Statement from Shelby Rusconi

December 19th, 2017

I Left Presentation High School Because of My Teacher’s Inappropriate Behavior

I started at Presentation High School the 2006-2007 school year. I was really excited to be enrolled at such a wonderful school. Unfortunately, my experience there became emotionally distressing. During my Freshman year, I had a math teacher who made sexually suggestive comments during class and engaged in inappropriate behavior in an outside the classroom.

During his daily lectures, he used chocolate kisses as a reward for participation. But it was not innocent: he would constantly ask us girls if we would like “some of his kisses” with a distinctly sexual undertone. As the year progressed, he seemed to offer them just as an excuse to talk to us and get a reaction. My classmates and I talked about how uncomfortable he made us. We all worked hard to ensure we were never alone in the classroom with him.

He also made numerous comments about my appearance—my hair, my uniform skirt, or my eyes. He usually made these comments in the hallway where he could speak to me without anyone else necessarily hearing him.

He made numerous attempts to give me a hug in the hallway, and I would always try to avoid him if I saw him walking. When he would find me alone, he would stand extremely close—too close—to me, forcing me to slowly take steps back or make an excuse as to why I was in a rush to be somewhere. If he was speaking to a group of girls, he generally would keep a normal amount of distance.

I told my parents that I was extremely uncomfortable and that I hated math class. I wanted to skip it. My parents found the teacher’s behavior concerning as well. My mother reported his misconduct to the administration, but she felt her concerns were dismissed. Nothing appeared to have been done—the sexually suggestive comments and inappropriate behavior continued the rest of the semester.

I had to spend the rest of the year enduring his inappropriate behavior. It distressed me, and I never wanted to go to class. Feeling uncomfortable, helpless, and scared, I would avoid eye contact with the teacher and try to figure out ways to leave the classroom. I told my parents numerous times that I didn’t even want to go to school, and I would often make excuses for them to pick me up early. I had a horrible year.

My classmates and I should have been protected from the harassment we endured that school year. Instead, the school administration dismissed our complaint. As a direct result, I transferred out of Presentation High School at the end of the school year.

By speaking out, I hope to promote positive change at Presentation. All those young girls should feel safe and secure.