Students Wear Teal to Denounce Hate Speech, Sexual Assault; Express Dissatisfaction with Administration Response


Organizers posted this info graphic on Instagram to spread information @better_nwhs_together

By Anna Lusson, Staff Writer

In response to recent hate speech and sexual assault allegations within the Niles West community, an event was organized  encouraging students to wear the color teal, green, or blue on Nov. 1 to call attention to how District 219 has handled these issues and similar ones, including racism, antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia. Organizers passed out teal ribbons for students to show their support.

It felt like our school was addressing hate speech alone, when so many other issues were involved and significant. The in-school protest seemed like an amazing way to show that the student body cared and was willing to take a stand for those who felt they couldn’t. Wearing teal to show support for sexual assault survivors was a small action that was intended to make a big statement,” @better_nwhs_together coordinators said. Organizers would not share their names.

On Sunday, Oct. 30,  @better_nwhs_together, sent out an info graphic on Instagram to share information with students looking to participate. It included how to participate, reasons for participating, and anonymous stories from students. Stories shared students’ experiences of sexual assault, racism, and hate speech, along with student recollections of Niles West administration’s involvement in these issues.

Niles West principal Karen Ritter shared the administration’s approach to student protests.

Niles West students have continuously stood up to raise awareness for issues that they believe in. We support our students and their voices. Our priority is always first and foremost the safety of our students and school community when demonstrating or protesting. We support and respect our students’ right to protest as long as it is not disruptive to the educational process,” Ritter said. 

Allegations of sexual assault are considered a criminal matter and are referred to the Skokie Police Department. All students, both victims and perpetrators, are protected under FERPA, so the outcomes of all investigations remain confidential.

“[The] Niles West admin has a history of gaslighting students of color and not taking their words seriously. We must form community in the face of an administration that will not help us. We must support all sexual assault victims and believe all victims. Forming community like this requires effort from everyone within it and I hope we can all form that together,” read parts of the anonymous Instagram post.  

Any reported hate speech allegations are referred to and formally investigated by the Hate Speech Assessment Team (HSAT), which was established response to hate speech last school year. West administrators also hosted assemblies addressing hate speech on Oct. 27.

Students were encouraged to wear teal for the protest. “The color teal is used to show support for sexual assault survivors, but it’s also really close to blue and green! Blue’s a common color that a lot of people have and green is also used for anti-racism,” an organizer wrote.

“I think it’s important for the people affected by the current situations or sexual assault in general to know that they have a support system,” junior Ava Checke, who also participated, said.

Victims of sexual assault are encouraged to report the crime to a trusted adult or a member of law enforcement. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault also offers resources and guidance for victims.