Students met at Sunken Gardens and marched to the campus to gain attention from school officials
ATASCADERO — On Dec. 17, close to 100 students from Atascadero High School (AHS) met at the Sunken Gardens after school to discuss a recurring problem at the school. Several reports of sexual assault and harrasment have been made on campus, yet according to students, those reports have been dismissed by school officials.
Students told Atascadero News an Instagram account, ahs_iustitia, was created by a student after their friend reported an assault to school officials who discredited the allegation. Iustitia is Latin for Lady Justice. The account is an anonymous account where students can anonymously tell their stories of assault or harassment.
One student, whose name has been redacted, told Atascadero News, “We are taking it into our own hands because every time students have gone to the school, they have turned them away—We’re trying to do what we can as students seeing as no one else is supporting us.”
The same student referenced her own story, saying a student from the ASB club has been harassing her and when reported to school officials, the offending student was defended by saying it was a “bad love story.”
The account’s bio reads, “ahs do better: for those too afraid to speak out, or nothing was done. to show the problem & spread awareness. DM me and I will post anonymously. student run.”
As of Dec. 21, 49 stories have been posted to the account. Student stories include stories of harassment, sexual assault, and racism on campus. Stories come from current students as well as alumni.
There are many stories involving reports of sexual assault that were dismissed by school officials:
“I told a counselor freshman year that I was being SA by another student at the school and she responds by saying she was family friends w his parents and he would never do something like that. I am now a senior and still get panic attacks whenever I see him. Why didn’t she just believe me?”
One students story involves rape:
“When I told the office about my rapist they completely dismissed it by saying it was a “bad love story”
And others have stories of stalkers:
“I’m a freshman and when I reported by stalker to the office they didn’t care and instead they sympathized with him claiming I bullied him”
After meeting at the Sunken Gardens, the students headed to the school with signs to bring awareness to their cause. The students plan to meet over winter break to form a club, “We want the school to change their policies and rules and take things more seriously because it is serious stuff—we want this conversation to keep going.”
The students hope to see more actions of discipline from school officials and for their reports to be taken more seriously.
Atascadero Unified School District (AUSD) Trustee George Shoemaker told Atascadero News the students organized the event themselves, yet he and many parents were present.
Superintendent Tom Butcher told Atascadero News, the students, “Did a nice job of making a statement in a peaceful manner, we appreciate that.”
The Atascadero Unified School District sent the following statement to Atascadero News:
“The Atascadero Unified School District is committed to providing a safe, supportive, and positive school campus for students and staff. We encourage our students, parents, and staff to report these types of concerns immediately to school site administration and local law enforcement. These agencies can activate an immediate and thorough investigation resulting in appropriate actions and support. AUSD is proud to share that we have a highly regarded Wellness Center on the Atascadero High School campus to support all of our students and families.”
On Dec. 21, Atascadero News received a copy of a letter from Superintendent Butler which was addressed to the AUSD community:
I hope all of you are having a wonderful time with your family and friends this holiday season. Over the last couple of weeks, the school district has been reviewing our practices around fostering positive school campuses, supporting our students and staff, and improving the ability for individuals to report situations of concern. This in turn will allow us to respond in a timely and comprehensive manner.
Here are some of the steps we are taking to accomplish our goal of having safe and supportive school environments where students can pursue their goals of college and career, while developing excellent citizenship.
- We are pleased to share that this year we have been able to provide additional counseling services throughout the school district. These are highly trained and fully certified counselors that can support students and families on a wide variety of topics right at their school site.
- We remain fully committed to the Wellness Centers at Atascadero High School and Paloma Creek High School. The professional staff in the Wellness Centers is amazing and they are available to help our students and families with the most complicated situations.
- This fall we were able to add an additional Campus Supervisor to both Atascadero High School and Atascadero Middle School. The Campus Supervisors have a wonderful presence on campus and are deeply committed to supporting all of our students.
- The school district continues to benefit from an Atascadero Police Department School Resource Officer and a San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department School Resource Officer. They are truly an awesome resource for our community.
- All of our elementary schools are dedicated to developing positive citizenship in our students. Thanks to a strong partnership with Greyhound Foundation we have instituted the Where Everyone Belongs program at Atascadero Middle School this year. The program promotes kindness, respect, and citizenship with our middle school students. At Atascadero High School we continue to offer the Peer Mentoring Course which is another excellent resource for our students.
- We are working to provide clarity for reporting incidents at our two largest school sites (Atascadero High School and Atascadero Middle School) when we return in the new year. We have created a central reporting email address for each school. This will ensure that our school site administration can respond immediately to address the concern. When making a report we encourage the individual to provide us with their contact information and/or sufficient detail to investigate immediately. The reporting emails are:
- Atascadero High School: email@example.com
- Atascadero Middle School: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For all other school sites please report any incidents of concern directly to your site principal.
- In addition, if there is a situation that presents an immediate danger please utilize 911. If an incident is criminal in nature, please report directly to law enforcement.
Thanks for your ongoing support of the Atascadero Unified School District. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me directly at (805) 462-4217.
Wishing all of you a wonderful Holiday Season,