Students walk out at downtown L.A. arts high school over rape allegations

Students at Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts walked out of classes Thursday to protest the school’s handling of one student’s charge that another student raped her on campus.

Some students and parents are concerned that they were not told anything about the alleged incident. Some also were upset over what they saw as inaction on the part of the school district.

The campus, on the north edge of downtown L.A., is the flagship arts high school for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“I don’t know the whole story, and when I called the school, I was told it was under investigation. No other information was given,” said parent Sibylla Nash on Thursday afternoon. “I don’t know what happened, but something happened, and parents should be notified when these allegations are brought against students.”

After the walkout, a school district spokeswoman said privacy restrictions limited the release of information.

“The school is working with law enforcement while ensuring that district policies regarding student administrative due process are followed,” Shannon Haber said. “In addition, counselors and other staff are available to provide support, as needed. We remain committed to providing a safe and secure environment for everyone at the school.”

Principal Ken Martinez sent an automated phone message to parents Thursday evening.

“Several of our students gathered on campus today to express their thoughts about an ongoing investigation into allegations involving two students,” it began.

“I also want to remind everyone that finals are fast approaching,” Martinez said later in the message. “We want our students to remain in class so they may be better prepared for these important tests.”

Martinez conveyed a similar message to students in a Friday morning announcement, senior Molly Kleinman said.

Kleinman also said school administrators Thursday postponed several events that would have brought large gatherings of students.

The names of the two students at the center of the storm are widely known around the campus and through social media postings, including ones from the young woman who said she was raped.

The story circulating on campus is that she reported the alleged attack to the administration but that the administration took no action.

What may have sparked Thursday’s protest is that administrators would not allow the young woman to enter campus wearing a T-shirt that read, "I was raped twice and the school did nothing."

The district did not comment on this account by parents and students late Friday. But photos on social media show the student wearing the shirt and a video of students standing with her outside the school office, chanting, “Let her in.”

She had on a different shirt by then, but her supporters say the school would not let her back on campus — at least at that moment.

The protest occurred early in the school day. Dozens of students — perhaps more than 100 — marched through the halls of several buildings and then gathered on the steps in front of the school, according to witnesses, parents and cellphone video.

On another video, students can be heard angrily chanting a question followed by a response that included profanity: “Who are you protecting? A ... rapist.”

The protest broke up at lunch.

To read the article in Spanish, click here

howard.blume@latimes.com

Twitter: @howardblume

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