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The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The P.E. Department Responds to Our Editorial

Water Safety. Photo from Creative Commons. Taken By PoolSafety.
Certified lifeguards practice their Water Safety procedures. Photo by Flickr user PoolSafety.

Comment from physical education instructor Heidi Hornbacher:

Teaching at Marlborough has been one of the unexpected joys of my career. I came to LA to make movies and, after taking a Basics self-defense class that changed my life, I found myself several years later as Executive Director and Instructor of that very class provider: IMPACT Personal Safety. In my years (five now!) here among Violets, I have been touched at how caring the community is. I’ve found a value I never expected in the friendship of my colleagues when I thought all I was doing was showing up to teach a class. I have nothing but respect for the expertise of my colleagues and the unseen and unsung hours they put in to teaching their specialties to students willing and not.

In the recent UV article expressing the opinion of some students that Self-Defense should be required instead of Emergency Preparedness/Water Safety, I was quoted as saying I felt as though the class should be required. I want to make it clear to both students and faculty; this is in fact the exact opposite of how I feel. What I meant when I said, jokingly, the comment that was quoted was, yeah, in my heart of hearts, Self-Defense should be required of the whole planet because wouldn’t that be wonderful, to live in a world where everyone is empowered? My actual position here is: no, I don’t think Self Defense should be a required class at Marlborough and certainly not at the expense of an invaluable class like Emergency Preparedness/Water Safety, which has as many life-saving success stories as my class.

I love that the girls who want to be in my class are the girls who take the class. It would be no fun for me or the students if girls who were terrified of the class or had other objections to taking it were forced to do so. In fact, Self-Defense might then find itself on the opposite end of an editorial. When something is a “you have to,” people automatically don’t want to, even if it might be the best thing that ever happened to them. As it stands, I sit on Booth Field every Graduation day and count the girls that I’ve trained. It is consistently 80 – 85% of graduating seniors. If it were to ever be 100% I’d want that to be out of voluntary love for my class. I want it to be because all students see for themselves the value in knowing you can fight for your life and the collateral benefits of being more willing to stand up for yourself, defend an opinion, be bold enough to run for office, aspire to a more challenging job and so on. I want it to be because they know that one in three women will be assaulted in her lifetime and for our grads that drops to one in 30, with that one reporting back to us on successfully defending herself. I unequivocally do not want it to be because girls are forced to be there.

The truth is Emergency Preparedness/Water Safety and Self-Defense have much in common in terms of life skills, grace under pressure and knowing you have what it takes to deal with scary situations. Like I said: Emergency Preparedness/Water Safety is like Self-Defense against pools (and accidents and other health risk situations) while Self-Defense is for assailants, would-be murderers, rapists or just people who make you uncomfortable. I feel our teachings dovetail nicely. I’d say with confidence that any girl taking both classes would be very unlikely to find herself a victim of anything ranging from accidents to interpersonal violations.

I take responsibility and apologize to my colleagues for my part in the series of miscommunications between myself and the UV staff that led to the article being printed as it was.


From the Physical Education Department:

The Emergency Preparedness/Water Safety class has been a graduation requirement at Marlborough for over 35 years. The School administration and members of the Physical Education Department at that time saw the wisdom in establishing this requirement as an extremely beneficial life-skill regarding safety awareness as well as preventing injury or life threatening situations. Whether protecting or saving lives on land (First Aidand CPR) or in the water (Water Safety and Lifeguard Training) learning such skills enables rational, level-headed decision-making in case of emergency and empowers us to respond appropriately.

The difficulty for students has been getting in Caldwell Pool and getting wet, but the epiphany and rewards for students is the tremendous value they discover in the life-saving skills that are acquired. Students often don’t see the real value of the class until they have completed the course and see the impact they can now make in the lives of friends, family and even strangers, should an emergency situation arise. We have so many success stories from student triumphs in emergency situations that we are constantly reassured that this class goes far beyond a graduation requirement. The Department feels that the Emergency Preparedness/Water Safety class is arguably one of the most important classes taught at Marlborough. In what other class do students learn to literally save lives?  We feel it is a privilege to save a life. Just ask Physical Education Department Head Julie Napoleon, who has had that experience. Mrs. Napoleon continues to share that it was one of the privileges of her life!

We have over 100 members of our Red Cross Team and over 300 students on campus who have been trained in First Aid and CPR through our class. Associate Director of Finance and Business Affairs Julia Yzaguirre made the comment that if there were an emergency on campus, she would want to have one of our students next to her in that crisis. The Emergency Preparedness/ Water Safety class is yet another opportunity in the Marlborough experience that is incredibly empowering and develops leadership opportunities, that not only opens many doors but essentially provides students with tools to confront and help to remedy a crisis situation in which they are involved.

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