Day 6

'Young voices aren't being heard': U.S. students weigh in on high school culture and the Kavanaugh hearings

The allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have raised difficult questions about sex and consent in high schools. We asked three 17-year-old students in Maryland for their views on this week's hearings.

'This is an opportunity for the country to come to terms with what's going on in high schools'

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh spent most of his teen years at Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md., in the 1980s. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is hanging in the balance as senators grapple with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

His most prominent accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, alleges that Kavanaugh and a friend sexually assaulted her when he was a 17-year-old student at Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland.

Kavanaugh denies all of the allegations.

The controversy has put the spotlight on high schools and ignited a fierce debate over how decades-old accusations of teenage misconduct should be handled.

Day 6 asked three 17-year-old students from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD for their thoughts on high school culture and the Kavanaugh hearings.

Here's some of what they had to say.

Oreet Zimand, 17

"I live in a little bit more of a conservative area, among people who don't really have these kind of conversations very often — especially because, for the most part, girls and boys are kept very separate until high school. ... So I think that right now, having this conversation, a lot of people are in their own heads: the boys are thinking about the men in the situation and the girls are thinking about the women. 

In any debate there's always two sides, so of course we have to acknowledge that this is Kavanaugh's life and his career. But at the same time, I really think it's important that in this moment, we continue to acknowledge that the kind of things that are happening are not OK in high schools.

Everybody acknowledges that high school rape culture exists. It's not something that should be made okay just by saying, 'boys will be boys' or 'they've grown from this experience.'

I think this is an opportunity for the country to come to terms with what's been going on in high schools, and to make an unequivocal statement that this is not something that we're allowing to happen."

Students of the George Washington University Law School gather to watch the U.S. Senate Supreme Court confirmation hearing into sexual assault allegations from Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. (Kevin Fogarty/Reuters)

Leo Blain, 17

"A lot of these people that are doing the questioning here went to high school in the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s. And they're examining the life of someone who went to a high school in the 1980s. The whole country and the general conversation around youth and sexual assault has changed a lot since then. Sexual assault is still very much an issue today, but I think people are generally more willing to talk about it.

You know, the 'boys will be boys' excuse — that's not an excuse at all. It's not valid at all. For stuff like sexual assault, it's important for there to be a space where people can come forward. And to be able to have that space, you need to have people — male, female no matter what their gender identity is — who are willing to call that out.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary committee. (Gabriella Demczuk via Reuters)

Mahnaz Habib, 17

"I definitely think that young voices aren't being heard as much with this case. And I think it's especially important that we are the ones that are heard, because these things happened to them as teenagers and they need to understand our perspective ... because we're living that experience right now.

A lot of what I'm hearing is considering, you know, 'is this worth discussing if it happened so long ago?' and 'is it worth punishing now?' ... And I think that it doesn't matter whether it happened five years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago. They should be punished for what they did. Sexual assault is such a serious issue, and so many females are coming out today. So I think it doesn't matter where it happens; they should have to face the consequences.

Boys need to learn that it's not 'boys should be boys' or 'teenagers should be teenagers.' They could learn at an early age and know that it's not OK ever to do these acts."

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 27, 2018. (Saul Loeb/EPA-EFE)

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

To hear more from Leo Blain, Mahnaz Habib and Oreet Zimand, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.