By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS ( WCCO) — Students at Highland Park Senior High School walked out of class Monday morning in order to speak out about sexual assault.

Beginning at 9:15 a.m., the group marched around the block of the school campus chanting and holding signs. Many students shared personal stories about sexual assault and abuse during their time within the district.

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The three main arguments students have is they want accusations of assault to be taken seriously and for the accusers to be held accountable. They also want a written out action plan to address sexual assault within the district.

Lastly, student want teachers and staff to provide more education on what to do in a abusive or non-complicit situation.

The walkout was not just students, but some staff was among the crowd, showing their support.

“Those administrators here at Highland Park who actually take action that was incredible. The number of people who showed up really showed how much allyship and the intensity of what needs to be taken care of in terms of sexual assault culture,” said Jerome Treadwell, a senior at Highland Park High School.

The district said they fully support students’ right to exercise free speech and will not be punished for the walk out, as long as they return to class afterwards.

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The students said if nothing changes, they plan to bring their concerns to the school board and continue to hold walkouts.

The district responded to the walkout with this statement:

Saint Paul Public Schools takes any and all reports of sexual assault, sexual violence and other harassment and offensive behaviors very seriously. When these instances or allegations are reported, they are fully investigated according to District policy.

Any student, school district personnel, or third party who believes they have experienced prohibited conduct or any student, school district personnel, or third party with knowledge or belief that such conduct has occurred must report the alleged conduct immediately, or as soon as possible, to the responsible administrator. Any student, school district personnel, or third party may report prohibited conduct anonymously. However, the District’s ability to investigate or take action based on an anonymous complaint may be severely limited.

SPPS also supports the role of free speech in society, in efforts to create change and also respects the rights of those who choose not to participate. Each school will determine how to respect the choices of students and staff in appropriate ways.

SPPS does not discipline students for peaceful exercise of free speech. However, if students choose to participate and miss all or part of a class, they will be marked absent or tardy. Additionally, once any walkout ends, students are expected to go back to school.

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Students and staff are to report instances, allegations or concerns about harassment, violence or other offensive behavior as soon as possible to ensure a thorough and timely investigation and response,” said Kevin Burns, SPPS spokesperson.

Marielle Mohs