LOHS walks out in support of sexual assault survivors

Gracie Cox, Editor-in-Chief

Hundreds of LOHS students walked out during TSCT and Advisory in protest of the school administration’s accused mishandling of student sexual assault allegations on Friday, April 21. In response to the April 4 lawsuit against LOSD, students gathered in support of the plaintiff and shared their own experiences regarding sexual assault along with perceptions of the school’s protective responsibilities. Gathered around the flagpole, here is what students had to say.

Speeches primarily focused on the story of Alex Boot, the lawsuit’s plaintiff and former LOHS senior. Several students retold her story, detailing the turmoil that she underwent as her alleged abuser continued to violate the safety plan set in place by LO administration. This caused her overwhelming amounts of anxiety, and as a result, she could not attend school and was unenrolled for 10 consecutive days of absence.

Alex’s brother, sophomore Colin Boot, shared his perspective. “They said that my sister would be expelled for not attending school. It’s the most (expletive) up Uno Reverse Card ever seen.”

Senior Gabe Pace, a close friend of Boot, connected the school’s welcoming community mission statement to Boot’s treatment. “Why is it that when someone admits in text messages to having raped a female student and known that it’s wrong, the school does nothing? Why is it that when they have the opportunity to put their philosophy of building a sense of community into action, they do nothing?” he stated.

As a whole, walkout speakers shared their frustrations with administrators, believing that they brush aside incidents of harassment and assault when inconvenient. As the head of the school community, administration does have to juggle the interests of all of its students, but according to senior Olivia Reinhart, this is not an excuse. She claimed, “In refusing to make a choice between the victims and assailants, they are making a choice because tolerance towards some people is inherently intolerant towards others. While I recognize they have a job to protect their students… playing the middle ground automatically endangers others. It isn’t fair to the victims of sexual assault.”

After recognizing the school’s alleged faults, the group focused on finding a solution to the problem that first drew them to the flagpole.

Senior Taavi Machado addressed the importance of empowering survivors of sexual assault and harassment to share their stories. “To be muted and looked down upon is an act of abuse in its own right. Silence doesn’t have to be the answer,” he said.

Pace emphasized the impact of the day’s protest, sharing that the walkout alone had great power in communicating to school administrators students’ stance on their actions. “Anyone with half a soul must join in letting those in the office and in the school district know that we won’t stand for this,” he added.

Despite the abundance of rousing speeches from attendees, Boot’s guidance had an especially powerful impact on the audience. She spoke on the community’s lax approach punishing perpetrators of sexual assault; “Clearly what we are doing does not work. I have had people come out of the woodwork and say ‘me too.’ I have had neighbors, close friends and people my parents have known since elementary school come forward and say ‘me too.’ We need to change. This cannot keep going on.”

Vice principal Ryan Rosenau made a statement on behalf of administration, “[We] care deeply about student safety at LOHS and take all reports of sexual assault and harassment seriously. Unfortunately, I am unable to talk specifically about any particular allegation, and it’s a great frustration to not be able to provide any clarity. Students may not have a full understanding of the details, and I would encourage them to continue to support each other in positive ways.”

For dedicated activists, the call for change doesn’t end with the walkout. “Currently we’re planning on giving some testimony both written and verbal to the school board on issues pertaining to lack of response to sexual assault and harassment. On Monday we’re trying to testify about their proposed amendments… including complaints that include ‘Teen Dating Violence,’” Pace shared.

To conclude, Boot reminded LOHS, “I’m still here. To everyone here, you are the hope. You are my hope.”