Madison East High School staff will work with the district, students and community partners such as the Rape Crisis Center to address student concerns regarding sexual misconduct, interim principal Mikki Smith said in an email to parents Wednesday.
Smith’s announcement came less than a month after students walked out of their classrooms in an orchestrated effort to call attention to what they saw as inadequate district policy concerning sexual misconduct on and off school property, after an alleged sexual assault occurred between two students at a private residence. On Wednesday, Madison police announced a 17-year-old East High School student had been arrested on suspicion of strangulation and second-degree sexual assault.
“On October 13th, East students courageously raised their voices against the very real culture of sexual violence,” Smith wrote. “This complex societal issue has perpetrated harm throughout our history. For far too long, it has been overlooked in our community, and in our schools.”
Smith promised a sustained collaboration among students, school leaders and Madison School District administrators to meet the needs addressed by students during protests. The collaboration, she said, will include staff from the Office of School Safety, Title IX, Progressive Discipline, as well as community partners like the Rape Crisis Center.
The focus of the collaboration, which closely mirrors a list of demands students had pressed for, will include:
- Education and awareness for students and staff on sexual violence. Later this month, school leaders will work with student leaders to create a timeline for rolling out the initiative.
- Provide clear protocols and systems to report incidents of sexual assault.
- Clarify and refine student supports and protocols.
- Refine systems to connect survivors to helpful resources.
- Hold those who commit acts of sexual violence accountable within the framework of the district’s
“I’m feeling refreshed, honestly. We finally have someone who is taking us seriously,” said Gordon Allen, East High’s student body president, organizer of one of the protests, member of student government and a student representative on the Madison School Board. “We’re glad we’re seeing progress.”
Allen said he will be one of the student leaders who will work with staff to create a timeline for implementing the sexual misconduct education for students and staff.
“We can’t do this just this year and forget about it. We want to be able to talk about the future aspect of this,” he said. “This whole thing is going to start off with East as a prototype, but (Superintendent Carlton Jenkins) says that this is something that is going to be implemented districtwide.”
Smith’s announcement came a week after the former principal of East, Sean Leavy, left his position following protests at the school by students who called his response to alleged sexual assaults inadequate.
Leavy accepted another administrative position with the Madison School District as director of secondary multi-tiered support and scheduling, Superintendent Carlton Jenkins told families in an email. Leavy’s departure came less than two weeks after multiple student-led protests called into question his response to alleged sexual assaults or inappropriate touching between students.
Leavy apologized for his response to students who voiced concerns regarding sexual assault during an assembly that took place prior to the protests in an email to families ahead of the first demonstration. His apology didn’t dissuade hundreds of East students who walked out of their classrooms two days later and for the second time that week, along with students from La Follette, West and Memorial high schools.