The Letter to the Editor from Adam Marcelo
In the past month, the true extent of sexual activity between Thacher students has come to light. As winter months have brought colder weather, students seek for shelter in the warmest places outside of dorms: classrooms. Though classrooms are prohibited for acts of intimacy, Thacher students often feel as if they have no other choice to explore their relationship. The boundary that prevents students from leaving the surrounding perimeter road herds students into the close proximities of public places. Classrooms serve as a sense of privacy (albeit false), and the warmth, and darkness, often has students swarming to occupy vacancies. The trouble begins, however, when the door closes and lights go out, and the threat of being caught by faculty perusing the campus emerges. This threat is constant, and often times it turns into reality. The chilling image of being caught in the act by members of the faculty trolling from classroom to classroom casts a shameful light on teenage sexuality. The smirks and worried glances among students are all too familiar. The painful phone call to parents, the awkward meeting and disapproving conversation with the administration, and the dreadful letter in the file all stemming from a desperate act to be close to a significant other. Teen sexuality is old news; adults were young once, and Thacher alumni recognize the painstaking planning that went to finding a “spot.” Still, to “condone” sexual activity between teenagers is an impermissible act that many adults are adamant against. So, where does that leave the students? Our desire for intimacy is cast off as a ploy to perpetuate hookup culture and a side effect of pubescent hormones and the frigid wind of teenage rebellion. Students will continue to break the rules to be close to each other and teachers will continue to search classrooms. Further discussion on the subject is crucial to healthy relationships and sexual expression, but for now, the intimacy policy stands. We cannot sweep every issue and conflict under the rug or assign a committee to appease without action. The idea of sexuality is a sensitive issue, but as we progress past stigma and taboo and approach a new age of sexual empowerment, it is crucial to solidify our understanding of human contact, sex, and how us teenagers fit into the complex equation.
Response from Ms. McMahon, Dean of Students
Teenagers’ lives are inherently complicated. It is a time when students are thinking about their priorities and values. Experimentation and information are two key components involved in assessing these beliefs. Thacher has rules and policies to help guide the lives of its students in regard to healthy and safe decisions and to create a transparent and close-knit community. Students understand many of the rules and the necessity for them on our campus. The intimate behavior guidelines understandably create more discontent for some students. Thacher’s guidelines for intimate behavior are based on legalities and the premise that there are difficult physical, emotional, social, and legal consequences that can result as an outcome.
In looking after the emotional and physical health of students, the School’s policy is that students must refrain from intimate sexual involvement as a protection from behavior that may lead to sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and physical or emotional distress. As a boarding school responsible for all of its students, Thacher’s policies represent not only what the School feels is appropriate for adolescents but also abides by the laws in place in the state of California. Our policy also reflects the sentiment of our families in having a safe and appropriate environment for their children while away from home. The age of consent with regard to sexual relations in California is 18. We are clear about our guidelines for intimate behavior and we respond differently than other rule violations. Instead, we use a counseling approach involving the Dean of Students, advisors and families to engage in positive discussions about the School’s expectations. Choosing to be a student at Thacher involves high expectations that vary from the expectations in individual homes representing varying familial beliefs in regard to sexual relations.
So, yes, we ask a lot of our students, but we are clear about what we expect. Yes, this can be difficult for students as they might be ready for more freedoms and fewer restrictions as they get older. But, given the landscape in our world around affirmative consent and the legal aspects involved in regard to intimate behavior, this is why Thacher’s policy exists as it does. Our hope would be that the positive aspects students feel in their Thacher experience outweighs the disagreement with some of the policies and students understand why these rules are in place. As a School, we strive to provide resources and information for our students in many forums so they can make healthy and appropriate decisions and engage in a high level of self-care.