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Snohomish High School assault has students seeking truth

Michael Whitney photo

Students marched through town, ending in front of Snohomish High School’s driveway during the start of school Friday, Oct. 22.

SNOHOMISH — Students angered by the belief Snohomish High School is burying an on-campus sexual assault from Monday, Oct. 18 led a protest the morning of Friday, Oct. 22 seeking to put this incident, and past assaults, into the spotlight.
The official statement from the district is that law enforcement is investigating an assault where a boy and girl were seen kissing in the hallway. A second boy who witnessed it was not involved, authorities said.
There was more.
The victim’s mother, Betsy Peterson-Rodriguez, told the Tribune that two random older boys approached her 14-year-old freshman daughter harassing her for her phone number, and then “he lunged and gave her a kiss,” Peterson-Rodriguez said. “She pushed him away. She was scared to death.” Her daughter later went to the bathroom and broke down crying. A fellow student found her and consoled her.
The school district called the mom that afternoon and then phoned police the day after it happened. Her daughter’s police case is being handled by a sexual assaults detective within the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Peterson-Rodriguez said.
The school district has retained a third-party investigator “to help facilitate (the) investigative process” on the Oct. 18 incident, district spokeswoman Kristin Foley said.
More than 75 students walked through town for Friday’s student-led protest. They stopped at the driveway entry to Snohomish High, where they chanted statements such as “She was 14!,” “Stop the shame, stop the blame,” “Sexual violence has to go” and “Keep our halls safe!”
Many female students wore green paint on their bodies with depictions of handprints, a symbol of rape.
Protestors stationed themselves outside the high school for most of the day.
When she and her daughter came in to watch the surveillance video, Peterson-Rodriguez said she felt like high school administrators in the room were interrogating her daughter. Alarming to her, during that meeting, one assistant principal “had the audacity to tell me it looked all mutual,” Peterson-Rodriguez told a Tribune reporter.
The boy and girl did not know each other.
The second boy there, who authorities have described as a “witness,” was taking orders from the first boy, Peterson-Rodriguez said.
Peterson-Rodriguez watched the video, but does not have a copy. The Tribune has not seen the video.
The Tribune is not naming the boys which students identified to the paper. Verifiable details are not being made public by authorities, and a copy of the police report was not made available by press time.
The matter was escalated to Superintendent Kent Kultgen’s office.
On Oct. 20, Principal Eric Cahan was put on administrative leave pending the investigation, Foley, the district’s spokeswoman, confirmed. An employee from the district headquarters is currently Snohomish High’s acting principal.
At the protest, more than one student said assaults have happened
on-campus before and been buried.
“A lot of times it is without consequences,” said Grayson DeBend, 18, a Panther senior.
One high school junior at the protest said she was previously assaulted more than once while attending Snohomish High, and ended up transferring out of the school. She said high school administrators had her sign what she described as a “gag order” to not speak of her assaults. She did not want to give her name.
Since the Oct. 18 incident, multiple students said that the girls bathroom doors are being kept open and that the boys bathrooms are locked in Building D at school.
More than one student said the high school told them the girls’ doors are open to deter vandalism.
A Snohomish High junior, 17, called the line a lie. “I haven’t seen any vandalism,” she told a reporter.
The district, on Friday, Oct. 22, declined to reply to questions originating from what students raised at the protest, such as responding to accusations the incident is being suppressed or what’s going on with the bathrooms. “We have no additional comments at this time,” Foley said by email. “The matter is currently being investigated.”
One student, a junior, said that at this point, nobody trusts the school. Students feel that they are not being informed on the incident.
Few students would provide their name for this story.
Snohomish High School sent a communication to all parents on Tuesday, Oct. 19, and the district sent a districtwide communication Wednesday, Oct. 20.
The districtwide statement says, in part: “Student safety remains our utmost priority and all reports are taken very seriously. Snohomish High School, the district and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office are actively investigating this incident. Students are encouraged to report any incident that makes them feel unsafe to a teacher, staff member or trusted adult.”

Michael Whitney photo

Students marched through town, ending in front of Snohomish High School’s driveway during the start of school Friday, Oct. 22. Students chanted and held signs toward the building windows to be seen and heard. A gray bar has been applied by the newspaper over an expletive word on a sign held in the above photo.




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