Hundreds of teens walked out of their high school in Oklahoma on Monday to protest bullying. The teens were protesting the bullying of three of their classmates who were raped by the same individual. When the students walked out of their high school in Oklahoma they were met by not only their parents but other community members that had come to support them and the alleged victims. Protesters wanted their message to be clear, it could be your child, your daughter.
The protest was in response to the bullying of a 16-year-old girl who had made allegations against another student for raping her and was subsequently bullied upon her return to school. Once the girl’s accusations went public, two more girls came forward to say that they were also raped by the same individual. The police in Norman, Oklahoma are currently investigating the rapes and have said that there is an active investigation with one suspect and multiple victims. At the same time the District Attorney has said that his office is waiting on findings from the police before they move forward because they want to make sure they file charges against the correct person.
The families of the victims came forward with the story in hopes of having their voices heard and to inform people of what had been happening. In the reports, the families say that the accused had been removed from school not for the rapes but instead for circulating a video of him having sex with one of the alleged victims. The girls have since left the school as all three have now been victims of bullying and taunting by other classmates. In one instance one of the girls was also physically assaulted.
The girls’ families are upset with the way the school has handled the bullying especially in light of the school’s own anti-bullying policy. The teens all say that the administration at the school failed to address the bullying and this lead to them leaving the school in an effort to stop the taunting and attacks they faced. Although the girls and their family say that the school is not handling the incident, the police say that the school has been open and transparent with them.
Other teens at the Oklahoma high school decided to protest the bullying in light of the girls being chased from the school. Some of the students chose to line the streets outside of the school early in the morning rather than going into the building. The majority of the students involved in the protest walked out of the school around 9:20 to cheers from those already waiting outside.
Although the Superintendent of schools says that there is no reason for the girls not to return to the Oklahoma high school, one of the students who lead the protest said that the girls are scared and do not feel safe at the school. While the alleged rapist is no longer at the school, the student who has been a leader in the bullying incidents is still attending classes.
The Superintendent of the district in Oklahoma where the girls attend school said that he had sent out letters to parents to speak to the teens about bullying rather than take part in a protest or walkout. One of the recommendations included wearing buttons and stickers to show what they called symbolic support. Instead students and community members chose to take part in the walkout and protest in a show of solidarity with the victims in an effort to show that they would not tolerate bullying.
By Kimberley Spinney
Photo by J. Stephen Conn – Flickr License