The Harbinger Online

Students Wear Black to Support Reported Sexual Assault Victim

A group of IB seniors has asked the East senior class and student body to wear black tomorrow in response to a KC Star article and KSHB reporter Lisa Benson’s tweets that state that a sexual assault was reported at East last week. This move will show support for all sexual assault victims.

Senior Katie Kuhlman was part of the initial group that wanted to show some sign of compassion for victims.

“What can the East community do to show our support for the victim?” Kuhlman said. “We decided that we wanted to make an easier, more universal statement that the rest of the student body could join with us. We thought that if we dressed in black it would be almost a sense of mourning.”

The message to wear black was disseminated via the Facebook group that the current seniors have.

Principal John McKinney said that a statement was sent out to parents and students tonight.

“I did send out a statement to parents reminding them not to be misled by rumors or misinformation or hearsay,” McKinney said. “If there is anything even remotely close to what is being perpetuated by media, anxious for clicks and viewers, they would hear from me.”

Because of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), the administration is not allowed to release any information.

“We are in the position where we have to respect the privacy of the minors under our care,” McKinney said. “We would not share information about you or any other student with the media or any other parent. That puts us in a position where what we could tell you would explain a great deal and clarify many of the questions and concerns the parents have. However, because of FERPA, we respect our students’ privacy and family’s privacy and are not legally or morally in a position to share private information concerning minor students with others.”

Kuhlman was also upset that no information or universal statement of reassurance was released by the administration directly after they initially learned about the event, which occurred sometime last week, according to the KC Star. Their article was released at 3:08 p.m. today.

“I know the administration can’t legally release details,” Kuhlman said. “All I wanted was just something to show that they want to make East a safe environment and that they would work to support and help any student who feels otherwise.”

According to McKinney, the administration immediately addressed the situation and worked with students and families involved. In order to allow the investigation to take place, they didn’t feel it was appropriate to make a statement at that time.

“For their privacy, we don’t make a statement that we send to every single parent at that stage in the process,” McKinney said. “What we have to do is allow the investigation and the process to take place, and that’s out of respect for the privacy of the student involved.  And that’s so that we don’t in any way alter the course of the investigation. ”

McKinney isn’t sure if wearing black to support sexual assault victims will help or hurt.

“I’m torn because I want students to stand up for what they believe in, and I want them to support one another,” McKinney said. “But I don’t want them to do that at the expense of a student who may not want that attention.”

But on the topic of sexual assault, McKinney stands firm.

“As a father, as a parent of a daughter in this building, I am very supportive of efforts to educate all people on the atrocity that is sexual assault,” McKinney said. “There is nothing in my mind more egregious than taking unfair advantage of something against their will.”



9/20/16 at 11:00 p.m.

The email that McKinney had posted via Skyward did not get sent out. He tweeted the message out instead. One message was directed towards the student body, and the other towards parents. The one for parents read:

Parents & Guardians,

This is a formal statement to address a story being reported by local media about SME. I want to assure you that there is nothing more important to the Shawnee Mission School District and Shawnee Mission East than the safety of our students. The SME administration takes the safety, well-being and privacy of every student very seriously. You can trust that anything or anyone that jeopardizes the physical or emotional well-being of a student will be swiftly addressed and appropriate actions taken. That always has been and always will be the case. We take the trust that you have in our school and staff very seriously. Please also understand that the story the media is perpetuating involves minors – legally, neither the school nor the district are at liberty to share specific information about students or ongoing investigations. This obviously puts us at a disadvantage against rumors, hearsay, conjecture and misinformation. But, again, we are committed to maintaining the safety and the privacy of our students, even when doing so casts a questioning light on our efforts. We ask for your continued trust and support as we balance the education and privacy of our students with the media’s seeming insatiable need for information.

If your son or daughter would like to meet with a counselor, social worker or administrator, please ask them to come by the administrative or counseling office tomorrow. We will see anyone who comes in. Thank you,

John McKinney

The message to students read:

Students of SME,

It is not often that I email you, but I received an email that contained such misinformation and untruths that I thought it was important to respond. If an occurrence being described on many media outlets, and now unfortunately believed and spread by our very own students, occurred on the SME campus, you would not need to hear about it on the news. You would hear about it from me. Administrators and teachers are required by law to maintain the privacy of all students. Unfortunately, this puts us in a difficult position as we are not able to outwardly refute rumors, misinformation or false claims made by others – including news sources. That is where trust comes in – the trust we have developed over many years of working with you, the students of Shawnee Mission East. It is my hope that you will trust that this administration would never do anything to put the safety of our students at risk. You can trust that anything or anyone that jeopardizes the physical or emotional well-being of a student will be swiftly addressed and appropriate actions taken. That has and always will be the case.

So, yes, wear black tomorrow. Support, educate and empower your fellow students. But don’t do it in the name of lies or hearsay. That only detracts from the powerful and important message you’re so ardently trying to convey.

If you have questions or concerns, please come see me. My office door always has been and always will be open.

Mr. McKinney

McKinney then tweeted that he would be in the SME auditorium tomorrow morning, Sept. 21, at 7 a.m. He also said he would be available throughout the day for individual meetings.


9/21/16 at 6:05 p.m.

Schools all over the KC Metro have joined in on the effort to #wearblacktostopattacks. At least 18 other schools were either reported to the Harbinger for participating or expressed their participation over Twitter, including one in Colorado and one in North Carolina.   

East’s rival school, Shawnee Mission South, took the message and ran with it. South senior Megan Gunter heard about the movement from her East friends and passed it along to her student body president.

“I was like, ‘hey we should we really try to get the word out about this,’” Gunter said. “And so it was instantly on Twitter, and everyone just started spreading the word by putting it in sports group chats and others that were big like that.”

Gunter estimated that about 100 students wore black at South.

“I feel like if you didn’t know about it going into school, you knew about it coming out,” Gunter said.

At East, the movement spread through practically the entire school.

“I couldn’t give an exact number, but I doubt more than 200 people at East weren’t wearing black,” senior Katie Kuhlman, who helped come up with the idea, said.

According to her, the solidarity truly helped to show unnamed victims the size of their support system.

“I think the sheer number of black shirts in the halls shows how well East responded to the movement,” Kuhlman said.

Schools who participated in the movement include:


Shawnee Mission East

Shawnee Mission South

Washburn University

Mill Valley High School

Blue Valley West

Shawnee Mission Northwest

Blue Valley Northwest

Olathe Northwest

Dodge City High School

Shawnee Mission West

Shawnee Mission North

Blue Valley North

Olathe East



Notre Dame de Sion

St. Teresa’s Academy

Pembroke Hill School


Cherokee Trail High School, Colorado

North Carolina

North Carolina State University


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