HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Students at Holyoke High School walked out of class on Friday as a demonstration while police investigate a report of sexual assault.
Holyoke Police Captain Matthew Moriarty told 22News the department is investigating the allegations involving two Holyoke High School students and the inappropriate encounter between them. Electronic evidence has been turned over to the Massachusetts State Police.
The school issued a statement earlier this week, saying they are aware of the allegations and are cooperating with the police.
Statement regarding the student protest at Holyoke High School
“Student safety and well-being is of the utmost importance at Holyoke Public Schools. We respect our students’ rights to protest and encourage civic participation. We also stand against all forms of assault and stand alongside survivors.
But we also have a responsibility to educate all students and encourage our students to return to class to continue learning. Students who concluded protesting prior to 12:30 p.m. had already returned safely to class, and all other protesting students were encouraged and expected to return to school next week. Staff remained with students who continued protesting to ensure their safety.
The protests are in response to an alleged incident last month. Once school staff was notified of the alleged incident, Holyoke High School staff contacted Holyoke Police, HPS leaders, counselors, and impacted students and families. Holyoke High School and Holyoke Public Schools are cooperating with the police department in the investigation. We are required to respect the confidentiality that accompanies the investigation, especially one that involves juveniles. Any updates on the investigation will come from Holyoke Police and all media inquiries about the investigation will be directed to their department.
We value student voice. Holyoke High School staff is holding listening sessions with students Friday to provide a safe space for students to share their thoughts and concerns. We will continue to work with students and families to support them during this difficult time. Counseling services are also available through our schools for those who need it.”Holyoke Public Schools
22News asked the organizer of the protest, who went to school in Holyoke, what they were hoping to achieve through this event, and she said she’s happy that students are united. The student told 22News, “I was hoping for everything that is happening. I am happy that the students have spoken up. I am happy that the students are united.”
This demonstration comes days after school officials confirmed they were investigating the alleged sexual assault of a student at the high school. Holyoke Police also announced on Friday they were investigating a separate complaint made by three girls on October 5 about “inappropriate conduct” against a paraprofessional at the school. The staff member was advised he is barred from school property.