Boulder High Sexual Assault Walkout: An Opportunity for Change While Pro-Survivor Graffiti Was Washed Away

+Prior+to+the+sexual+assault+awareness+and+support+walkout%2C+sentences+supporting+survivors+and+reprimanding+the+district+were+spray-painted+across+the+campus+only+to+be+haphazardly+removed+during+the+protest.

Mary Smith

Prior to the sexual assault awareness and support walkout, sentences supporting survivors and reprimanding the district were spray-painted across the campus only to be haphazardly removed during the protest.

On May 13 at 9:07 a.m., around one hundred Boulder High students and staff members walked out of their classrooms to gather on the soccer field in support of survivors of sexual assault. 

Student Body President Maya Roberts and Vice President Audrey Kaufman led and organized the walkout with help from the Boulder High administration. Roberts led the speaking portion of the walkout, introducing speakers from the organization Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA).

Students left class to gather on the soccer field at exactly 9:07 a.m.; a nod to the 97% of women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault. (Halie Leland)

Laura Availa and Caroline Harris from MESA depicted how important it was to support survivors. Harris explained how rape culture is normalized in our society and the three things you can do to help are talking about consent and boundaries, call out victim blaming and tap into your feelings to use your voice. Availa then went on to share resources for students through MESA and encourage students to use administration as a resource.

While speaking with Kaufman after the event, she cited that they organized this event because “[they] were all very frustrated with recent events that happened and we wanted to do something to show that Boulder High supports survivors and stands against sexual assault…a very big contributor [to being able to do this walkout] was the administration being very willing to help us out with this [event].” 

On why 9:07 a.m., Kaufman explained that it was “very significant about the 97% of women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed or violated in some way. We thought it would be very meaningful to have it at 9:07” to signify that. 

However, this event wasn’t black and white. Throughout the campus, pro-survivor phrases had been spray-painted onto walls and storage containers. “No Means No,” “No Excuses Stop Protecting Rapists,” and “Survivors Fight Back” were quickly power washed off of the walls and storage containers near the soccer field. 

As students were asked to take two minutes of silence for survivors, the sound of “Survivors Fight Back” being power washed off of a storage container rang in the background. 

Malia Hanson, junior, had an interesting and important take on the graffiti down around the school. “ I don’t necessarily think that it was the best way to show support,” Hanson says, “ and it’s not right to break other rules.” That being said, many students were surprised to see graffiti done around the school.

Some of the messages that were graffitied were more aggressive than others, distracting from the main message of the walkout. (Mary Smith)

Kaufman explained that having the graffiti being washed off during this event wasn’t their intention. “It caught us off guard, and it was a little disappointing. The Admin has been so helpful with coordinating this, and they should not be punished for this. This was not our intention at all.” 

Assistant principal Mrs. Lewis was also shocked to see the graffiti around the school. “There’s a range of emotions. There was a range of emotions that came with it. ”

While it was the district that was responsible for erasing the graffiti, it was the administration that helped hide it. Students weren’t allowed to pass “No Means No” as they piled out onto the field, told to instead walk out of the west entrance through the science wing. Students were also instructed not to enter through doors with graffiti, seemingly being directed away from the images. 

As we walked to take photos of the storage container, BVSD workers pulled their truck in front of the graffiti to block it and district members seemed to be prioritizing the removal of the graffiti over the walkout. 

This graffiti seems to target BVSD’s general response to sexual assault and harassment. BVSD didn’t have a Title IX coordinator until this year, and the push for BVSD to change its rape culture has been strongly student-led by groups like Redefine Title IX and BVSD Survivors

Mrs. Lewis, however, made it clear that “this event was planned in partnership with Boulder High. It was supported that way we could make sure it was a peaceful protest.” The Boulder High administration wanted to make sure that the message didn’t get lost among the controversy of the vandalism. 

The administration worked with Roberts and Kaufman throughout this process, ensuring that a safe protest occurred. The graffiti was not planned, and the person responsible for the graffiti is still anonymous.

Student Body President Maya Roberts, Vice President Audrey Kaufman, and Dr. Hill shared a proud moment after successfully organizing the walkout. (Halie Leland)

The walkout, along with the graffiti, created an eventful morning and left the emotions of students, survivors and faculty muddled by controversy.