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Hundreds of Baltimore City College students lead protest against school system’s handling of sexual misconduct

Hundreds of students staged a walk out at Baltimore City College High School Wednesday morning to protest the public school system’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

Teens from high schools across the city including Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Baltimore School for the Arts joined City College students around 10 a.m. Wednesday morning to march around the perimeter of the historic campus in the Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood.

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Organizers said the event was held in support of all victims of sexual assault, but added the protest was sparked in part by a video posted to Instagram over the weekend.

In the video, a former City College student described an allegation of rape against another schoolmate and criticized the school system and law enforcement for failing to take action. The student said she later transferred to another city high school in order to avoid the person who allegedly assaulted her.

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The Baltimore Sun typically does not identify victims who allege sexual assault.

In a statement, Baltimore City school system officials confirmed they were aware of the allegations regarding the City College student and are opening an investigation, as required by federal anti-discrimination law, to “determine what occurred in an accurate, fair, and clear manner.”

The allegations were previously reported to school leaders and acted upon, system officials said without providing specific details.

Students stage a walk out Sept. 15 at Baltimore City College High School to protest the school system's handling of sexual misconduct allegations. The protest follows a viral video posted over the weekend in which a former City College student described her disappointment in the school system's response to her allegation of rape.
Students stage a walk out Sept. 15 at Baltimore City College High School to protest the school system's handling of sexual misconduct allegations. The protest follows a viral video posted over the weekend in which a former City College student described her disappointment in the school system's response to her allegation of rape. (Lillian Reed/Baltimore Sun)

“We are also aware that students at the school are voicing their concerns in various ways,” officials said in the statement. “As always, we support the rights of our students to stand up for causes they believe in and will take the appropriate steps to ensure they do it safely when on school property.”

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In an email to the City College community obtained by The Sun, an administrator announced the school would dismiss early Wednesday due to high temperatures. The high school is one of several buildings in the school system that routinely dismisses early due to a lack of adequate air conditioning.

In the same email, the administrator acknowledged plans for the protest and noted that students would not be permitted to re-enter the building after leaving. Classes would remain in session and attendance taken accordingly, the email states.

Several Baltimore Police officers sat in parked cars near the school entrance Wednesday morning but hung back from the students as they marched out of the building.

Many students referenced the video as a reason for joining the protest. Some carried homemade signs that said “protect your students” and “we will not be silenced.” One teen jotted “no means no!!” in red marker across the palms of her hands.

As some students passed around a megaphone to share their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault, many in the crowd lifted their cellphones to record the stories.

“You should already know how to treat women,” one student shouted into the megaphone, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

Abigail Bates, a sophomore at City College, helped organize the protest in support of her friend, who posted the video.

“I thought it was really important to do everything in my power to try to create change,” she said of the event’s urgency.

The schoolmates only began planning the walkout Sunday but garnered significant student participation over the span of a few days with the help of social media.

The organizers never expected the turnout, which they described as an “overflowing amount of love.”

City College students say they are working to craft a list of demands for the school system. Their protest is the latest event in a wave of student activism seen across the region since the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Students are turning increasingly to social media as a tool for grassroots organizing.

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