BVSD Survivors

BVSD Survivors is a movement led by students that aims to center survivors, their stories and their needs.

BVSD Survivors

BVSD Survivors is a movement led by students that aims to center survivors, their stories and their needs.

Disclaimer: This article mentions themes of sexual assault within BVSD that may be triggering for some readers. 

BVSD Survivors (not affiliated with Boulder Valley School District) is an organization started by current and former BVSD students to help survivors share their stories and break the silencing pattern in Boulder Valley School District. While the organization itself is new as of the beginning of this school year, the movement has been around in BVSD for much longer than that.  

Last year the arrest of and sexual assault case against former Fairview Senior Aidan Adkinson threw many people into a frenzy. As a football quarterback and a Northwestern recruit, Adkinson seemed untouchable. Then a month later, former Boulder High senior Curran English was arrested on similar charges. While these cases brought local and national attention to the issue of sexual assault in BVSD, they were in no way was isolated incidents. 

Speaking with BVSD Survivors co-facilitators and Fairview graduates Sophie Dellinger and Beatriz Sanchez, I was able to understand a little more about the issue with sexual assault within BVSD schools and why it’s so important to talk about. 

The two first started with Redefine Title IX. Calling for BVSD to fulfill missing Title IX components. Title IX was part of the education amendment signed in 1972 requiring that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” What many may not know, is that Title IX also covers sexual assault and harassment. This means the district is required to have a survivor’s bill of rights, a full-time Title IX coordinator and provide website accessibility to access resources. 

Whether or not it’s because of a lack in Title IX conformity, sexual assault and harassment are prominent in BVSD culture. Dellinger put it best stating that “Adkinson’s case just scratched the surface of [the sexual assault and harassment] that lies beneath [it] opened the doors to the public. [The case] shined a light to parents, [but] students always knew it was a problem.” Sanchez added that “when your school is under a magnifying glass [the public will] tend to dig deeper” and admin will respond differently. 

The two recalled their disappointment to “see how [Fairview] admin responded.” Delligner continues, “it started with Title IX, even though we explained to the school that they were in violation of federal law … none of them really listened until we got more attention.” 

While sexual assault and harassment in BVSD may have been unheard of to administration and the community, BVSD students have always been aware of its presence. In a survey taken by BVSD Survivors, 63% of responders had experienced at least one account of sexual assault in BVSD. In another, 100% of responders said that yes, sexual assault is a problem at BVSD. BVSD has always had a problem with sexual assault and harassment. A 2011 Fairview graduate, Anna Nettie Hanson, who was sexually assaulted, wrote a book For Now: Words of the Girl Who Fought Back and started a platform for survivors to share their stories anonymously. 

Hanson’s strategy of giving survivors a platform quickly became one of many. With Instagram accounts popping up from high caliber colleges like Columbia and Dartmouth sharing stories from students about their sexual assault experiences. In this way, while BVSD Survivors is an individual movement, it’s part of a larger collective one. 

With BVSD Survivors, Dellinger and Sanchez’s goals are simple: to center survivors, their stories, their struggles and their needs. Sanchez adds that the sexual assault “conversation is white-centered and heterocentric” they hope for BVSD Survivors to have intersexual activism. Elements They also plan to push for more sexual assault prevention to be taught in BVSD schools so that administrators are not only helping with the effects of sexual assault but preventing it all together. 

The main way the organization centers survivors is through accepting anonymous stories on their website and posting them. So far, they’ve received around 20-30 stories, but they don’t end up publishing all of them and sometimes end up needing to rescind them at the request of the submitter. For this platform to work, maintaining anonymity for the survivors was really important. 

Before submitting any story, survivors are required to read about mandatory reporting. Their website states that “In Colorado, over 40 professions, including all adults working in school districts, are “mandatory reporters,” which requires them to report instances or allegations of child abuse or neglect, including any sexual violence to child welfare and/or law enforcement officials.” This includes sexual assault and harassment. What that means for the stories submitted is that publishers are asked not to include names, places, or things that could identify them. 

While BVSD Survivors isn’t affiliated with BVSD and Sanchez and Dellinger are not mandatory reporters themselves, the movement is centered around the district; if there are any identifiable parts of the submission, BVSD has to investigate by law. To explain this a bit better Delliger references, another Boulder teen started a movement, the Me Too Teen Project. Saying that because it’s national, “it’s so broad” and not connected to Boulder specifically. 

BVSD Survivor puts survivors in control. Survivors get to choose whether or not their story is published. There’s also a red escape button that allows readers to exit the site that brings you to a national list of resources. After submitting their story, publishers receive a pin that they can use to rescind their story for whatever reason later.

Instagram is commonly used by high schoolers in BVSD, and one of the main ways BVSD Survivors connect to BVSD students. (Isabel Oliver)

One of the main ways that the movement reaches into the community is through Instagram. Fairview Junior Annika Spielde, the third member of the team, is in charge of the social media piece for both BVSD Survivors and Redefine Title IX. She’s the one behind the colorful Instagram format and reaching out to the community to gain more awareness of the BVSD schools’ movement. 

When asked why she chose to use Instagram over all the other platforms, Sanchez explained that while they were “hesitant because Instagram is known to be a toxic place” it has helped them tain a lot of site traffic. They make sure to always use trigger warnings to preview the heavy content on the page. Sanchez continues that the Instagram has made the movement “just two clicks away from change” giving not only students but “parents, lawyers and community members” access to information.  

Going through Instagram or going directly to the website is the best way to get involved with BVSD Survivors. On the website, there are opportunities to get involved, contact the movement and donate. You can donate money or your time. If you are interested in joining the movement or becoming more involved, the group hopes to have weekly meetings. To find out more about these meetings, keep an eye on the BVSD Survivors and Redefine Title IX Instagrams and websites for a google form to attend. 

While the movement covers all of BVSD, currently it is very Fairview and Boulder High centered. As Dellinger and Sanchez continue with the next chapter of their lives, Spilde may eventually assume the facilitator’s roles; there is always room for new members. 

There’s no denying that this movement is well needed and BVSD Survivors along with Redefine Title IX are a perfect place to start. For more information or to get involved, check out the BVSD Survivors and Redefine Title IX websites.

Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Sexual Violence Resource Center: https://www.nsvrc.org

National Organization for Victim Assistance: https://www.trynova.org/who-we-are/