A deep dive into Shorecrest’s student walkout on December 1st

DISCLAIMER: We are not allowed to share the full story due to legal reasons as well as protection of the people involved. This is a compilation of all of the information we were able to gather on the subject, and readers should keep that in mind. We are also including a content warning for mentions of sexual assault.

The original Snapchat post that was created. (Keep in mind that this story may not be fully accurate.)

On Thursday, November 25, a Shorecrest student may have opened their phone to see a plethora of posts being spread around social media. These Snapchat and Instagram stories (short 24-hour posts on many major social media platforms) described the alleged wrongful expulsion of a student who came forward about being sexually assaulted, and caused an uproar of students who were visibly angry about the school’s policies regarding sexual assault.

Keep in mind that this does not appear to be the full story. Principal Gonzalez clarified to us that it is not possible for a student to be expelled for coming forward with a report of a sexual assault. “On what grounds would the expulsion be issued? There is no disciplinary code that prohibits a student from reporting a sexual assault. There are many reasons why a student might be emergency expelled — reporting a sexual assault is not one of them.” Nonetheless, students were very clearly outraged at how they believed the Shorecrest administration had gone about handling this situation, and not long afterwards a post began circulating around Instagram. The post, from the anonymous account @shoreline.walkout, called for a school wide walkout on December 1st, “for district level policy change in solidarity of sexual assault victims.”

The original Shoreline walkout post

More recently, the walkout has gained a more organized effort. A group of students worked out the details and stated the purpose of the protest is to improve “education & prevention, support, and transparency in policy”, as well as put a general plan in place for what students will do should they decide to attend. According to the people planning the event, the walkout is scheduled for Wednesday, December 1st. Students will leave class at 9:30 am and walk to the softball fields in Hamlin. There will then be student speakers, sharing their stories and other topics they want to discuss. The goal is to end the protest around lunchtime so that students are able to get school lunch and then rejoin periods 5 and 6 with minimal disruption. Parents can excuse absences and there will be no disciplinary actions for walking out. When asked what students should know before the protest, the event coordinators stated, “(Keep in mind) that our tone is passionate and motivated. We are seeking change, but it is not a violent or hostile protest, and will remain peaceful.”

A post from Monday, November 29, clarifying the objectives of the walkout

Concerns with how the Shoreline school district handles sexual assault cases have been raised before. In February, accusations and stories of sexual assault spread on social media. In response, the school administration urged students to report incidents so that the school could legally take action, rather than spreading stories on social media. In an email sent to students on February 11, Principal Gonzalez commented about students reporting incidents on social media saying, “Survivors are being shamed, alleged aggressors are being threatened, and the environment is becoming increasingly toxic.” She encouraged students to “use social media to post supportive messages and to share resources” rather than “trying to dig for more additional information or trying to investigate on your own.”

In response to these incidents, in Spring 2021, the school formed a Student-Staff Study Group “to evaluate and strengthen our efforts in raising awareness of sexual assault and providing sexual consent education across all grade levels at Shorecrest.” This year, members of the group presented their recommendations and what actions were being taken in a video that was shown to students on October 27. The school also shared a video clarifying the sexual assault reporting process. However, it has become clear that students are still not satisfied. One student shared with the Highland Piper their distaste for the climate at Shorecrest, saying, “Me and many other students feel unsafe because rapists and people accused of sexual assault walk our halls everyday. We just have to hope nothing happens to us because if something does, we know we are going to be silenced.” In an Instagram poll conducted with 67 students, 91% said they would be attending the walkout. Even the official Shorecrest ASB account has participated, mentioning the current situation in the caption of one of their posts and reposting the details of the walkout on their Instagram story. The walkout account currently has over 125 followers, and the original post has received over 300 likes.

In response to a request for comment, Principal Gonzalez noted, “Students have a right to express their feelings and their views. I will not stand in the way of student free speech and, at the same time, will work to ensure that our campus is operating safely.  I ask that students please be cautious and take care of one another. Consider that you may not be in possession of all the information. Seek to understand rather than to judge.”

Perhaps the most notable point to be made is that the majority of this has happened over social media. There have been no emails, no announcements, and no assemblies. The shareable nature of social media has contributed to a large amount of exposure on the issue, but as a result there has also been an influx in misinformation and overall rumors. There hasn’t been a lot of public information released, so that has left room for speculation about what happened to spur the protest. No matter what students choose to do, they are urged to use their own judgement to decide for themselves what is or isn’t true, and to trust the words of their peers but verify the factual accuracy of these statements.

This article will continue to be updated as we receive more information.

An interview with the organizers of the protest (Bella Tancreti, Lacy George, Eunice Back, Sage Allen, Vegas Valente, and Delaney Dunn):

Q: How are you hoping to make a difference by leading this walkout?

A: We are hoping to show through the mass of students walking out that this is a pressing issue in our school community,and hoping to give students a platform to express their frustration in a peaceful and productive way.

Q: What specific policy(s) are you attempting to change?

A: The three specifics we are looking to address are improving education/prevention, support, and policy transparency. The specific policies we are looking at are also subject to change as we move forward and find what is working or not working.

Education/Prevention

  • Improved and thorough sexual health curriculum for all ages, including sexual assault awareness and peer-to-peer consent education starting in elementary schools
  • Improved and thorough training for staff on how to appropriately respond to reports of sexual assault

Support

  • Trained, specialized sexual assault therapist available for all students
  • Improved and thorough supportive measures offered for survivors following any type of report
  • Hire a Title 9 coordinator→ students involved in selection process

Transparency in Policy

  • Transparent informal complaint review system from school admin
  • When students make informal reports, admin makes sure they understand that things like schedule changes and suspension can’t happen without a formal report
  • Remove the 1 year deadline from incident for filing a formal complaint

Q: What is your end goal?

A: Our end goal is highlighted by the three categories of objectives we are presenting; education/prevention, support, and policy transparency. We feel that the most significant change will come from prevention measures, which is why we think it is critical to establish a peer-to-peer consent education program starting in elementary school. Ultimately, we want Shorecrest culture to be a place where all students and staff support each other and feel safe.

Q:  How is this related to the previous events in the way of sexual assault awareness at Shorecrest, and how do you feel about the actions taken by Shorecrest to combat this?

A: This is not an isolated incident; the students at Shorecrest have long felt frustrated with the way that sexual assault is handled at our school. Last year, a study group was established to examine these issues and come up with a list of recommendations. We are currently in the implementation stage of those recommendations and feel really good about the work we are doing. This walkout is to highlight the work that still needs to be done and voice the passion and anger that much of our school is feeling.