The Pullman PD investigation is still ongoing; PHS encourages students to use advisors, ATVP
Trigger Warning: This article contains details of sexual assaults that may be triggering for some readers.
Following a report of sexual assault at Pullman High School, staff tried to provide safety and resources, but a student says she saw little change after the initial report.
A Pullman High School student said she was sexually assaulted on school grounds by another student, Superintendent Bob Maxwell said.
“We take any allegation seriously,” he said.
Pullman Police Department operations commander Aaron Breshears said the incident was reported to Pullman PD about a week after it happened. AAn investigation began the day the incident was reported, but as it is still ongoing, Pullman PD cannot comment on its progress.
Maxwell said multiple social media posts spread misinformation about the incident, including one that said PHS took no further action in response to the incident.
Many students first learned of the report from a Sept. 20 Facebook post in a private group by the student’s father, PHS senior Jade Dodson said.
The post, which is still available on Facebook, says a PHS junior who raped freshman girls, including the 14-year-old girl in the poster, was still following the student around PHS without repercussions after the report, depending on the message.
Following the report, students were encouraged to contact counseling staff and Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse for advice and guidance, Maxwell said.
The ATVP is often a resource brought in or recommended by schools in similar situations, said Katrina Critchfield, ATVP’s coordinator for sexual assault services.
“We also often do classes or presentations within the school on topics of violence prevention, fostering strong communication, talking about consent and health boundaries,” Critchfield said.
Critchfield said ATVP’s services are free and confidential, information provided to them is not shared with anyone unless it falls under the mandatory reporting category.
The easiest way to contact ATVP is through their 24/7 hotline or website, she said. The main message people should hear following the incident is that they should seek help as soon as possible if they are worried.
“Our main message is that survivors have every right to raise their voices and reach out when they need it,” Critchfield said. “There is absolutely no shame or judgment in reaching out.”
The ultimate message the administration has tried to communicate to students is to let a staff member know if they feel unsafe, Maxwell said.
“I think it’s something we want to make sure we raise awareness. We take this very seriously,” he said.
Dodson said she was unimpressed with the school’s response.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories about students going to counselors and nothing comes of it,” she said. “That makes it a bit difficult to reach.”
In response to the school’s handling of the incident, students participated in a strike from 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. on September 23, primarily organized by PHS senior Lilly Chalmers.
“Initially we were just going to walk outside the school and start singing, but I think some students were a little nervous about going out,” she said. “We started walking and some people joined us. We ended up downtown.
The walkout was meant to show school administration that students wanted to feel more supported and safer at school, but since then there has been little change, Dodson said.
In addition to raising awareness of the incident at PHS, the students also came out to encourage the administration to address other requests to make students feel more comfortable at PHS that have yet to be met.
“One of them was that we wanted to put our doors back in the bathrooms,” she said. “It has been ignored and now we have teachers standing outside the bathroom and watching students come in which is very uncomfortable.”
Other demands that were not met were to eliminate the rule that students cannot go to the bathroom 10 minutes before or after the start of class and to allow students to take their mobile phones with them to the bathroom. , she said.
Dodson said while there are teachers who are supportive of what students are going through, the biggest problem since the incident happened it’s that there are a lot of staff who aren’t.
“I think the school sends out emails to make the students feel better, but they don’t really change anything,” Dodson said.