MMSD students demand sexual assault policy change in 2nd day of walk-outs

This was the second walk-out at Madison East HS this week.
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 6:09 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Friday was day two of walk outs at Madison East High School after students say school leaders are not taking sexual assault allegations seriously. On Friday, the students have a broader message for not only East HS Principal Sean Leavy, but for school leaders district wide.

Students from schools across MMSD gathered on the front lawn of East High School.

“It should have never had to have had to come to this point. Our district is in charge of keeping our students safe,” said Madison East Junior Lydia Jovaag.

Students say they need to feel safe and heard.

“Seeing all these people here is really, it feels good,” says Jovaag.

Jovaag says the outcry stems from a student assembly held last week.

“Today we are having a walk out for sexual assault awareness after an unfortunate wording at our assembly where our principal said sexual assault didn’t exist at our school. When a student asked, what are we doing to deal with all the other sexual assault allegations happening here? He said no, you have been hearing rumors, you are just children. Students didn’t take that well,” says Jovaag.

But these students are sharing their personal accounts with sexual violence and telling school leaders the changes they want to see, not just at Madison East, but the entire district.

Here’s what the students are calling for:

  • More education for teachers and students about what sexual assault is and how to report it.
  • If there is an open investigation into a sexual assault case involving a student, they want the accused out of school until the investigation is complete.
  • If it’s determined a student did sexually assault someone, they be expelled.

“I don’t feel like she’s super safe,” says Madison East parent Amy Draper.

Draper came to the walk-out in support of her daughter. She says the students demands are reasonable and that leadership should listen.

“I’m hearing lots of frustration with the kids not knowing what’s going on, hearing things like ‘we’re dealing with it,’ and that’s really about all they feel that they’re getting,” said Draper. “I am not here for them in school, and you want to feel like your children are looked out for and protected and advocated for.”

Now students are advocating for themselves.

“If there is no change made, we will continue to raise our voices,” says Jovaag.

Another parent sent NBC15 a copy of an email sent to East families from Principal Sean Leavy ahead of Friday’s walk-out.

“While we commend our students who continue to lift their voices on dismantling cultures of sexual violence, we ask you to encourage your student to stay in school during the school day on Friday so they do not negatively impact their instructional time,” writes Leavy.

He goes on to say honoring students’ perspectives is something he values. And he offered resources if students need help.

“In addition, we continue to encourage students to seek out a trusting adult to report if they either experience or have knowledge of an incident of sexual violence,” writes Leavy.

NBC15 reached out to the school district for comment on Friday’s district wide walk-out. Spokesperson Tim LeMonds re-sent us a statement they sent earlier in the week:

“We would like to thank MMSD students who continue to lift their voices this week and over the years on sexual violence policies and protocols. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to engage adults in positions of authority, and we are extremely proud of our students who, through their advocacy and resolve, made their voices heard. Honoring students’ perspectives provides opportunity for growth as we continue to refine district policies and protocols.

The safety, security, and well-being of all of our students remains our priority. As a district, we take reports of sexual violence very seriously. The district is partnering with Rape Crisis Center leadership to offer best practices, transparency and necessary supports to students and staff.”

Tim LeMonds-MMSD Spokesperson

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