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Marlborough School Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

Lizze Small Contributing Illustrator
How to help our Earth
April 12, 2024

Self-defense no longer mandatory

Allie Staff Illustrator

The sound of the word “no” echoes through the gym as juniors in sweatpants fight off padded self-defense instructors. Or at least it used to. Beginning this year, juniors are no longer required to take a quarter of self-defense to satisfy the Health 11 graduation requirement. 

Before 2018, self-defense was only an elective; however, for the past three years, it was a required quarter of the Health 11 semester-long course. This change came after several Marlborough students conducted a study on sexual assault and prevention efforts. Their research led them to recommend that Marlborough mandate self-defense for all students. Additionally, many alumnae had reported that self-defense was one of the most useful courses they had taken at Marlborough, further inspiring the implementation of the class as a graduation requirement. 

“I personally believe that it’s an incredibly valuable course, as much for the self-empowerment piece as it is for the actual fighting skills,” Director of Educational and Counseling Services Marisa Crandall said. 

While many believe there are benefits to taking self-defense, students in the class of 2023 spoke up last school year about how self-defense impacts trauma survivors. In addition to the discomfort felt during the class itself, students brought up the difficulty of having their trauma triggered during self-defense and then having to go to their other classes. 

“The class is pretty intense, especially when you get to the fighting parts, and again, they’re important, but it felt to us … that someone should really be volunteering to put themselves in that position and not feel that they are being forced,” Crandall said. 

While some students spoke up about their experience with self-defense by going directly to administration  on campus, others used the Health 11 culmination project, which gives students the opportunity to make a change at Marlborough and outside of the school. 

“I think that just goes to show how impactful student voice can be when people share experiences, it can make really meaningful change,” Health Education Head and Dean of Social and Emotional Learning Nicole Beck said. 

While incorporating self-defense into Health 11 gave students the opportunity to take two courses in one, both the health and self-defense curriculums had to be truncated. This year, some of the units in Health 11 have been extended so that students can learn more about certain topics, such as sexual health and decision making. Additionally, more days have been set aside for students to work on their culminating projects in class. By removing self-defense from the curriculum, Marlborough is hoping to address the emotional needs of many members of the community and still provide to those who desire to take a self-defense class with the opportunity to do so as an elective.

“We want to serve our students well,” Crandall said. “The first thing is do no harm, and then we want to make sure we’re taking good care of you while you’re here and preparing you for what comes next, and we felt like we could do those three things by going back to the elective version.”

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