PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — Hundreds of students wore black to school on Wednesday in support of a girl who says she was sexually assaulted at Shawnee Mission East High School, 7500 Mission Rd.
The 14-year-old girl says the assault happened inside one of the boys’ bathrooms. The school’s Director of Emergency Services says the girl says it started out as horseplay but then she says one of the boys held the door closed while another inappropriately touched her.
The district says the reported assault involved three students all under the age of 15.
FOX 4’s Nicole DiAntonio spoke with one of the students who started the online movement to wear black, using the hashtag #wearblacktostopattacks (Wear Black to Stop Attacks).
“I didn’t know exactly how big it would go. The seven of us at least were planning to do whatever we could and then seeing how quickly it grew and we expanded. I was hoping everyone would follow through and saying that we would do it. But looking around it’s really incredible,” said Katie Kuhlman.
The principal posted a message to Twitter overnight, responding to the movement on social media. School administrators were also available to meet with students Wednesday in the school auditorium.
In the tweet, Principal McKinney said, in part:
“It is my hope that you will trust that this administration would never do anything to put the safety of our students at risk. You can trust that anything or anyone that jeopardizes the physical or emotional well-being of a student will be swiftly addressed and appropriate actions taken.”
“Sexual assault isn’t just an issue within the boundaries of east so why would we limit the movement to just east. From there reaching out to other schools, we have support from every other Shawnee Mission high school, high school being black today, Saint Theresa’s, Rockhurst high school. Those were the first other schools that responded to us,” she said.
Last year, a then-14-year-old Pembroke Hill student said she was sexually assaulted at an off-campus party. The alleged victim’s mother said students from both the Pembroke Hill School and Rockhurst High School were at the party, which consisted of eight people: The alleged victim, two other Pembroke girls, a Pembroke boy and four Rockhurst boys. The girl said there was alcohol at the Feb. 12 party and she believes she was drugged. She said she drank from an open soda can, passed out and woke up naked on the bathroom floor. She believes at least one boy sexually assaulted her and that his friends posted about it on social media.
Students at Mill Valley High School, 5900 Monticello Rd, Shawnee, Kan., in the DeSoto School District also joined the movement.
Some parents with students at Shawnee Mission East say they are upset they were not notified sooner.
“The kids here at Shawnee Mission East are praised as being academically excellent,” said Stratton Green. “In a community such as this, it’s unacceptable.”
“I think it can happen anywhere. I think our country, overall, is having issues with such negative behavior, period,” said Laura Capello, another parent.
The district says the investigation is ongoing and is taking all appropriate steps to handle the situation. The district cannot give any personal details about any student involved. School leaders would not reveal whether the boys are still in school.