A high school senior in Vancouver, Wash. will no longer be walking in his graduation on Saturday, after accusing the administration of ignoring bullying and sexual assault allegedly taking place at school.
Charles Chandler was giving a speech in front of students and families of Heritage High School during a ceremony on Wednesday when he went off script and made some controversial comments against the administration.
“And to you, underclassmen,” Chandler is heard saying toward the end of his speech, “who have to endure all the things the school throw at you for two to three more years. A school where the administration closes their eyes to everything that happens in the school. Their school. The sexual assault, the bullying, the depression, the outcasts. And they do nothing to fix it.”
Through surprised reactions heard throughout the crowd, Chandler continued to say that if the school does take notice of these incidents, “they take the side of the accused and not the victim,” before the audience ultimately erupted in cheers.
Despite the seemingly audible agreement of his peers, Heritage High School Principal Derek Garrison says that Chandler’s comments weren’t truthful.
“His comments were full of inaccuracies, inflammatory statements and hurtful accusations,” the principal’s letter, obtained by Yahoo Lifestyle, reads. “Administrators called the student in to explain why spreading rumors and inaccurate information was extremely problematic.”
Chandler didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. However, he maintained that the school hadn’t addressed people’s complaints about sexual assault and bullying when he spoke with Portland outlet KATU.
“I've been going to this school for four years, and I've seen these problems, and I've seen nothing done about them,” he said. “I felt like it was a great place to bring it to light.”
The principal’s letter also stated that administrators offered Chandler the opportunity to participate in a “restorative solution,” or face disciplinary action that included not walking at graduation. She said that the student chose the latter.
Now students are rallying around Chandler and speaking out on social media. Many have expressed their support for him with the hashtag #LetCharlesWalk.
Some students are even planning on participating in a walkout on Friday morning and have encouraged their classmates to share their personal stories of sexual assault or bullying.
“We won’t be silenced,” one student wrote on Instagram.
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