A 15-year-old high school student was suspended for bullying after posting a rape-awareness note in her school bathroom. Aela Mansmann, a sophomore at Cape Elizabeth High School, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, thought the note would draw attention to her school’s unaddressed problem of sexual assault involving students. However, the school saw it as a form of bullying.
Last fall, Mansmann took the school district to court with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maine. After nearly a year of legal battles, Mansmann, now 16, and the Cape Elizabeth School Department agreed to end the lawsuit.
The note read: “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.” Her note was joined by those of two other students, both of whom were also suspended. The trio had first reported sexual abuse allegations to the Cape Elizabeth School Board last June but were reportedly left unheard. As a result, the three began the note campaign to spread awareness.
“It was really addressing the general culture of our school, and keeping in mind several specific cases,” Mansmann told Buzzfeed News. “But there are so many it’s hard to pinpoint just one and advocate for just one of them.”
This week, the Associated Press reported that Mansmann filed a motion to settle the lawsuit. The school agreed to remove any record of her suspension.
The Beginning of the Lawsuit
The ACLU is taking on her case and calling on the federal court to stop her ordered suspension. They asked for a temporary restraining order against the district and the hearing will take place on Monday. In the filing, the ACLU wrote that Mansmann took a “public stance as an ally for victims and survivors of sexual violence.”
School board officials have yet to comment on the case; however, the school’s principal, Jeffrey Shedd, addressed the community through a letter. He wrote that a male student claimed to be the subject of the notes and now feels unsafe at school — making the school recognize the notes as a form of bullying. You can read the full letter here.
In the latest case update, the court found the school did not show that Mansmann’s note bullied any particular student, AP reports.
According to Mansmann, this suspension will not stop her future activism. “I think anyone that has experienced any sort of sexual violence or harassment is especially vulnerable when they are going through their healing process, and to have an ally who is willing to advocate for that, I think is crucial and beneficial,” she stated in a news interview.
Mansmann’s suspension will be held off until the hearing, but the status of the other students remains unclear.