they were touching inappropriately, without actually making contact with each other. The actors leaned in close, sometimes only inches apart, to give the appearance of kissing or hugging each other, or grabbing the body parts of other actors. The pictures were taped to a tri-fold board used in the presentation.

"They [Casey, Garrett and Gordon] took the initiative and did all of the work by themselves," said Evaline Thompson, one of the faculty co-sponsors for the FCCLA chapter at Babb Middle School.

The students visited three classes at Babb before the fair, to practice their presentation. They visited a sixth-grade class, a seventh-grade class, and an eighth-grade class. At the end of each presentation, they asked their classmates to fill out a survey about sexual harassment.

Ninety percent of respondents believe sexual harassment should be taken seriously, and the remaining respondents said they didn't know anything about the issue. Casey, Garrett and Gordon said they also learned how serious sexual harassment is by working on the presentation, and pondering the experiences of their family members.

"It can cause a lot of stress for the victim, because he or she doesn't know if they'll be safe from the person who harassed them," Gordon said.

"It can cause the victim to close other people out of his or her life," Garrett added.

Casey said she hopes the presentation will encourage other students to be more mindful of sexual harassment-related issues. She also hopes students who have been, or might become, victims of sexual harassment will be more inclined to report it to an authority figure.

"If people have been scared, because they were a victim of sexual harassment, they shouldn't be," Casey said. "It should be dealt with, so the victim won't live his or her life in fear. No one has the right to do that to another human being."