PORTLAND, Maine — The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine on Monday asked a U.S. District Court judge to issue a restraining order to stop Cape Elizabeth schools from suspending a sophomore who posted a sticky note in a school bathroom reading, "There's a rapist in our school and you know who it is."
Aela Mansmann, who posted the sticky note, did not attend the hearing because she was in school.
Mansmann was suspended on Oct. 4 after posting the note.
"It makes me angry that I'm being punished for bullying and a rapist isn't being punished for raping people," Mansmann told NEWS CENTER Maine. "I felt this was important -- that this was common knowledge."
Mansmann said allegations of sexual assaults have occurred for years and the administration hasn't listened to the allegations. She said she posted the notes because she and other students don't feel safe at school.
"On a day-to-day level we don't feel believed," she said. "We don't feel supported."
But Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said that afternoon that students should have voiced their concerns "through the proper channels," and that the sticky notes "caused a lot of confusion and "had adverse effects on other students."
She said the school was taking all proper steps to ensure that students feel safe, and that she was confident students are in no danger.
On Monday, ACLU attorney Emma Bond told U.S. District Court Judge Lance E. Walker that Mansmann was engaging in political speech and protesting how the schools had investigated claims of sexual assault, executive director Alison Beyea said.
"We argued that the school really mishandled the entire case," Beyea told NEWS CENTER Maine. "[A.M.] had been advocating and criticizing the school for months for its failure to handle sexual assault claims, and they punished her for that."
But Portland attorney Melissa Hewey, who represents the Cape Elizabeth School Department, said school administrators saw the note as a "threat" not unlike bomb threats posted in school bathrooms.
"School safety is the most important thing for all school administrators," Hewey told NEWS CENTER Maine. "This was a threat, essentially, that there was a rapist in the school, so the school took the action it needed to ensure the school was safe. That's not protected speech. This is posted in the student's bathroom. Although they're now trying to characterize that as a suggestion the administration isn't doing enough ... it seems to me, and it seemed to the administration, that this was an obvious attempt to instill fear in the school."
Walker said he hoped to rule on the case by week's end. Hewey said that if he denies the restraining order, Mansmann's three-day suspension would begin immediately.
Beyea said no decision would be made about potential further court action until a ruling is issued.