A Student's Perspective
Natalie Kornblum, Division 2, 12th grade #ws18e-s3d2

Winter Park High School is known for its thriving music programs, wealthy donors, victorious athletics, and for having one of the highest graduation rates in central Florida. At face value, it is a first-rate public school. As a student attending Winter Park, however, I can say that what lies below the surface is, at the very least, disconcerting. Beneath the shining exterior of the College and Career Center and the studious engineering programs lay rampant bullying, sexual harassment and assault, and a serious lack of accountability. Transgressions made by male students have not been addressed or resolved by the passive administration.

Case in point, last year a football player at my school was suspended for the rest of the academic year for taking upskirt photos of his female classmates. While the district judge voted not to expel him from Winter Park, my school took no action to protect or support the victims of these acts of sexual violation. The perpetrator is allowed to freely wander the halls and potentially interact with his victims. If this weren’t worrying enough, this student was allowed back on the football team to be cheered for and encouraged by his peers despite his actions. In allowing him to return to the field, Winter Park administration excused his behavior and clearly communicated that male athletes would not face repercussions for sexual harassment. Still, they demand all students attend their mandatory pep rallies, including his victims, in order to show support for this sexually aggressive individual. If I was an administrator, I would give him a specialized schedule which ensured he had no contact with his victims, as well as guarantee that an administrator accompany him to class and lunches at all times to make sure that he could not take any more nonconsensual photographs of his peers. I would also further appeal to the district for his expulsion from the school in order to keep the girls he violated feeling as safe as possible at school as they recovered from their trauma.

Unfortunately, I cannot speak about these issues entirely from an outsider’s perspective. Directly underneath the nose of Winter Park High School administration, I was assaulted, stalked, and harassed by another student for over two years. The first incident, a physical assault, occurred in April of 2016, though due to fear that I would not be supported or believed, I did not report it until the following November when I was placed in a class with him. In class, he would frequently use physical intimidation tactics, aggressive language, following me outside of class, and gossip to torment and isolate me. It eventually got to the point where I vomited out of anxiety every day before class as well as having hour-long panic attacks during and after class. When I finally reported it, I was pulled from the class and my schedule was rearranged. My stalker remained in the original class. At this point, I agreed to what my school refers to as a “No-Contact Contract,” in which both parties agree not to communicate with each other. In theory, it sounds effective, but there is no enforcement of these contracts whatsoever. Teachers are not informed of them, and often do not recognize a violation. The violation can only be reported after the incident has already occurred, at which point the damage is done. My stalker violated the contracts several times over the past two years, and I reported each incident, but to my knowledge, he was never punished. I was always told the issue had been “dealt with,” though no one would tell me how it was dealt with or who had dealt with it. Because he continued violating, I have considerable reason to believe he did not face any consequences. Altogether, though I was relieved to no longer have to face the emotional abuse each day, I believe the aggressive individual is the one who should be removed from the class, and as an administrator I would ensure that the perpetrator would receive actual discipline for their actions.

On the whole, I would love to make changes to the bullying policy at Winter Park High School, because the current one protects perpetrators and punishes victims. Though administration boasts about its high graduation rates and champion sports teams, it is deeply flawed, corrupt, and resistant to accountability. It would clearly be beneficial to the student body if harassment were taken seriously by the administration and violent individuals were removed from campus after assaulting another student. Until that day, unfortunately, aggressors will continue to stride through the hallways of my school with absolute immunity.
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