More than 100 Shawnee Mission North High School students staged a walkout Monday morning, calling on administrators to address sexual assault allegations against students.
The walkout came a few days after the creation of a Change.org petition that urges the school’s administration to take action on not only the sexual assault reports, but also harassment and violence.
“Shawnee Mission North has done absolutely nothing about this unacceptable behavior going on,” the online petition reads. “This needs to change. There have been several reports of sexual assault, harassment, & violence at this school and whenever reported, administration does absolutely nothing. This is no way to run a school.”
As of Tuesday, the petition had garnered more than 460 signatures.
On Monday, some students began receiving word of the walkout via Instagram and Snapchat.
An estimated 150 students walked out of class and gathered across Johnson Drive in the parking lot of The Filling Station coffee shop, holding signs that read “This is not a joke” and “You’re worth more than just a body.”
The Post talked to several students on the scene who said that despite reporting a number of sexual assaults that had occurred on and off campus to the school administration, nothing so far has been been done.
“We’ve came to the principals, we’ve came to the administrators about it and they haven’t done anything,” freshman Kaycee Vierra said. “As students we can’t do anything, but the most we can do is protest. So we go out and we take our rights and protest so we can have change.”
Chief Communications Officer David Smith told the Post via email the district first heard about the allegations on Monday, and is “still learning what is being alleged.” Smith said the district “will look into the students’ concerns, and if appropriate, determine what kinds of remedial actions might need to be taken.”
District protocol for sexual assault or harassment reports is to provide the reported victim with information about the district’s non-discrimination and non-harassment policy’s grievance process — as well as supportive measures, Smith said. If a formal complaint is filed, it triggers the grievance process including “an investigation of the alleged conduct,” he said.
Overland Park Public Information Officer John Lacy told the Post that SM North’s school resource officer confirmed there is a sexual battery case at the school. The Post made a Kansas Open Records Act request with Overland Park Police Department to obtain documents related to that case.
The Post asked SM North Principal David Ewers for comment at the school, but he deferred to the district for comment.
Nikki Kosman, a SM North freshman who participated in the walkout, said she and her peers wanted to take action against the “multiple sexual assaults” that have happened at school.
Kosman said she and others have also spoken out about sexual assaults that haven’t happened at school to bring more awareness to the issue.
A majority of students returned to class after the walkout, but by Monday afternoon there were still around 40 students sitting on the school’s front lawn in protest.
Although Ewers deferred to the district for comment for this story, Kosman said he told students he respected the protest and “understands [students] want to be heard.”
This story has been updated with original comment from a district representative.