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Cleveland Heights High students call out district for mishandling sexual misconduct allegations

Cleveland Heights high school students stood along Cedar Road, holding up signs and chanting "No means no." [Jenny Hamel / Ideastream Public Media]
Several hundred Cleveland Heights High school students demonstrate in front of the school building.

Hundreds of Cleveland Heights High School students walked out of school Friday, calling out the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District for its handling of sexual misconduct allegations. 

The walkout was held in solidarity with several female students who allege they were sexually assaulted or harrassed on campus. They say their complaints were not taken seriously or properly acted upon by the staff or administration.

The crowd of students poured out of the high school at noon, chanting, “No means no” and “Believe the victims first.” 

Parent Tiera Briggs joined the walkout to support her daughter and criticized the district for not protecting her when she was victimized.

“While my child is not in my care and she’s here, they are the ones supposed to protect her,” Briggs told Ideastream Public Media. “I'm giving her over to the school district to protect her, which they are not doing. And I am, as a parent, I'm fed up.”

CH-UH students held up signs during the walkout that read "Stop sexual harrassment. No means no." [Jenny Hamel / Ideastream Public Media]

When the crowd amassed on the football field, a student took to the megaphone and said she was disgusted and frightened that ‘perpetrators are allowed to walk away with no consequences for their actions.”

“Numerous times, administrators belittled survivors who have come forward, and there have been multiple stories of administrators victim-blaming,” the student told the crowd. As a minor, she declined to be identified. “Why should these young women have to hear phrases such as, ‘It’s a he said, she said story’ or ‘Well, why didn't you say anything earlier?’”

In a written statement, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby said she appreciated that it was a peaceful demonstration, and she was “ proud of the students for organizing around something they feel strongly about.”

Kirby went on to say the district’s “top priority is always the safety of our students.”

She said district officials understand “how difficult it is to report a sexual assault and appreciates the courage” it takes to come forward. With that said, she urged any victims to come forward to the school resource officer, the district’s Title IX coordinator, or to another trusted staff member.

The CH-UH school district is committed to “effectively and equitably” responding to all incidents of sexual misconduct, Kirby said.