During the quarantine period, a few former seniors from Grover Cleveland Charter High School, with the help of hundreds of Cleveland students, were able to bring sexual harassment at school to light. Although many answers were based on Cleveland High School, it is important to remember this is an issue that students in many schools face.
I had the privilege of interviewing Isabella Tapia, who started the process and led students to stop sexual harassment in schools.
Why did you begin the process in the first place?
“I started the process independently of Charlotte and the Title 9 resolution (Sexual Misconduct Policies). I was purely motivated by getting my story heard and amplifying the stories of those around me. I had my own personal experiences about sexual harassment at school, and I was frustrated by the lack of response my complaints received… The school was putting up a front by explaining to us in school assemblies and memos that they are committed to protecting students and providing services when they are in need…. yet they had no systems in place to protect victims of sexual harassment and punish the harassers… I knew something had to be done…”
What was the process like?
“… I was only able to do what I did because of social media. It was mind-boggling… to receive 100+ messages detailing verbal harassment, sexual harassment, and rape on campus… Then Charlotte reached out to me and said she was inspired by my outreach and started this Title 9 campaign. Sending a letter to the administration seemed frivolous now when we can make a change at a district-wide level…”
Why is this change important?
“Women’s experiences… are so often overlooked… That notion is backwards and extremely degrading. And to see it being played out on my high school campus was not okay. It was not just for myself, I wanted to set a precedent for the younger generation of students entering high school… They should not accept counselors not switching them out of the class of their abuser, they should not accept no punishment being allocated to their rapist. I wanted to let them know they should not only expect justice but demand it if it is not being received. I only hope this will continue in the years to come.”
After compiling a petition of information on sexual violence, these graduates were able to reach out to District 3 board member Scott Schmerelson’s team, which drafted a resolution. After meeting with Title IX, including Superintendent Austin Beutner, it was passed unanimously.
If anyone reading this has gone through any form of harassment, please know that you are validated and that it is never your fault. Please reach out to a parent or a counselor, they will most definitely be willing to help.