Winnetka, News

Students push New Trier for more action, resources to combat sexual violence

A proposed student walkout at New Trier High School has drawn administration intervention.

The account NTStudentsDemandChange on the social media platform Instagram announced on Nov. 4 that it was organizing a walkout to protest how school administration “handles sexual harassment and violence” when it involves New Trier students.

A few days later, on Monday, Nov. 8, the same Instagram account announced that after speaking with school administrators the walkout set for Tuesday, Nov. 9, was postponed.

“The administration agreed to work with us towards change (specifics posted later). If they do not adhere to our demands, we promise to take future action to hold them accountable,” the post said.

The postponement post from NTStudentsDemandChange Instagram account.

District officials would not comment on if the walkout is related to the October arrest of a Winnetka 17-year-old, who was charged with two counts of sexual assault.

New Trier District 203 Superintendent Dr. Paul Sally sent an email to New Trier parents on Monday, Nov. 8, with details about the postponed walkout, saying in part that district officials have been meeting with the student organizers about their concerns “over the past year.”

“Moving forward, we will continue to work with students, plan more student programming and will share information with you as planning progresses,” Sally wrote in the email.

A representative of NTStudentsDemandChange said six students are behind the movement. The account has more than 500 followers, and its posts have garnered hundreds of reactions (likes and comments).

The spokesperson said that the walkout is pushed until Dec. 9 unless the district meets the group’s demands, which the group reportedly presented to the district.

In a now-deleted post from the account, two of the demands are:

• “Providing more education around sexual assault (ex. advisory programs, awareness around the school, bring this conversation into our classes, educate teachers on how to have productive conversations on the topic, etc.)”, and

• “allowing victims more support (ex. extensions in school work, support group, flexibility to change their schedule, support with grades, etc.).”

The inaugural, since-deleted post from NTStudentsDemandChange read, “We demand more education, awareness and action. We need a safer school environment NOW! (sic)”

The Instagram account is not the only recent student activity challenging New Trier’s response to alleged sexual harassment and assault.

Earlier this year, in January, a New Trier student started a petition on that calls for more resources for student sexual-assault survivors and more discipline for accused abusers. The petition has been signed 1,943 times and features dozens of supportive comments.

In the summer of 2020, an Instagram account called UntoldNewTrier published anonymous student stories, including more than one that recounted alleged sexual assaults.

After learning of the scheduled walkout, New Trier’s communications director Niki Dizon told The Record on Friday, Nov. 5, that administrators were planning to meet with the student organizers.

“We continue to meet with them, talk with them and listen to their concerns,” Dizon said.

The email from Sally details how the district responds to allegations of sexual assault that involve its students. The message also says that the district has not received any accusations of on-campus assaults.

“When students come to us with allegations of off-campus assaults, we take these allegations very seriously and refer them to the proper authorities while we work with families to provide support,” Sally wrote. “Any criminal allegations must be handled by law enforcement, and that process takes place outside of the school with the students and their families.

“Our role as a school is to support students, provide them and their families with resources, and to do all we can to help students feel safe at school.”

The Winnetka Police Department would not comment on if it had communicated with the District 203 on any recent reports of sexual assault.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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