Protesters call for better education on gender-based violence after a number of complaints alleging sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour
Up to 100 students from Adelaide High School walked out of classes on Tuesday to protest against what they say is “prevalent” sexism.
The students called on the school to show greater leadership, after a number of complaints alleging sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.
Students who participated in the protest told the Adelaide Advertiser the incidents included nude photos being circulated without consent and sold for $5, as well as degrading comments made by other students about girls’ bodies and clothing.
“We’re hoping that this stand against a toxic sexist culture at school will bring more attention to the fact that sexual assault and harassment is prevalent in schools and it needs to be prevented,” one of the 17-year-old protesters said.
“It can no longer be treated as a taboo topic that is swept under the carpet, excused and forgotten.”
Protesters also called for better education on sexual assault and gender-based violence.
“At the moment, we have the bare minimum of education, we are not educated on how to identify assault, we’re not educated on what consent constitutes as,” a 17-year-old student, Martha, told the ABC.
The school’s principal, Cez Green, responded to the protest in a statement, saying the students’ feelings were being “acknowledged” and pointed to measures taken by the school to improve “education and wellbeing”.
“The vigil reflects the sincere belief that things can be better in our community and that we all have a role to play in creating a safer society,” she said.
“We acknowledge those feelings and recommit to playing our part.”
It comes after a petition was circulated in May, calling on the school to make specific changes to combat the “prevalent” sexism in the school.
Organised by the Call4Action School Group, the petition has over 6,500 signatures, and urges the school to improve its sexual assault prevention programs, establish a database that tracks incidents of sexual assault, and introduce professional development courses for staff on the issue.
“Sexism, sexual assault, rape culture and gender-based violence have become prevalent issues within the Adelaide High School community.
“This can be [attributed] to a clear lack of education, programs and discussion offered to the students and staff that allow such issues to be adequately educated on and prevented.”
The petition focuses on education, referencing the Sexual Assault Prevention Program for Secondary Schools in its calls to change attitudes within the school.
“Ultimately an educated community of staff and students was a community where sexual assault and sexism happened statistically … less.”
“We want to initiate the first steps of prevention of these issues within the community, by creating informed and educated students and staff.”
Green addressed the petition in a letter to parents in May, saying the school was using “additional wellbeing programs”.
“We work very hard through our curriculum offerings and the use of additional wellbeing programs to create a safe and supportive environment for all students where harassment of any kind is not tolerated on any level.”
But her letter was met with criticism from the students, who released a response under the Call4Action group, outlining their disappointment at what they described as a “vague” and “dismissive” email.
“Not only was the email disappointing and lack-lustre in its contents but it only further encapsulates the schools overarching priority of image over their students’ opinions and wellbeing.
“Cez Green’s response email was tone-deaf and insulting to the community as a whole and the victims who are suffering due to the school’s refusal to take accountability.
“Enough is enough, your time is up, and our voices will not be silenced.”
Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.