This 15-Year-Old Girl Was Suspended After Calling out a Rapist at Her School

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Aela Mansmann is a sophomore at Cape Elizabeth High School, and after having the courage to call out what she sees as a toxic rape culture, has found herself suspended for bullying.

She told Buzzfeed News, “I honestly feel very ashamed that my school took this action.”

Back in September, Aela says she’d had enough of the whispers and accusations of sexual assault and harassment she and her classmates were faces on a regular basis – all without consequences for those making the school day hostile.

She and a friend decided to take matters into their own hands and wrote “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is” on a sticky note that they stuck up in the bathroom.

Soon, more – many more – students were posting similar notes in the bathrooms, many of them confessing stories of sexual violence suffered at the hands of their classmates.

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If you agree with these demands, email mr shedd or the school board expressing your support. #metoohs #advocate #safebae

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Aela was proud of her friends and classmates.

“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.”

On the same day, school administrators launched an investigation into the sticky notes.

They quickly focused on Aela, she said.

“For three weeks, myself and others students were brought in for interviews and interrogation. They promised all of us whoever put notes up would not be in trouble.”

Things started to unravel further when a boy went to the administration and claimed he was being bullied because of the notes.

“That kinda confuses me, right? Because this person wasn’t identified in the sticky notes. In fact, there’s more than one person that was being referred to. Yet this person self-identified feeling targeting, so the school took steps to suspend me versus further investigating that self-identification.”

Aela spoke to the Portland Press Herald about what was happening at her school, and two hours later, found out she was being suspended for violating the anti-bullying policy. Two other students were also suspended for writing the notes.

The school’s superintendent spoke with News Center Maine, and she said that the notes “had some adverse effects on other students.”

“I think there’s a way to do it, a proper way to do it, and if they go through the proper channels, I think that’s perfectly fine,” she clarified, and also stated that the school has “never disciplined a student for advocating for their peers or their views on a cultural, social, and political matters.”

She continued:

“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.”

The school’s website doesn’t provide a precise definition of what they consider bullying, but it does specifically say that the policy doesn’t not intend to prohibit students from “expressing their ideas, including religious, political and philosophical views that may offend the sensibilities of others.”

50 students held a walkout in protest of the suspensions, which students feel not only silenced those advocating for survivors of sexual violence, but violated their First Amendment rights to speak out.

“The whole goal was to protest the suspensions and show everyone’s support for the survivors that walk our halls every day.”

Students read a list of demands during the walkout, including a request to overhaul the school’s reporting process.

As for Aela, she and her parents are appealing the suspension, but even if it stands, her parents support her right to speak out, and Aela knows she did the right thing.

And that’s all anyone can do, I suppose, but it’s disappointing to see a school unwilling to go further to investigate claims of violence – and punishing those who spoke out about it in the process.