Demanding Justice for Rape and Bullying, Oklahoma High School Students Stage Walk Out
Students in Oklahoma protest high school's handling of three rape cases
Hundreds of high school students in Norman, Oklahoma walked out of class on Monday morning to protest the school district’s handling of recent allegations of rape and the subsequent bullying of the victims who came forward.
Calling their group Yes All Daughters, the organizers who planned the walkout were joined by hundreds of students "standing in solidarity with rape victims in peaceful protest of bullying and sexual harassment." The students walked out silently to represent "those who don’t have a voice." They closed down a major intersection, cheering and holding up banners that read "Break the Silence, End the Violence" and "Transfer is not the answer."
The group also delivered a list of demands to Norman High School’s president, calling for the administration to prioritize sexual assault prevention and sensitivity training and bring on a "Victims Advocate" to ensure that bullying and sexual assault reports are properly investigated by law enforcement, among other stipulations.
The walkout was organized after three girls, who told police and school officials they were raped by the same student, faced bullying, assault, and harassment from others after coming forward with their stories. The environment became so hostile that all three left school, the organizers said.
While officials suspended the boy in question, one of the victims also said that a staff member advised her to stay home until things "blow over," according to OKC Fox. Students called one of the girls a "slut" and a "whore" on her first day back in school after the rape. Another was suspended for allegedly lashing out at those who passed around video footage of her assault.
At a press conference on Friday, student organizer Danielle Brown announced the walkout plans and said, "We appreciate the momentum our movement has gained, but it is worthless without change. We hope that our effort shines a spotlight on bullying and that Norman High takes steps to ensure victims can go to school safely."
Brown’s aunt, Stacey Wright, explained the group’s name: "[I]t could be anyone’s daughter… these girls are all our daughters."
City police officers and Norman High School administrators said they were investigating the assault and were aware of the protest. But as Maya Dusenberry writes at Feministing, the actions of those officials says otherwise:
Despite the fact that the school supposedly has a "zero tolerance" anti-bullying policy, while the girls faced a widespread campaign of slut-shaming and deliberate silencing (one was warned to "watch her back" if she talked about the assault), school officials did little more than advise them to "come back when it calms down next semester" and "just focus on your schoolwork and ignore all these people."
Protesters updated the action on Twitter with the hashtag #YesAllDaughters.