Skyline High School students say they’re done hearing stories whispered throughout the hallways of supposed sexual assaults and rapes against other students. They’re done having their claims of sexual assault being allegedly ignored and suppressed by the school district and administrators. They’re done with attending a school they believe perpetuates rape culture.
Inspired by the recent lawsuit filed against the Issaquah School District on Oct. 25, Skyline students organized a demonstration in front of the school on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 7.
As previously reported, a pair of former students are suing the Issaquah School District for not protecting them from bullying after they reported a sexual assault by two star football players. The district has denied any wrongdoing.
Now, current Skyline students are coming forward not only to support the former students but also to support other students who have been victims of sexual assault and victims of the school’s alleged mismanagement of sexual assault claims.
Spearheaded by Skyline seniors Noa Drochak and Chloe Strandwold, they said they wanted to organize the demonstration to spread awareness about sexual assault and show others that they as a student body will not tolerate the perpetuation of rape culture.
“We’re trying to spread awareness about rape, [as well as] the lack of responsibility the admin and the district have been taking in keeping girls from being harassed and helping them get justice for what happened to them,” Drochak said. “We’re partially wanting to support the two sisters that are suing the school. [We want to] show [them] that the students here care about what happened to them and that we also think this is a problem.”
More than 100 students lined 228th Avenue with large signs saying, “Don’t tell me how to dress! Tell them not to rape,” “ISD…How would you like to be kept in class with your rapist?” “Time’s up,” and “Horrible day to be a Spartan.”
Some students handed out teal ribbons, symbolizing sexual assault awareness and support.
“This is just showing solidarity and spreading awareness against rape and harassment at Skyline and across the ISD. Our true main mission with this all stems from the lawsuit that was filed almost two weeks ago,” Strandwold said.
Among the students involved in the demonstration were four sisters, one of whom said she was raped by two male Skyline students.
Ariel Danyuk, a senior who is taking running start classes at Bellevue College, said she and her sisters came to the demonstration to stand up for sexual assault survivors and help ensure the rape culture comes to an end.
“We just don’t want this to happen to other people and I think what happened to her could’ve been stopped…there’s been a lot of bullying and the school has said they can’t do anything about it if they don’t see it,” she said. “Everyone deserves the right to feel safe at their own school…no one should have to think ‘Am I next?’”
In a prepared statement provided from the ISD, they said the administrative team worked with the student organizers so the students “would be able to have that voice and at the same time do it in a setting that was both safe and civil.”
“Our administrative team at Skyline High School received word last week that a group of students wanted to exercise their voice on an important social issue that exists in our country. The administrative team reached out to those students and over the course of four different meetings worked with them so they would be able to have that voice and at the same time do it in a setting that was both safe and civil,” the release said. “Encouraging students to exercise their voice around social issues and collaborating with them so that they can do it in an environment where they feel safe will always be a priority in the Issaquah School District.”
However, according to Danyuk, while the school was willing to allow the students to hold this demonstration, they also wanted to have a say in what was written on the signs.
“They asked us to make a sign that said, ‘Spartans protect Spartans’ and we just didn’t think that was true,” she said. “So we crossed out ‘Spartans’ and put ‘Rapists’ in there instead.”
The sign now reads, ‘Spartans protect Rapists.’
As the demonstration continued, senior Sarah Huang chanted through a megaphone, “No more!” “No more silence!” “No more rape!” “Blame the rapist not the victim!” and students chanted the same in response.
Senior Ayush Varadhan and recent Skyline graduate Sophie Truax held a sign that said, “Make ISD accountable again.”
“I know that this is an issue at Skyline and probably every high school in America,” Varadhan said. “A lot of the boys’ actions go unchecked because of the whole ‘Boys will be boys’ idea…the school should support the victims instead of shaming them.”
Amy and Raz Gunderman are parents to four students in the ISD; two of their sons attend Skyline.
“My son was the one who first told me about the lawsuit with the two girls,” Amy Gunderman said. “I was shocked and sad to hear that they weren’t the only ones.”
She said she doesn’t understand how some parents in the district deny the fact the school and the district contribute to cultivating a rape culture.
“Our kids should feel safe at school and I think more should be done to educate kids — all kids — about sexual assault,” she said. “We need this discussed in classes and especially the sports teams.”
As parents, Amy Gunderman said she teaches her sons to be “decent human beings.”
“I tell them they’re not only responsible for themselves, but that they’re responsible for all girls and all of their friends,” she said. “I tell them it’s their job to look out for everyone and do something if anyone is being hurt….never let your reputation stop you from doing the right thing.”
As the demonstration trickled to an end, Drochak and Strandwold said they “couldn’t have been happier” with how the demonstration turned out.
“I think it was perfect,” Drochak said. “It was so great to see the diversity of students out here, bringing this to light saying we won’t tolerate this…we’ll be here to say ‘no more.’”