Hundreds of Patapsco High School students participated in a walkout last Friday, airing frustrations with the school on a multitude of issues.
The walkout, which lasted about 15 minutes on Friday morning, was initiated at first due to the planned removal of the school’s advisory period, but focused on a host of issues including reporting procedures for sexual assault and harassment, safety for transgender students and an overall feeling of being unheard.
The removal of the school’s advisory period was “sort of our catalyst,” Allie Hill, one of the walkout’s organizers, said this week. The “homeroom” period allows students to stick with a teacher throughout their high school career who advocates for them and gives them a break from the hustle of classes.
“That thrust us to think about how unheard we feel in the school system,” Hill said.
Students were frustrated that sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations were not taken seriously by teachers, Hill said. She added that some students had found speaking with teachers and guidance counselors about incidents did not lead to action being taken, but going directly to administration, the claims were taken more seriously.
“The allegations about harassment were new to the school the day of the protest,” Gboyinde Onijala, a spokesperson for Baltimore County Public Schools said.
She said the school system “take[s] all allegations of harassment, assault and abuse seriously,” and noted that those situations are “thoroughly” investigated and referred to authorities.
“Assault and harassment claims had come to the office, and they had brushed it under the rug,” Sarah Elizabeth, a student who participated in the walkout and later attended a rally, influenced by the Patapsco walkout, which was held by county executive candidate Darren Badillo this week, alleged. Elizabeth said she felt ignored by the school after she reported an incident, alleging little had been done besides being offered to attend a therapy group at the school.
Before the walkout, organizers sat down with Patapsco Principal Scott Rodriguez-Hobbs for a discussion on the issues, which Hill said was a pretty productive one.
Rodriguez-Hobbs did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Eagle, but sent home a letter to parents last Friday acknowledging the walkout.
“We devised some real solutions,” Hill said, also noting that organizers learned the principal did not have as much power as they had thought, but still devised plans of action.
“Even after the protest, they’ve continued the conversations,” Onijala said.