Demi Lawrence is a sophomore journalism news major and writes "Unspoken" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Demi at .
He competed yesterday.
His victims had to go about their day, heavily reminded that their school administration does not care at all about their pain. Their harassment. Their safety. Their right to expect a safe school environment.
He competed yesterday.
He shouldn’t have.
According to a study done by , 81 percent of women reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment at some point in their lives.
I am an alumna of Hamilton Southeastern schools, Hamilton Southeastern High School to be exact. We are the rivals of Fishers High School, separated by a whole 3.6 miles. I had a choice of where I went to high school and I chose Hamilton Southeastern because of the reputation. I loved every second in those halls, and I cried when I graduated.
I am proud to be a graduate of HSE schools. But my pride is quickly dwindling due to the utter disregard the administration has shown for victims of sexual assault within the school system.
Last year, a student accused of sexual harassment and assault was not only allowed to compete in an annual competition at Hamilton Southeastern High School called Mr. Royal, he won. It was a commonly known thing in my time at HSE to not let this student add you on Snapchat. You were nearly guaranteed to get unwanted messages or, God forbid, photos.
His victims were my friends. My alma mater did nothing other than release a statement saying they were looking into the claims. Then, silence. Nothing. Dead air. It was as if the administration just wanted to stuff this incident down in the bottom of the bedside drawer and let their “Best School in the Nation” awards and athletic trophies cover it up.
This student is in college now. No repercussions. My anger surged for my former administration during all of this, but months passed and I nearly forgot how terribly that situation was handled. Hamilton Southeastern Schools successfully let this scandal slide.
I forgot about the blatant disrespect HSE schools showed for the safety of their students. Until I saw that a student at Fishers High School was allowed to swim at sectionals after being suspended over "substantiated" harassment allegations.
Many brave, female swimmers came forward and expressed their discomfort with this student last semester. Texts of him saying abusive things to the female students were released, and he was immediately suspended from the swim team.
It could have stopped there. Hamilton Southeastern schools’ administrators could have kept him suspended. They could have kept the girls’ feeling safe, valued and heard.
But they didn’t.
He originally did not qualify to swim in sectionals after missing so many regular season meets due to his suspension, but Fishers High School petitioned to IHSAA for him to be allowed to swim. To my shock – well, not really, let’s be honest – he was allowed to swim at sectionals.
And yesterday, he was allowed to swim at state, the single largest platform for IHSAA swimming.
The reasoning behind this came in a statement issued by the board Feb. 21:
“Noting that because the girls swim season had concluded and that joint competition and practice were no longer taking place, the swim environment had been altered sufficiently to allow the male swimmer, no-contact provision enforced, to resume participation on the boys swim team for the remainder of the season.”
So, let me get this straight, administrators: Since the female swim team’s season ended Feb. 9, this student is no longer a threat? As if it is the fault of these female swimmers for his abusive language? Do you realize you are putting the safety and mental/emotional stability on the backburner just so you can have another shot at a precious, state championship trophy? As if your halls aren’t already littered with them? As if the lives of young women are less valuable than that?
You are basically saying “We just had to wait for these whining, no good females’ season to end before we can bring you back on. Just wait this out, then you’ll be good to compete again.”
We all know you only care about winning. It is blatantly obvious. This student did not receive proper punishment. In fact, he has been rewarded, in my opinion.
I have heard rumors about his name from friends. I have a good idea who he is. It’s high school. Even if the media won’t name him, his fellow students will. His name floats through the side-whispers of students, only further perpetuating his popularity. His fame.
We cannot give abusers this platform. We cannot give abusers perks. We cannot reward abusers with allowing them to continue to live without punishment.
I have pride, but it is now been smashed under the foot of an administration that does not care about the very obvious sexual harassment issues happening within their schools. So long as they put on a bright face, rack in more students because of the appeal Fishers, Indiana, has for families and show how beautiful they are on the outside, that is all that matters.
All the HSE administration cares about is their image, and a strong athletic program is an important part of that. So they’ll do what it takes to get another win, another title. Even if it means allowing a sexual harasser to compete. Because they can just shove it to the bottom of their scandal drawer when they win state, right?
HSE Schools, I implore you to do better. I was proud to be an alumna, but that pride is quickly diminishing. You should have kept this student suspended permanently and there is no excuse, especially since you requested his return once the girls’ team was done.
Three out of four sexual assaults go unreported according to . You are telling these students that their bravery for speaking up does not matter. They were the one in four. They were the minority, and you failed them.
He competed yesterday, and through this you are only invalidating the brave girls who stepped forward with their stories of harassment. As an alumna, I expected better. As a college woman, I expected better. Twenty-seven percent of college women just like me have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact according to .
But most importantly, as a living, breathing human being who understands what respect is, that “no” does not mean “convince me” and that people deserve to not have to go through their everyday life living in fear of being harrassed, I expected better.