Stevenson community responds to controversial anti-bullying speaker

Aman Grover, Managing Editor of Production

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With all math teachers gone on Oct. 23 to attend to a conference, the Stevenson administration took advantage of the opportunity to send a message to the entire student body. Jerry Ackerman, a student speaker, was invited by the administration to give an anti-bullying presentation in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) during the time of students’ math classes.

What he actually did, though, was quite different.

The administration received a number of complaints regarding his speech, namely that it was sexist in its content, Sarah Bowen, director of student services, said.

“The speech was rife with stereotypes and antiquated gender roles, Ali Saeed ’17 said. “Ackerman stated that men should always respect women, yet he started his speech with female objectification.”

“He was perpetuating some gender stereotypes that are harmful to our society,” Bowen said. “It’s unfortunate because these are things that people have been fighting for decades to change.”

The administration was not pleased with the way the presentation had turned out. Ackerman’s speech does not by any means represent the views of Stevenson or its student body, Ken Latka, Assistant Principal of Operations, said.

“We asked him to give us a customized presentation on bullying, centered on how Stevenson kids look out and care for each other,” Latka said. “Obviously, that’s not what we got, and it was very saddening to see some students walk out feeling uncomfortable.”

Ackerman offers customers a number of presentations on his website, including “Dude. Be Nice,” about social media usage, “I Will Defend,” about bullying and “5 Things Every Teenager Needs to Hear,” about teenage life.

While Stevenson requested their own customized presentation regarding bullying and a sense of community, Ackerman appeared to have given the “5 Things Every Teenager Needs to Hear” speech. When the administration confronted him midday regarding this, Ackerman insisted it was the speech he was asked to give and refused to deliver a different speech for his remaining presentations, Latka said.

“The whole situation was regrettable, but we were extremely impressed by how the student body reacted,” Bowen said. “We received calls from students, student groups and parents, and it was great to see the whole community standing up to him.”

A number of students could be seen talking to Ackerman after each of his presentations, respectfully speaking with him about the content of his speech, Latka said.

“His views were antiquated and didn’t sit well with our progressive and knowledgeable student body,” Latka said. “I’m really proud of our kids for how they responded to that.”

Jerry Ackerman was contacted for this story but could not be reached.

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