Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88 explains allegations

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88 poses for his yearbook photo during his junior year at the Harvard School for Boys.

Printed with permission of the Harvard-Westlake Archives

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88 poses for his yearbook photo during his junior year at the Harvard School for Boys.

Davis Marks and Will Sherwood

Discussing his time as mayor with Los Angeles Magazine on Oct. 26, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88 said he was a survivor of sexual harassment in high school. According to Garcetti’s Press Secretary Harrison Wollman, the events recounted were not connected to Harvard School.

In the interview with LA Mag, Garcetti spoke publicly about being a survivor of sexual harassment for the first time. At Columbia University, Garcetti served as president of the National Student Coalition Against Harassment and spoke to congressional staffers during the creation of the first Violence Against Women Act.

President Rick Commons said he felt sorry for Garcetti’s experience, but he was relieved to find out that the incident did not happen at Harvard School.

“My first thought was sadness for him,”Commons said.“My second thought was, if the incident took place while he was a student at our school, and it involved someone at the school, that we needed to look into it. So I reached out to the mayor and expressed my condolences and asked him if it involved someone related to the school, and if so, would he be willing to talk with me about it. I asked him if there’s anything that we could do to support him. He let me know that it was not someone associated with the school, [but] he appreciated the outreach, and appreciated my thoughts.”

Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said Garcetti’s experience is a reminder about the current realities of sexual harassment, particularly that anyone can be a victim.

“I’m a person who as an adult was the victim of sexual harassment, and it’s something that I’m super conscious of,”Slattery said.“I think [Garcetti’s experience] is a good reminder that it can happen to boys too. I think that we automatically assume that this is a problem for [only] female-identifying students. I just think we always have to be vigilant about that stuff and also depend on students to be vigilant.”

Students Against Sexual Violence (SASV) Co-Leader Eloise Stoddard said that discussing the issue is an effective way to change the way people behave.

“Sexual violence, including harassment, is an issue that affects plenty of people, more than many would expect,”Stoddard said.“As someone who has seen firsthand how sexual violence affects people, I, and my fellow SASV leaders and members, recognize that the only way to prevent it in our community and in the world is through peer-to-peer education. Sharing how to protect yourself and others, proper sexual conduct, and how to report sexual violence in a way people feel comfortable with is how SASV hopes to contribute to a safe environment for Harvard-Westlake.”

In April, Slattery sent out an email with the results of an anonymous survey about sexual harassment. The email said that 40% of respondents reported experiencing a comment of sexual nature that was offensive, and 25% of respondents reported that someone touched or tried to touch them in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.

Commons said the community should be aware of sexual harassment, given that the data indicates it exists at the school.

“The survey indicated that there are multiple experiences at the school where students are feeling unsafe and are being harassed by other students, and in some cases, there are indications that there are incidents of harassment that have taken place with adults. So we all have to understand what harassment is and recognize that intention does not determine whether someone is a victim of harassment and do everything we can to prevent it.”