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ACLU of Maine asks federal court to block suspension of Cape Elizabeth HS student who warned sexual assault at the school

School administrators delayed the suspension pending an October 21 hearing for a temporary restraining order.

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The ACLU of Maine has asked a federal court to block the suspension of a Cape Elizabeth High School student for bullying, after she posted a note in the bathroom about sexual assault at the school.

According to a press release, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine filed a motion on Sunday in U.S. District Court seeking a temporary restraining order to delay the suspension. 

The school agreed to delay the suspension, which was due to begin today, October 15, until the October 21 hearing.

A sophomore at Cape Elizabeth High School told NEWS CENTER Maine on October 4 that she was suspended for bullying after she left sticky notes in two girls' bathrooms reading, "There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.

School officials explained the suspension by saying they are required by law to investigate any time a student bullies another student, and said they are confident in their investigation of the incident.

The sophomore, Aela 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.

RELATED: Student who warned of 'rapist' at Cape Elizabeth High School says she was suspended

Mansmann learned of her suspension hours after NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Donna Wolfrom. Wolfrom said the school is taking all proper steps to ensure that students feel safe. She said she is confident students are in no danger.

"It makes me angry that I'm being punished for bullying and a rapist isn't being punished for raping people," Mansmann said. "I felt this was important -- that this was common knowledge."

RELATED: Cape Elizabeth principal defends school's response to sexual assault allegations saying students who made the claims regret it

Alyson Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement, “The school is punishing A.M. for attempting to talk about an issue of real concern to herself and other students."

"More and more, young people are leading the way and calling on us all to have badly-needed conversations about difficult issues. Instead of trying to silence them, it is our responsibility as adults to give them a safe forum in which to be heard."

"Unfortunately, Cape Elizabeth administrators took a much different tack. The school’s decision to suspend A.M. will have a chilling effect on other students and make them hesitant to speak up about sexual assault, for fear of being punished.”

The ACLU argued the notes left in the girls’ bathrooms by Mansmann and other students did not target a specific student and did not constitute bullying.

They claim the notes are protected by the First Amendment and were meant to start a conversation at the school about sexual assault. 

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. One in five women are sexually assaulted on college campuses, and more than 90 percent of them do not report their assault, according to the NSVRC. Overall, nearly two thirds of sexual assaults go unreported to police.

 

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