September 29, Northfield High School – Northfield students gathered on Monday of last week to protest sexual assault, narrowing their focus towards school-aged people and their rights. Chants of no means no rose above students holding signs that read clothes are not an invitation, and consent is sexy.
The walkout was sparked by allegations made against Denver Board of Education Director Tay Anderson. Director Anderson is unique in many respects, elected at the age of 21 in 2019. He has been a lightning rod for praise and criticism since his first day. In March of 2021, debates about him simmering under the surface came to light in a furious storm of news reports, interviews and social media arguments.
In March of 2021, the Black Lives Matter movement of Denver (in which Anderson has been a key player) came forward stating that multiple women had claimed to be sexually assaulted by Tay Anderson. Along with several board members from Never-Again Colorado and a final count of 62 DPS students, Anderson has been accused of multiple instances of inappropriate comments, touching, and advances while a board member for Never-Again Colorado and DPS, and an employee at Manual and North High Schools. While the impartial group that DPS hired to investigate the situation stated that the majority of the allegations were not sustained in their final report, accusations and anger continue to fly in both directions.
Seemingly the majority of Northfield protesters however were walking out for a broader reason. “I think that we should focus more on the underage girls who are being sexually assaulted and their stories instead of more about the Tay Anderson [situation],’ Student Council Member Kendi Perry stated before the walkout when prompted to discuss Director Anderson. “Northfield is focusing more on underage victims,” she added.
Being a Student Council arranged event, Northfield students did not just stand up and walk out of their classes at 10:50, as they might’ve in a more traditional protest. Instead, time was set aside out of Monday’s schedule to provide for the walkout. After their third period class, participants gathered in the quad with signs and energy, before heading out into the clear, chilly day. The student activists made a lap around the campus, with chant leaders yelling through megaphones and staff snapping pictures and guarding crosswalks to ensure the safety of the protesters. After returning to the center of campus, the organizers of the event gave short speeches about the purpose of the march. Participants bowed their heads in a minute of silence for victims of sexual assault to end the walkout.
The poignant experiences of the speakers were heard by hundreds of students and teachers.
The speeches were focused on sexual assault in both children and adults, and not just girls. All genders were recognized in the final speech of the day, and protesters of multiple genders were present.
“We do not stand, we do not tolerate any form of sexual assault, harassment or violence in general,” stated the Student Council Culture and Inclusivity Chair.
And while we are a long ways away from a world where a junior in high school wouldn’t even have to make that statement, Northfield High School’s march against sexual harassment was a step forward into the movement fighting against violence of any kind.
“Tay Anderson.” Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Tay_Anderson.
“Tay Anderson.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Sept. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tay_Anderson.