About 35 Great Bend High School students stood across the street from the front entrance of their school around 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. They were continuing a protest that began on Monday afternoon following a press conference held by the Unified School District 428 administration at the district office.
Salem Kern, a student at the school, shared with the Great Bene Tribune why she and others were there.
“We think the boys need more severe punishments, and the two that were not punished need to not be able to go to state tomorrow,” she said. She was referring to an alleged incident that occurred two weeks ago on a school bus coming back from a swim meet. “Also, we should feel safe in our school environment, and a lot of us don’t. That’s why (the alleged victim) won’t come back. And that’s why we are out here. And a lot of people aren’t coming to school on Friday either. So we just want to feel safe and in our school environment and not feel like these things could happen to us too.”
Kern said she and her friends don’t feel safe because the alleged perpetrators are roaming the hallways (at school) and “if they can do it once, I’m sure they could easily do it again.”
Kern said her dad excused her from school, but that there were others who were not excused and just left classes. She said people who were excused would not be punished, but those who were unexcused will receive a 30-minute detention or an in-school suspension (ISS).
According to the Great Bend High School student handbook, leaving campus during school is addressed. “Students may not leave campus during the school day without first checking out through the Office. Leaving campus without a pass is unexcused. Students who fail to comply will be subject to disciplinary action.”
After-school detention and in-school suspension are defined. School personnel may assign students to before or after school detention for infractions of school rules. ASD will be held after school from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. ISS will be held during school hours from 8:05 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.
“During this period of detention, students are not allowed to participate in school activities. Students are to bring all necessary supplies such as books, pencils, paper, etc. to the ASD room. Misconduct in the after school detention room could be cause for out-of-school suspension or expulsion. Students who are in school activities or who work after school are not excused from serving their ASD after school or serving during school hours in ISS.”
Kern said students had learned of the alleged incident concerning members of the swim team through unofficial sources, including a statement by a lawyer representing one of the alleged victims that was quoted in an article printed in The Great Bend Tribune on Friday, Feb.12. That statement included details of what was alleged to occur, and the response of the district, which included disciplinary actions against two of the four alleged perpetrators.
“A lot of us are confused as to why it took them seconds to arrest Lakin, Morgan and Gina, but it will be almost a week before they punish two boys for (alleged) rape,” she said. She was referring to the GBHS student protesters who were arrested during the Monday gathering for obstructing entry into the district office.
Another girl who would not be identified said that the students understand that the case is still under investigation, but that the Ellsworth Sheriff said it appeared a crime had been committed.
When asked at what point the students will feel they no longer need to protest further, Kern and others said it will be when (the alleged victim) gets justice, and the people who hurt him are no longer in school.
GBHS Principal Tim Friess stood watching the protest from inside the front entrance of the high school with two Great Bend police officers. He had no comment.