Centralia School District Working to Address Student Concerns That Sparked Wednesday’s Walkout Protest

Harassment and Assault: Some Students Report Lack of Education, Not Feeling Safe At School

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The Centralia School District is in the process of investigating the reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment that sparked a student walkout at Centralia High School on Wednesday.

Additional harassment reports that were filed immediately after the walkout are also under investigation, Superintendent Lisa Grant told The Chronicle.

“We take the safety of our students very seriously,” Grant said.

The school district is working with community resources to prepare education for students around how to identify and report sexual harassment and how to handle a sexual harassment situation, Grant said.

Students organized Wednesday’s walkout after tensions mounted at a school assembly the day before, with some students reporting an administrator talked over a student who interrupted the assembly to ask what the school was doing about students’ reports of sexual harassment.

According to the student’s parent, the administrator arranged to speak with the student who spoke up after the assembly and gave her some information about “a lot of things that were going on behind the scenes,” but the incident at the assembly invigorated students’ concerns about sexual assault and harassment.

Centralia High School students who participated in Wednesday’s protest said they felt their voices were not being heard and the administration was not adequately responding to their safety concerns. 

“Speaking for myself and other students, I know many of us are scared to walk these halls alone,” a Centralia High School freshman told The Chronicle. “This is a learning environment and I believe we are supposed to feel safe here while trying to gain an education for our future.”

Another student told The Chronicle they have experienced sexual harassment and assault problems within the Centralia School District going back to when they were in elementary school. When students reported those instances of sexual assault or harassment to school administration, the student said they saw very little change within the school environment as a result of their reports.

“We want the school to teach their students consent and the versions of sexual assault. So many people don’t know they did anything wrong because no one has taught them right or wrong. So many people don’t know they have been sexually assaulted,” they said. “The school wants a safe environment but then won’t provide one and I’m over it.”

One parent told The Chronicle he learned about the student walkout from calls with his wife while he was at work.

“When I found out what my daughter was doing, it was honestly one of the proudest moments of this father’s life,” he said.

He said he and his daughter, a freshman at Centralia High School, had reported multiple instances o school administration where his daughter was bullied or sexually assaulted.

The administration did investigate the reports, he said, but he and his daughter felt the administration did not do enough to make his daughter feel safe at school.

“My daughter’s incident is not isolated, but one of many,” he said, citing the number of students who participated in Wednesday’s protest.

About 40 students shared their experiences with sexual assault, both on and off campus, to other participants in the Centralia High School commons during Wednesday’s walkout.

While one student said she thought the walkout and the administration’s promises to increase education around sexual assault and harassment were “a step in the right direction,” she said “there needs to be more done. Every student in the school deserves their voice to be heard.”

An unrelated meeting about the school’s dress code on Thursday sparked some outrage among students and parents who thought the meeting was the school’s way of responding to the walkout by placing blame on victims, but the meeting was part of the school’s process for reviewing a change in the dress code that students had previously proposed, Grant said.

Centralia High School is planning a meeting for parents to air their concerns and have their questions answered, said Grant.

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to contact the high school at 360-330-7605.