“I didn’t know what to do so when I went to the assistant principal, she said they’d look into it. They’d punish him,” Hannah Baker, North Medford High School student and petition co-organizer, said.
For Hannah, school wasn’t always a safe place. Just two weeks into her freshman year at North Medford High School, she says she was sexually assaulted in the hallway on campus.
“They only sent the student home for the rest of the school day and I had to share a class with him for like another week, before they let me switch out of the class,” Hannah said.
Now going into her junior year, she is calling on the administration to change the way the school handles sexual assault and harassment.
“There’s an issue going on. They haven’t handled this correctly,” Hannah said.
Hannah and her friend Chloe, created a campaign on Instagram called North Survivors Alliance, to shed light on what they say is an ongoing problem at the school. Last week they created a petition on change.org. As of Wednesday evening, the petition had nearly 700 signatures.
The students say they want new response strategies for staff, resources for victims, proper punishment for people responsible and more education in school about sexual assault.
“I think students need to realize how broad sexual assault and harassment is,” Hannah said.
Hannah said their health class mostly focuses on consent and rape, but doesn’t go any further.
“Rape isn’t the only kind of sexual assault,” Hannah said.
“Clearly we have work to do,” Natalie Hurd, Medford School District Spokeswoman, said.
North Medford High School says the health and safety of students is their number one priority. Hurd says they follow state guidelines, but are committed to making improvements.
“Going over kind of what what our process is and procedures are, looking at our policy, seeing if there’s ways that we can strengthen things up,” Hurd said.
Hannah says this isn’t the first time students in the Rogue Valley have these raised concerns. Ashland High School faced similar feedback in past years, so they teamed up with the Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team.
“If you face these things in school, which is supposed to be a safe place for students, after a while, you don’t want to go to school,” Susan Moen, SART executive director, said.
For Hannah, she hopes this petition will lead to positive change in all schools, creating a safe place for students.
“We’ve had multiple students come forward about how the school hasn’t helped them and we want that to change,” Hannah said.
Find the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/north-medford-high-school-hold-north-medford-high-school-accountable-for-sexual-assault-and-harassment
Jackson County SART provide free and confidential support groups, including one specifically for teen survivors, run by non-mandatory reporters. There are also groups for adult women, LGBTQ+ folks and male survivors. For information, text or call: (541) 625-8089. There is also free help accessing resources for survivors. Just email [email protected] or (541) 441-3596. Their website is: jacksoncountysart.org
Anna Weeks is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oregon State University with a degree in Digital Communication Arts and a minor in writing. Previously, she interned with the National Association of Broadcasters at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.
Originally from the Portland area, Anna is excited to explore Southern Oregon. In her free time, she can be found reading, running or watching sports.