A young woman from Maine, Aela Mansmann, recently posted warnings about the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault within the student body of her high school.
She was suspended for “bullying.”
A teenager said there was a rapist at her school. She was suspended for bullying. https://t.co/qidlMaq4oI— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 8, 2019
“Pretty fed up” with the persistent sexual victimization she says occurs at Cape Elizabeth High School—particularly the lack of repercussions for the perpetrators from school administrators—Mansmann recently took matters into her own hands. She posted sticky-notes throughout the building reading:
“There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.”
Masnmann, has won awards for her activism and advocacy around issues of teen sexual assault, including a summit she led on the topic. But despite these efforts, students reported being ignored by administrators when reporting incidents to the school.
As Mansmann put it to local NBC affiliate WCSH:
“We don’t feel believed, we don’t feel supported.”
And Mansmann’s sticky-note campaign, it seems, was no exception. Rather than take the situation seriously, the school launched a full-force investigation into Mansmann’s actions.
“For three weeks, myself and other students were brought in for interviews and interrogation. They promised all of us whoever put notes up would not be in trouble.”
This, despite what Mansmann described as an effort targeting not one specific perpetrator, but several individuals who had all gone unpunished.
Again, speaking to Buzzfeed:
“It was really addressing the general culture of our school, and keeping in mind several specific cases. But there are so many it’s hard to pinpoint just one and advocate for just one of them.”
It was for this reason that Mansmann’s campaign never mentions a single name. But a student filed a complaint anyway, resulting in disciplinary action.
Speaking to the Portland Press Herald, Mansmann said:
“I was told someone made a complaint that I was bullying them. So I thought, why is this person self-identifying as the [alleged] rapist?”
But despite this seeming self-incrimination, Aela told Buzzfeed News:
“…the school took steps to suspend me versus further investigating that self-identification.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the school superintendent defended the school’s actions, saying:
“[The school] has never disciplined a student for advocating for their peers or their views on cultural, social and political matters.”
NEW: Mother of girl who posted the sticky notes says she has been suspended for bullying. The school says they have never disciplined a student for advocating for their peers, but says it’s important when a student’s speech bullies another they are required to take action pic.twitter.com/1i6L7QYt2o— Roslyn Flaherty (@roslyn_flaherty) October 4, 2019
However, the statement goes on to say:
“It is important to understand, however, that when a student’s speech bullies another student, we are required by law and by school board policy to investigate and take prompt action, even if that same student has also spoken out on a matter of public concern.”
That logic didn’t square with a swath of the student body of Cape Elizabeth and surrounding schools. About 50 students staged a walk-out on Monday, “to protest the suspensions and show everyone’s support for the survivors that walk our halls every day,” as Mansmann put it.
That support was echoed online, with plenty of people standing by Mansmann’s side.
Once again: we tell women and girls to push back aggressively against sexual harassment and assault, and then punish them when they do that.— Radical Goats (@RadicalGoats) October 8, 2019
“Why don’t women report it?”— Bernie/Nina 2020 🌹 (@mikemoran2010) October 8, 2019
How is that bullying? Sounds more like a warning to other young girls .. to be aware .. to bully someone, you have to single them out ..— Frederic Boxx (@Blackboxx2020) October 8, 2019
Rape culture thrives!!! Schools refuse to investigate and when a girl tries to warn others, she gets punished for bullying even though she names no names. https://t.co/BgSKPURa8d— Nneka O. 🇳🇬 (@Playm8z) October 9, 2019
When did having a voice and speaking your own truth become “bullying”? https://t.co/CIMsHvCQBq— Jamie O'Neal (@JamieONeal) October 8, 2019
WhY DiDN't yOu RePOrT?https://t.co/lcKDwqd0iC— Justin Johnson. (@Justin4MSU) October 8, 2019
“It makes me angry that I’m being punished for bullying and a rapist isn’t being punished for raping people"— Ketra Schmitt (@KetraSchmitt) October 8, 2019
Patriarchy in a nutshell.
Try supporting victims instead of perpetrators @Cape_HShttps://t.co/mCv808TSLp@roslyn_flaherty
Aela Mansmann was suspended because a student felt they were being bullied by her for this note. This is all you need to know about America’s #rapeculture the school punished Aela rather than understanding why a student would self identify as a rapist!!!!! #BelieveWomen pic.twitter.com/OlWMYJ0BUy— Kelcie 🌈 (@klckush) October 8, 2019
The superintendent needs to be suspended! This is totally unacceptable.— TomH (@TomH93213073) October 9, 2019
Misogyny is dependent on silence and it punishes anyone who speaks. It protects undeserving men and sacrifices the safety of women in the name of “fairness.” These policies treat girls/women as equally accountable in a system that is not even equal. https://t.co/PE5nXKZBD3— Dolores Ann (@doloresalozano) October 8, 2019
Don’t ever ask why women don’t come forward https://t.co/VLz79B4rIS— Jaquline Margwarth (@forrreeeal) October 8, 2019
Aela and her parents are appealing the suspension, and among the demands presented at the student walkout was expungement of whistelblowers’ records.
Pending a hearing this week, Mansmann is playing the waiting game. As she put it to Buzzfeed:
“I’m hoping it does get expunged, but we’ll see. There’s nothing else I can do at that point.”
Have you listened to the first season of George Takei’s podcast, ‘Oh Myyy Pod!‘?
In season one we explored the racially charged videos that have taken the internet by storm.
We’re hard at work on season two so be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss it when it goes live.
Here’s one of our favorite episodes from season one. Enjoy!