Staff Editorial: Enough is Enough

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  Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement and other efforts to provide an outlet for women to come forward about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment, our local school culture is again plagued by this issue. Oftentimes, the noise on television or in the news does not fully resonate with students until it happens in our own community. We are here to say that enough is enough, and it is time to reevaluate how we as a society handle situations involving alleged sexual assault and harassment.

   Last year, multiple girls at HSE stood up and reported their experiences of harassment to the school’s administration after watching their reported perpetrator win a school competition, only to be seemingly disregarded. Students’ anger and frustration led to a social media movement under the hashtag “#NotMyMrRoyal.” While it was the most talked about story on local news and around the school for weeks, as a student publication we did not directly cover the details of this event.

   Following last year’s Mr. Royal incident, then-senior Blair Hackett filed a Title IX report with the school administration. Students were pleased with the issue’s attention on social media, but felt like more action needed to be taken. Unfortunately, the administration did not respond in the way the students anticipated.

 “When someone is sexually assaulted or harassed, they’ve already had their power taken away and feel as though their voice isn’t heard,” Hackett said. “The administration is doing the same thing to women when their [abuser] doesn’t face the punishment they deserve.”

   We would have thought this incident would have been the last time our school district was involved in a similar case of sexual assault and harassment brought by students. But, here we are, one year later, with yet another case of sexual harassment.

   Recently, a student at Fishers High School was suspended from the swim team after multiple reports of violent and sexually explicit threats. Despite the suspension, he was allowed to compete at Sectionals and eventually at State. Another Title IX report was filed in the district and the School Board reviewed the decision. The following excerpt, from the School Board’s statement sent to IndyStar Feb. 21, includes:

“In his reconsideration of the investigation, the superintendent, Dr. Allen Bourff, affirmed the findings of sexual harassment and the directives resulting from the investigation, with the exception of the directive restricting the male swimmer from competing, practicing, or interacting with the swim team. Noting that because the girls swim season had concluded and that joint competition and practice were no longer taking place, the swim environment had been altered sufficiently to allow the male swimmer, no-contact provision enforced, to resume participation on the boys swim team for the remainder of the season.” 

   Regardless of the proven harassment, the swimmer was allowed to compete and represent his school  due to the simplicity of not being around female swimmers at practice. This explanation allowed the swimmer to compete, which spurred the latest controversy. It seems as though victims continuously feel as if their stories do not matter.

   We believe the district needs to do more to provide a safe environment for its students. It could be increasingly harmful to survivors of sexual assault to see their reported abusers face little to no consequence for their actions. It is apparent that our priorities as a school district lie in the wrong places. While it is extremely rewarding for our hallways to be lined with trophies and plaques, we must ask ourselves at what cost they come. When students and visitors walk past the hardware, they also consider those who won it. A school’s identity should not be defined by medals and points, but by the quality of its students’ character. Whether it’s a crown on someone’s head or a medal around someone’s neck, no title is worth disregarding a victim’s voice, which seems to be the message being sent to students. These repeated actions show that our district seems to have an identity crisis with beliefs.

  Hamilton Southeastern Schools’ mission statement is for students “to become a responsible citizen and to positively influence an ever-changing world community.” We, as a staff, think it is time for our administration to hold students accountable to this standard. It’s time for the district to start listening to students, because our voices are not going anywhere. More importantly, we do not want to be known as a district that disregards students’ voices or is appearing in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Enough is enough, HSE.

   If you are a victim of sexual assault or harassment and want to reach out, there are resources for you.  Call (317) 773-6942 to reach Prevail, a local nonprofit that provides a support system for victims, or call the national sexual assault hotline at 1-800-656-4673. Story by Newsroom Staff. Photo by Laurel Black.

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