EVERETT — Over 100 Everett High students filled the school lawn Monday morning to protest rape culture in school.
“It all goes back to our (expletive) school system,” organizer Soren Dellaguardia yelled into a megaphone. Just five months earlier, Dellaguardia helped organize a protest when there were mounting reports of sexual assault on campus.
Not much has changed since then, Everett High student Knowledge Williams told The Daily Herald. Students have continued to use social media as a platform to anonymously share their stories in the months following the December protest.
Students marched from Everett High to North Middle School on Monday, where they were met by dozens of students. One by one, middle school kids threw their backpacks, then themselves, over the chain link fence surrounding their campus to join their Everett High peers.
District officials at the protest could not answer questions and asked the Herald to send questions via email.
“District administrators and counselors have been meeting often with and working with students to discuss their concerns, share what policies and procedures are in place currently and discuss future enhancements to our staff training and practices,” district spokesperson Jennifer Goodhart wrote in an email.
Goodhart said the district has expanded “student supports” and connected with local and national organizations “for strategies and materials to strengthen efforts to prevent and eliminate peer-to-peer sexual assault and harassment.”
Students said they got back out on the street on Monday because they want administrators to listen to students’ concerns and act on their promises.
Superintendent Ian Saltzman pledged in December to “continue this conversation with students to better understand their concerns and respond accordingly.” The district didn’t receive a specific list of concerns or complaints from students immediately following the earlier walkout, Everett Public Schools spokesperson Kathy Reeves told the Herald.
Everett Public Schools have policies that prohibit sexual harassment and map out how students can report incidents or access resources. Students said it’s not enough.
Everett High sophomores Marley Fitzthum, Mel Brown and Williams told the Herald they wish the district took all allegations of sexual misconduct “seriously.” They said they recognize the issue is not unique to their school.
“Society is definitely part of it,” Brown said.
They said it goes beyond policy, and teachers have a role in educating students about consent. Many students said schools have a responsibility to teach proper social etiquette as kids go out into the world.
Ninth-graders Kalie Mulima and Cheyenne Schlegel said students need a seat at the table when school leaders are working to address student concerns.
District leaders have offered “students opportunities to help shape and provide feedback on the health curriculum, particularly in the areas of sexual assault, consent education, and bystander training,” Goodhart said.
Monday’s protest was primarily organized through word of mouth and social media. One Instagram post shared plans for a peaceful protest “against rape culture and sexual assault,” to highlight that these issues exist not only at Everett High, but across Everett Public Schools.
Together, students chanted “no means no” and “(expletive) your reputation,” as they walked through downtown Everett. Students held signs demanding a culture shift. One said “harassment shouldn’t be normal.” Students were met with cheers and encouragement from staff standing outside coworking spaces, auto repair shops and salons. They often paused to explain their cause to passersby.
Some Everett residents marched alongside students.
Shola Bolonduro came out to the protest to support students fighting for autonomy.
“It kind of goes into a recent concept of youth liberation: treating kids as more than just people who don’t understand anything,” Bolonduro said. “They certainly have the capacity to speak up if they’re mistreated. And that’s a big thing here. A lot of them have been sharing many stories of being mistreated.”
Students are demanding change now.
“I can’t blame them,” Bolonduro said.