DENVER (CBS4)– Denver students rallied on Friday, calling for change to what they say is “rape culture” in the district. This comes as sexual assault allegations at East High School are under investigation. Students are demanding changes to how students are taught about consent and sexual assault across Denver Public Schools.
“My abuser goes here and was protected for many years by members of staff, and family members who work here,” said a former East High School student did not want to be named.
She was just one of at least 100 students to protest how Denver Public Schools is handling recent sexual assault allegations.
“A couple of boys were accused of sexual assault and rape by female students,” said Hermela Goshu, East High School Senior Vice President. “The allegations started on Monday and since then social media has blown up with them.”
Students say the issue isn’t specific to East High School. Teens from surrounding high schools also came out to voice their concerns.
“They’re not reaching out to students, they’re not doing their job, and because of that there is a divide,” Goshu told CBS4’s Andrea Flores.
East High School principal John Youngquist released a video statement to students.
“During the time of an investigation, it’s important for us to think fairly and not make accusations, and post or repost information that we’re not sure of,” he said in a video posted to East High School’s YouTube page.
A survivor from East says his message fell short.
“Instead of really emphasizing being here for survivors and listening to us, it was more of an attack of our use of social media,” the student told CBS4. “I think social media is one of our biggest platforms, it’s how we get things done, and it’s how we use our voices at this age.”
Denver Public Schools issued the following written statement about the calls for change: While we cannot comment about the specifics of any pending allegations, we want to ensure our community knows we are actively working on all allegations that have been reported and will continue to do so. As a school district, we are continuing to work with our students to address their concerns. East High School offers health education that includes consent education, the Women of East club works to shine a spotlight on sex assault prevention, and the school has an ongoing partnership with Blue Bench and Project PAVE, two organizations dedicated to ending relationship violence.
We welcome student feedback, not only in terms of what preventive measures students find most beneficial, but also the specifics of any incidents of sexual harassment or unlawful sexual behavior so that we can engage our Title IX process, including mandatory reporting if applicable. Understanding that a student may not be comfortable coming forward with an allegation or disclosure, or would prefer to report anonymously, we highly encourage them to use Safe2Tell. Students receive ID’s pre-printed with Safe2Tell information on the back, and receive education around what Safe2Tell is and how to report, including during 9th grade academy.