Oak Park-River Forest High School. | File

There will be no filming of any part of an in-school field trip next month for seniors at Oak Park and River Forest High School about ending sexual and interpersonal violence. The OPRF District 200 school board voted 4-2 at its Jan. 26 meeting to not allow the group putting on the workshop, the Oregon based non-profit Set the Expectations, to film any part of the day. Set the Expectations had asked for permission to do some filming at OPRF so that it could create a video to be used in outreach to high schools about their work.

Sara Dixon Spivy | Provided

“This work needs to happening in more places and schools are afraid to have the conversation,” said Karin Sullivan, executive communications director at OPRF, during a discussion of the issue at the school board’s Jan. 12 Committee of the Whole Meeting. Sullivan was explaining why the OPRF administration was recommending approval of allowing Set the Expectations to film some of the activities.

School board member Sara Spivy was the most vocal in opposing any filming of the day. Spivy said that while she strongly supports the work of Set the Expectations, she thought that students might be inhibited or afraid to speak openly if they knew they were being filmed and recorded.

“I think it would have a chilling effect on students, I think students wouldn’t want to participate or wouldn’t be vocal during the sessions because of being filmed,” Spivy said.

Ralph Martire | Provided

Board member Ralph Martire agreed.

“I feel it does have a chilling effect on some students, or it could,” Martire said.

Joining Spivy and Martire in voting against allowing filming were board president Tom Cofsky and Kebreab Henry. Voting to allow filming were Fred Arkin and Mary Anne Mohanraj. Board member Gina Harris was not at the Jan. 26 meeting.

Mohanraj said it was important to get the message out about preventing sexual violence.

“The filming itself is probably not a benefit for our students but it’s a benefit to the larger community,” Mohanraj.

No board member objected to the workshop itself.

Mary Anne Mohanraj

Sullivan, in a later email wrote, “We appreciate the healthy discussion at the board table and the focus on our students’ needs.”

Set the Expectations was founded by and is run by Brenda Tracy. In 1998 Tracy was gang raped by four football players. Tracy told the school board that the filming would have focused on her presentation and mostly consist of wide shots of students from the back. She also said OPRF’s administration could approve any final version of a video. Set the Expectations ran a workshop at OPRF once before, but it has worked more often at colleges and universities, particularly working with athletic teams. Tracy said she did not think filming would have a chilling effect on students.

“A lot of schools are not doing this work, they’re not willing to have the conversation, they’re scared of it, they don’t understand that this is something we need to be doing, that we can be doing and that you can do successfully in a really responsible way,” Tracy said. “And part of doing the video is being able to use that to show other people like that this is OK, you can do this work, look what this high school is doing.”

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