Oklahoma Students Stage Walkout to Protest Bullying of Rape Victims

On Friday we told you the story of three teenage girls in Norman, Oklahoma, who allege they were all raped by the same person, then bullied mercilessly by their classmates until each of them chose to leave school. All three girls say that administrators at Norman High School didn’t respond to the bullying or attempt to put a stop to it, nor did they offer much support following the alleged rapes, even as a video of one assault allegedly made its way around school. Today, hundreds of students and parents led a walkout and protest in front of Norman High, despite stern warnings from the Norman Public Schools superintendent that the event wasn’t sanctioned by the school and they would be marked absent for participating in it.

A feminist knitting circle in Norman brought the girls’ stories to our attention; they also set up a Facebook page supporting them, Yes All Daughters, and helped organize today’s walkout. In a list of demands submitted to Norman High principal Scott Beck, they asked for, among other things, “a full investigation by law enforcement into the child pornography passed around school and into any teacher or administrator who failed to make mandatory reporting of child abuse as required by Oklahoma Statutes, Title 10, section 7103.” They also demanded better training on sexual assault and bullying for both students and teachers, and for the creation of a victim advocate position within the school, responsible for overseeing all reports of sexual assault, sexual harassment or bullying.

Demonstrators posted pictures to the #YesAllDaughters hashtag on Twitter:

Norman Public Schools superintendent Dr. Joe Siano sent out a letter to Norman High parents last night, implying that there was something mysterious and potentially sinister about the protest. He urged parents to tell their children not to participate, saying the school had created a “safe productive alternative:” wearing white ribbons to class and anti-bullying stickers.

“We do not know who will be in charge of tomorrow’s event,” he wrote. “While we first believed this would be a student-led and organized demonstration, we are far less certain of that now. As of the writing of this letter, close to 1,000 people have RSVP’ed on social media that they will be attending. And, what was first communicated to on social media as a demonstration that would be less than an hour in length has evolved into an event that will occupy the front of Norman High until at least 4:20 p.m.”

Superintendent Siano also said that Norman High principal Scott Beck and other staff members had faced anonymous online threats over the weekend, which Yes All Daughters quickly said they didn’t support or condone. Norman Public Schools spokesperson Shelly Hickman told the Norman Transcript that she’d received a letter calling her “the perfect moral argument for abortion.” The letter also reportedly added, “If you were black, you’d be the perfect moral argument for slavery, and if you were Jewish, you’d be the perfect moral argument for Auschwitz. (A letter with that identical wording was sent to a National Review writer in 2011; someone needs to think of some new insults.)

Siano also told the Transcript that the school district agrees with many of the demands Yes All Daughters put forth, and has already been working on some of them even before these latest incidents came to light. “We are very much in agreement with the concerns that was reflected in that list of demands,” he told the paper. “In fact, a lot of the things that we’re doing align with that. Can we continue to do that and improve? Sure. We will always work toward that direction and there’s nothing on that list that we wouldn’t consider and if we found that it would increase our effectiveness, we would certainly look at it.”

In the meantime, supporters of the alleged rapist are tweeting things like this:

Another student tweeted that he’d recently seen the alleged rapist “and I can definitively say that he is innocent.” He added, “Lol @ the Norman walkout,” and “The fact that hundreds of students/feminists are protesting an innocent man right now because of a lying thot.” He also wrote, “I grantee [sic] if it did go to court that he would be proven innocent. He has a video of it and she was coherent.”

We’ll have much more on this story as it develops.

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