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West High walks out: Salt Lake students stage protest against sexual harassment

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Cloudy skies and cold weather didn’t stop about 100 West High School students from walking out of class Wednesday to protest what they say is the school’s administration’s handling of reports of sexual harassment and violence.

Students passed the microphone and shared their stories. Some carried placards saying things like, “No means no!” and “We deserve schools without sexual violence.” At one point they chanted: “Don’t be silent, stop the violence!”

Sophomore Tarralyn Bui said she helped organize the 45-minute walk. She said there have been recent reports of sexual assault and harassment of students inside and outside the school, but claims nothing has been done since the incidents were reported.

“Some of these people were my friends,” Bui said. “(We) decided we were going to do something about it, and even if it doesn’t change anything … at least we’re raising awareness.”

During the walk, she told her fellow students that they are not alone.

“What happened to me in those halls in terms of vile comments and harassment from people who I never thought would ever do such things made me speechless,” she said. “Many of us are tired of being silent because we are constantly being shut down and ignored.”

Speaking to the crowd, one student said that even though she did everything she was taught – never walked alone, didn’t have pepper spray, checked her car before getting in – she was still attacked.

“Many people at school felt uncomfortable, unsafe; and when people go to the administrator to tell them, (students) think they can trust them (administrators) and that they will help,” the student said. “But they do the exact opposite. People feel unheard… The culture of rape must end.”

West High administration declined to comment on the protest, and a call to a spokesperson for the Salt Lake City School District was not immediately returned.

Another girl said a student sent her a photo of a gun and threatened to bring it to school to shoot her. According to her, this student was suspended for only five days.

“So many girls … came out and told me their stories about this particular person or injustice at school,” she said.

The school website includes a form to file a Title IX complaint, which is forwarded to the Compliance Officer and District Title IX Coordinator.

The school procedures page states that the county “strives to provide equal access and equal opportunity in its programs, services and employment, including policies, grievance processes, program accessibility, use of county facilities, housing and other equal employment opportunity matters.”

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