Self-defense classes planned for Denim Day April 21

Self-defense classes and a panel of rape experts will  number among the activities intended to celebrate Denim Day April 21.

Trishta Dordi ’15 has organized Denim Day on campus for the past two years, but was inspired to make it a “bigger deal” this year after hearing about what she felt were even more cases of sexual assault around the world than usual.

“I think a lot of times we get really caught up in our own lives, which is totally understandable at Harvard-Westlake, but it’s really good and necessary to be aware of all the injustice that’s happening, because it could very well be one of us it ends up happening to,” Dordi said.

This year she formed a committee of more than 30 students and faculty  members to organize several activities the week of Denim Day, which is April 23. Although the events are not completely set in stone, Dordi plans to schedule self-defense classes for all students after school April 21, with a panel of rape experts and survivors during activities period as well as a possible speaker.

A photo shoot was staged Monday in which students posed for photos of themselves wearing denim. Dordi said she hopes students will post these photos as their profile pictures on Facebook in order to spread awareness. An event for parents is also in the works, she said.

“The goal is to try to educate other people about how you can help other people, to educate parents about what you can do if you see those signs,” Denim Day committee member and assistant to the Head of Upper School Michelle Bracken said. “There’s a lot of social media that parents don’t know much about. There’s a lot of stuff happening online that didn’t used to happen.”

Bracken said the events surrounding Denim Day were an example of the more creative planning that the school has favored lately over all-school assemblies, and which could also work for events like Women’s History Month and Black History Month.

Bracken also said the Assembly Committee decided this year to focus on scheduling just four all-school assemblies: two great speakers in the fall and two great speakers in the spring.

“There was a lot of pressure, I think, to get people’s speakers to come, as opposed to just if in October we had a great woman who could come and speak, we could have her come then,” Bracken said.

Because of the new approach towards scheduling assemblies, Bracken said the committee is no longer committed towards scheduling Women’s History and Black History speakers, although they will gladly welcome such speakers if they are available, as was the case with this year’s Black History speaker Wes Moore.

“There’s a continued commitment to [Women’s History and Black History speakers] but no expectation that we have to do it every year,” Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said. “So if not this year, then maybe next year.”

Women’s History Month this year fell into just that situation, and English teacher Malina Mamigonian, who has organized the Women’s History speaker for the last few years and is on the Denim Day committee, said its budget might be tapped into for Denim Day.

“I was delighted to find out about Denim Day and very glad to know that our school is going to take up the issue of violence against women but also recognizing that women are not the exclusive victims of sexual violence,” Mamigonian said.

“I believe it’s important that we recognize [Women’s History Month] on our campus in a meaningful way. I think that Denim Day this year is a great way of doing that.”

However, Mamigonian said she thought more could still be done to celebrate Women’s History Month and hopes to schedule a speaker next year.

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