USD 497 students call for action and accountability regarding sexual assault in schools

Protestors spoke at length advocating for student safety in high schools


Owen Musser

Students stand outside the district holding signs calling for action on sexual assault in schools at the June 28 board meeting.

By Cuyler Dunn, Co-Editor in Chief of The Budget

Carrying signs with messages of “listen to victims,” “kick rapists off teams,” “break the silence” and “students over sports,” a group of local high school students protested at the USD 497 board meeting on June 28, calling for action regarding recent sexual assault allegations at Lawrence High School.

Although the protest was sparked by recent events, the group made it clear that they were protesting on behalf of a larger issue.

“There’s been a pattern of inadequacy on the part of the district when dealing with specific situations especially of sexual assault,” senior Jake Shew said when describing the reason for the protest.

The group entered the meeting during a data presentation and were quickly acknowledged by board president Kelly Jones.

“We see you all, we know you’re here, we’re going to make space for you all,” Jones said.

After an hour, the group was given the chance to speak in front of the board. Rachel Krambeer, a recent graduate of LHS, spoke at length about the severity of the issue, as well as the necessity of action from authoritative figures.

“It has become blatantly apparent that sexual assault and harassment have been widespread at Lawrence High School and within the district,” Krambeer said. “Whether it is sexual harassment, assault or rape, the district has long lacked action on these matters.”

The group argued to the board that sexual assault was a bigger issue at Lawrence high schools than it may seem and not a rare occurrence.

“It’s not just one or two incidents,” Krambeer said. “The number of women I specifically know at Lawrence High School or within this district that have been assaulted would astound you.”

After finishing her written speech Krambeer looked up and directly spoke to the five board members in attendance.

“I was not proud to go to a school where I walked the halls with people who I knew had abused and harassed and assaulted people I knew and loved,” she said. “People I knew and loved were too scared to report because they felt that nothing would be done by the administration. We need change, and we need to do better.”

The protestors said action from the board was critical to lasting change. They advocated for specific policies and not just empty promises.

“The cycle of harm and injustice that have been existent in schools must be addressed by the administration and the board of education,” junior Caitlin Sand said to the board.

Jones, who was in her last meeting as president before new leadership takes over, praised students for using their voices and pledged to move forward on action steps and policies to address sexual assault in schools.

“I’m so delighted that students showed up,” she said. “Even though this is not the way I like to interact with you, I appreciate so much that you are willing to be here and talk to the board.”

After the meeting, Dr. Cynthia Johnson spoke with protest members personally about her ideas for moving forward and continuing communication with students. Johnson has been interim principal at Lawrence High during the past two years and is transitioning to the job of executive director of inclusion, engagement and belonging.

“The work that you’re talking about,” she said, “I need you to step with me to create what you want.”

Even with the promises made by the administration, protest members were adamant that fulfilling proposed actions would be necessary for the future.

“It’s an improvement from where it was before,” Shew said after the protest. “I’m glad that they’re making an effort. Whether or not that effort is sufficient, we’ll see.”