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100 West High students stage sexual harassment protest

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West High School students walk out of class on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023 in protest of the school administration’s policies for handling reports of sexual harassment and assault.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Cloudy skies and cold weather didn't stop around 100 West High School students from walking out of class Wednesday to protest how they say school administration handles reports of sexual harassment and assault.

Students passed a microphone around, sharing their stories. Some carried signs with messages like, "No means no!" and "We deserve a sexual assault-free school." At one point, they chanted, "No more silence, stop the violence!"

Sophomore Tarralynn Bui said she helped organize the 45-minute walkout. She said there have been recent reports of students being sexually assaulted and harassed by multiple students in and outside of school, but claims nothing was done after reporting the incidents.

"Some of those people were my friends," Bui said. "(We) decided we're going to do something about it, and that even if it doesn't change anything ... at least we're raising awareness."

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

"What has happened to me in these halls regarding disgusting comments and harassment from people that I never thought would ever do things like that, it silenced me," she said. "A lot of us are tired of being silent because we keep getting shut down and ignored."

Speaking to the crowd, one student said despite doing everything she was taught to do — never walking alone, carrying pepper spray, checking her car before getting in — she was still assaulted.

"Many people at the school have felt uncomfortable, unsafe; and when people go to admin to tell them, (the students) think that they can trust (administrators) and that they will help," the student said. "But they do the exact opposite. People feel unheard. ... Rape culture needs to end now."

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

Another girl said a student texted her a photo of a gun and threatened that he was bringing it to school to shoot her. That student was suspended for only five days, she said.

"So many girls ... came out and told me their stories about this specific person or injustices within the school," she said.

The school's website includes a form for filing a Title IX complaint, which is delivered to the district's compliance officer and district Title IX coordinator.

The school’s procedures page states that the district is "committed to providing equal access and equal opportunity in its programs, services and employment including its policies, complaint processes, program accessibility, district facility use, accommodations and other Equal Employment Opportunity matters."