If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.
On Monday and Tuesday, students in Waldoboro walked out of their schools to raise awareness of what they say are problems surrounding sexual assault and how school officials address the issues when they arise.
The walkouts took place at both Medomak Valley High School and Medomak Valley Middle School ― which share a campus in Waldoboro. About 100 students participated in Monday’s walkout, with about half as many students walking out again on Tuesday, according to students who participated.
“We just want people who are sexually assaulted to feel heard and we want the school to do something about it,” Medomak Valley High School senior Victoria Shacklett said. “It just seems like they don’t do anything about it when it gets taken to them. They might, but it doesn’t seem like it to us.”
Regional School Unit 40 Superintendent Steve Nolan did not respond to messages on Tuesday. However, in a letter emailed to parents on Tuesday evening, Nolan said “RSU 40 takes any report of sexual assault very seriously. We have a rigorous investigation process to ensure the school’s response is prompt, appropriate and fair. Student safety is always our first priority.”
Students who participated in the walkouts say they feel that the school district has a problem when it comes to dealing with reports of sexual assault or harassment, in terms of providing victims of alleged assault with the appropriate support and a lack of punishment for the students who are responsible.
Through the walkouts, students hoped they could increase awareness and communication regarding the issue of sexual assault and have their voices be heard by school officials.
“People that I know and care about could go through this and so I would really, really like to bring awareness to it because it incredibly upsets me that the school is not doing anything about it,” Medomak Valley High School Junior Sage Cunningham said.
In the years since a former Medomak Valley High School principal was accused of sexually harassing a female student, Cunningham said it feels like more people are talking about sexual assault.
“Ever since that case came out, people started speaking out about it more,” Cunningham said. “Everybody’s sick of it.”
Current Medomak Valley High School Principal Linda Pease said in an email to parents sent on Monday afternoon that in accordance with district policy, missing time from class for a protest is considered an unexcused absence, meaning that work missed during that time cannot be made up.
“Administrators and staff at the school will continue to work with students on any issue, including that of sexual assault,” Pease said in the email.
At an assembly held Tuesday at the high school in response to the walkouts, Cunningham said they felt Pease ignored students’ concerns and avoided providing answers to questions students asked regarding how the school handles sexual assault allegations.
“We are fortunate to have students who want to bring awareness to this serious topic. It’s important to understand, however, that we cannot share any details regarding a report due to privacy laws,” Nolan said in his letter.
School principals will be working to arrange a time for their schools to hold a forum for future conversation on the topic and school officials are also available to meet individually with students, according to the letter.
No additional walk outs have been planned.
“For safety reasons, starting tomorrow, students who participate in a walk-out will be disciplined according to district policy,” Nolan’s letter stated.