Show of solidarity at Grant High School in wake of controversial 'rape culture' letter
Before the bell Monday morning, a group of students stood together dressed in red, holding hands. It was to show their support for victims of sexual assault.
“We wanted to do something to show how upset we were by this," said senior student Sophia Muhlebruce,
They’re upset by a letter written by a longtime history teacher. He had interrupted another teacher’s class recently to voice his opinion in their discussion on rape culture. Not feeling that he was clear enough, he wrote a three-page letter to further express his opinion on the subject. He then gave copies to that same freshman class and the fellow teacher.
A student posted the letter on social media, and it made its way around the school and beyond.
Students, faculty and staff were upset by the contents in which the teacher argues against the existence of rape culture.
“I don’t see it in my life or anyone I know,” he writes.
This set off many reactions, especially on social media. Most were stunned at the opinion.
“That he’s sharing these beliefs that rape culture is dubious, maybe doesn’t exist, is so upsetting to me when I see it every day,” says Muhlebruce. “And I know people that have been raped and sexually assaulted, and I’ve experienced the effects of it, and I just can’t imagine not seeing that.”
Students organized their demonstration over the weekend via social media, and some teachers showed up, too.
“I’m just really wanting to be there to support them, and to help them understand that they’re safe at school,” says Jessica Murray. She teaches dance and is the school activities director. “There are many staff members here who believe in them and want to make sure that they’re safe here, and understand what they’re going through."
English teacher Susan Anglada Bartley says rape has a long history, and writing something that denies that is harmful on many levels.
“It’s not just to people who have experienced rape or who are survivors, but ideologically, it is totally incorrect, and it’s not okay," said Bartley.
Another bell at school, and the students dispersed, heading off to class for the day. Lunch would mean a break to further the discussion with faculty and staff. Counseling was also available to those students affected by the letter.
District spokesman, Dave Northfield, spoke briefly with the media about the school’s reaction. While they believe in free speech, there are limits, he said.
“The school and the district feel very strongly that they want to create a climate of safety for the students, and unfortunately this communication has disrupted that for some people in the community.”
While he could not speak to the outcome of this “personnel matter," he did address possible next steps.
“The school is looking into what happened," said Northfield. "We’ll talk with the teacher and find out what the teacher’s intent was, but it’s absolutely being addressed and taken seriously.”
Students like Muhlebruce want the conversation to continue.
"I just hope that everyone would continue to think about that if this doesn’t directly affect you, if you can’t see why this is an issue," she said, "then you need to open your perspective and listen to others who understand and experience this.”