On April 7-8, students of different minority groups came together to protest sexual assault and the use of slurs on campus. The protest took place at the Fishbowl during the first two periods of both days. Students were invited to share their experiences with sexual assault and racism.
Freshman Kerah Johnson organized the protest because of the ongoing, unaddressed matter of slurs being used on campus. The protest was first publicized on the Instagram profile @sghsbipocunion.
“There were multiple factors that motivated me to join the protest. Mainly though, it was an incident in class with a friend of mine,” senior Nallely Sosa said. “They got called a slur in class, and seeing how hurtful that was was my breaking point and [was] when I agreed to participate and speak at the protest.”
Johnson thinks that students believe only a small percentage of people on campus have been sexually assaulted.
“Listening to the stories people shared on our Instagram was a massive eye-opener,” Johnson said. “We had around 20 people speak on Friday which made us realize just how many people were in these terrible situations. I was supposed to start a conversation; that’s what I wanted for the students more than anything.”
Johnson and Sosa were among the students who spoke at the protest. Each of them related their personal experiences with racial slurs on campus and emphasized the importance of students and faculty taking action.
“Racism, sexual harrasment, [and] homophobia [are] not funny [or] cool,” Sosa said. “It doesn’t make you superior to anyone. It’s not a joke, and it can really harm someone.”
Although the group had set precautions to ensure their speeches were appropriate to be shared in a school setting, they still worried about the potential backlash they could receive.
“During and after, there were people who thought [the protest] was a joke,” Sosa said. “It was kind of a disappointment, but there was more good than bad, so we didn’t let it get to us.”
While they did receive some criticism, the group was moved by the outpouring of support for their cause.
“We got a whole lot of support from the protest, and I met a whole lot of amazing people,” Johnson said. “We even got feedback from the teachers trying to give us resources and advice on what our next move should be.”
While the administration was wary of the protest disrupting school, they still demonstrated support for the students’ cause by organizing a meeting with the group.
“The administration didn’t really want us to do the protest, which was understandable,” Johnson said. “They didn’t think we should have walked out of class, but overall, the administration is supportive of our cause. They want us to plan the next course of action with them, so we had a meeting on April 21 during lunch.“
Johnson explained the administration’s goal to gather more students input in order to address problems on campus and share the student body’s needs.
“I’m not sure how much I can share, but the administration does want to create two new student groups that would put students in administrative positions without the ability to give consequences,” Johnson said. “We’re having another meeting on Wednesday. Myself and a few others were invited to speak at an all staff meeting.”
The student protest comes at a time when racism and sexual harassment are prime topics on national headlines. The group hopes that their demonstration will inspire students to be more tolerant and inclusive.
“Boundaries are there for a purpose,” Johnson said. “We can choose to be hateful or to be united.”