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Student walkout in Cambridge is an urgent call to action on sexual assaults

Students sit in an AP class at Cambridge Rindge and Latin in this January 2020 file photo.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

I am a junior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. On Tuesday, about 500 of my peers and I walked out of classes to protest both sexual assault on and around campus and what many students perceive as silence from our school administration when we report our assaults. We stood in freezing weather for more than two hours and listened to peers speak their pain, trauma, and anger from first being sexually assaulted and then not seeing an adequate response when submitting formal school incident reports.

I watched the microphone tremble in the hands of friends, lab partners, and neighbors as they talked about when it happened to them. One student detailed how a staff member told her outright that the school couldn’t ensure that she never had a class with the person she’d accused of assault. After each story, there was thunderous applause from students and teachers, many in tears.


When we remember the Cambridge sexual assault walkout — and we must — it’s these students, their bravery, and their voices that will resound.

Coverage of student protests often focuses on adults, such as school superintendents and principals, and what they have to say. We must do better for young people by listening to what they say they need: a responsive and accessible incident-reporting system, ongoing conversations about addressing harassment at its root, and institutionalized consent education.

Remember the students who spoke out. Their cries are a call to action.

Elena Serpas