WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Dozens of students at Wauwatosa East High School left class early on Friday and stood along a busy main road to protest how they say the school handles sexual assault and harassment issues.
"A lot of times at school we feel silenced about it, because we feel like as younger kids our voices are not heard," said senior Natalie Carey.
"It's just kind of thrown under the rug and it should not be," said sophomore Makenzie Hobbs, adding that she felt the issue came from the district and not necessarily the school.
Sophomore Jonathan Elsner said the walkout stemmed from a school project focused on issues that need improvement.
"(Because) a lot of victims feel like there's not enough being done about the situation," Elsner said.
Wauwatosa police said since January, one sexual assault was reported at Wauwatosa East, leading to an arrest. Another incident at Wauwatosa West was handled between police, the school, and parents. Police said both cases involved all juveniles.
Students at Wauwatosa West also protested Friday with some joining the teens at East.
"I had so many people who were like, I would go but I'm gonna wait until he gets approved by administration because I don't wanna get in trouble," said Aryana Street, a sophomore at West.
In response to the walkout and a request for an interview, the school district sent us a link to their student anti-harassment policy, pointing to its investigation procedures and action items.
Before the walkout, administrators notified families saying they met with the organizers to answer questions. The message also noted the walkout was not approved and students who take part will be marked unexcused and ineligible for any Friday night competitions.
"I hope it just brings a lot of attention to the problem. My group-mates do plan on contacting the school board and trying to set up a meeting," Elsner said.
"Have more openness as far as more help for those who are dealing with stuff like this. I feel like right now doesn’t feel like they have those sort of resources at school," Carey said.
The district is encouraging students who are victims of sexual assault or harassment to speak with a school administrator and report it to the police.