'Culture of sexual violence': Mom speaks out after student allegedly sexually assaulted at school

A group of students have planned a walkout Thursday afternoon during school

Thursday, November 3, 2022
Mom speaks out after alleged sexual assault at Homewood-Flossmoor High School; walkout planned
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A mother spoke out and calls on the district to do more after her teen daughter was allegedly sexually assaulted at Homewood-Flossmoor High School

FLOSSMOOR, Ill. (WLS) -- A mother is speaking out, voicing her frustration after an alleged assault inside a suburban high school.

The woman's daughter said she was sexually assaulted over the course of 20 minutes by a classmate during a morning theater class at Homewood-Flossmoor High School earlier this week.

Now, the teen's mother claims the school mishandled the incident and needs to do more to keep students safe.

The girl's mother spoke out publicly for the first time Wednesday. She asked ABC7 to withhold her last name to protect her daughter's privacy, but she also said she felt it was important for her to speak out on an issue she believes the school district has a history of mishandling.

"This is bigger than my daughter now. This is a wakeup call to the district to acknowledge that there is a problem here," said Jennifer Doe.

Speaking alongside her attorneys, Jennifer "Doe," as she asked to be referred to, said her 17-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted Monday morning at Homewood Flossmoor High School by a fellow student.

"She's having a hard time coping with all of this. She's traumatized. She's on several medications. So of course, there is a physical aspect to all of this," she said.

She is speaking out because, while both the school district and the police department acknowledge that a sexual assault was reported Monday, she said their letter to parents was misleading.

In the letter, District 233 said it is aware of an alleged assault at Homewood-Flossmoor High School involving two students on campus Monday morning.

"While we cannot share specifics about the situation due to the ongoing investigation and confidentiality of the minors, we are communicating with students and families the information we can. We will provide additional information as the situation develops," administrators wrote, in part. "The safety and security of our students and staff is paramount. We are committed to following safety protocols and appreciate the patience of our school community. We are all feeling a variety of emotions, including shock, sadness, and anger."

However, she pointed specifically to a portion that said: "We can clarify that the alleged assault did not take place in a classroom...Students were working in small breakout groups within the theater department."

"It was during class, in a room where they sent two students of the opposite sex to do an assignment and based on previous issues, they don't have a camera in these rooms, there was no adult who popped their head in at any moment to follow up. That's unacceptable," Jennifer said.

Attorney's also pointed to a walkout, organized by students in March of this year, to protest the school's handling surrounding issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

RELATED: Homewood-Flossmoor HS students walk out of class after blackface photo, video

"The school, we believe, has had knowledge of a culture of sexual violence that has chosen not to break that cycle," said Jennifer's attorney, Stephanie White.

That same letter from the school district said: "Care is taken to ensure that the legal rights of all students are respected, along with their emotional and physical needs. We are fully cooperating with law enforcement officials relating to their investigation."

Police said the student alleged to have committed the assault is a minor and was released into the custody of his father after being interviewed as the investigation continues.

Some students who did not want to be identified said they're surprised about the allegations and hope to learn more.

"Unfortunately, I don't know because you never know what could take place and what can't take place. In this world, you might not ever know," one student said.

Another had concerns about the incident.

"It could've happened, but, me personally, I do not know at all," the student said. "It is most definitely frustrating because you never know. It could happen again, or it could've happened multiple times and nobody could've said anything."

School district officials said they held a student forum attended by about 85 students after school Tuesday to discuss their concerns and potential solutions. Officials said the meeting was largely held in smaller groups led by social workers, school counselors and school psychologists.

The superintendent and the principal are telling students to contact their social worker or school counselor if they need support.

School officials also shared information about protocols, saying "in terms of our process, all allegations of sexual assault are reported to the parents/guardians of the students and local law enforcement officials."

Administrators said they followed proper protocols Monday, including immediately contacting police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. But the mother said her daughter was not immediately taken to a hospital, and was left in a room alone for four hours before family was allowed to see her.

Despite the forum, a group of students at the high school said they are planning a walkout Thursday at 1 p.m.

School officials released a statement following the mother's press conference Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, not all of the information shared at the press conference held by one of the student's attorneys this afternoon is accurate. As a public school system, we are required to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of matters relating to the students we serve. This is a responsibility that we take seriously.

We can confirm that the school district reviewed the steps taken on Monday, October 31, 2022, when the situation came to light. We can assure our community that HF staff members responded immediately and that all students involved, including their parents and guardians, were treated with compassion and respect by school staff at all times.

As soon as we were informed of the allegation, the parents/guardians of the students involved and the police were contacted immediately. School staff followed all relevant school and legal protocols. Our staff members are trained to address and respond to crisis situations such as this. We have also implemented numerous supportive measures for the students involved and there has been that little or no disruption to the school day for our students.

Again, we encourage our students and their parents/guardians to share any information about the incident by contacting the Flossmoor Police Department at 708-957-4500. If they have any other questions or concerns they can contact the school directly at 708-799-3000."