A Maine teenager posted a note in the girls’ bathroom warning her classmates that there was a rapist in her school, only to find herself suspended for bullying, BBC News reports. A judge has temporarily allowed her back to school, and her family’s lawsuit against the school district is pending.
Back on September 16, Aela Mansmann, 15, walked into the girls’ restroom at Cape Elizabeth high school and posted two handwritten notes.
“There’s a rapist in the school and you know who it is.”
Another girl saw the notes and was concerned, so she brought them to school officials. Using security camera footage, school officials identified Mansmann as the writer of the notes. Mansmann has never denied writing them.
School officials say that a male student felt as if the notes were about him, and indeed, he says that the notes caused him to be ostracized by his classmates. However, Aela says that her note was not about any one person, but rather, she was just trying to simply draw attention to the issue of sexual assault in high schools. What’s more, she said that she wanted her female peers to feel safe at school.
“All my daughter ever wanted was for students to feel safe speaking out about sexual assault,” said her mother, Shael Norris.
— Cape Elizabeth High School (@Cape_HS) September 13, 2019
Similarly, Aela herself tells Teen Vogue that her school fostered a culture where sexual assault of girls was swept under the rug.
“After the initial article came out about that I posted the first note, a lot of students had reached out to me saying, ‘This happened to me too, thank you for speaking up,'” she said.
School officials, however, saw the matter in an entirely different light. They accused Aela of bullying, and she and two other girls were suspended.
Reaction To The Reaction
Aela’s suspension prompted an estimated 50 of the 500 or so students in the school to walk out of class.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took up her case, filing a lawsuit on her behalf. The suit alleged that her First Amendment rights to free speech were violated.
On Thursday, a judge agreed with Aela and her legal counsel, saying that the school’s suspension was a violation of her Constitutional rights, and temporarily allowed her back to school. The judge also noted that her suspension would likely be completely overturned.
Further, Judge Lance Walker noted that students have the right to feel safe in knowing that if they express their concerns, they won’t be punished for it.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by Aela’s family against the school district is still pending.