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'We want change': Mentor High School students host walkout to protest bullying, racism and more

At one point, the school's principal joined the students to address their concerns.

MENTOR, Ohio — Hundreds of students from Mentor High School gathered for a walkout Monday morning to protest bullying, racism and more.

During the walkout, students shared personal stories of racism, bullying and sexual assault.

A large number of students joined outside with signs. The signs included slogans on them such as “Don’t deny the truth” and “Fire all homophobic teachers/coaches.”

Using a megaphone to communicate with the large group, students lined up to tell their own stories and experiences. One of the main messages conveyed was that it is time for the school to believe them.

We streamed more than 90 minutes of Monday’s walkout and protest, which you can watch in the player below:

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In the middle of the walkout, students began chanting “we want change.”

Toward the end of the protest, Mentor High School Principal Jason Crowe stepped up to the megaphone to address their concerns.

“Standing here today, I am part of the majority in this building as a 38-year-old white male,” Crowe said. “I do not understand what you deal with when you walk into the building every day and what you have to go through.”

He said their concerns will be heard.

“We are going to follow up on each and every story that happened today,” he said.

As Crowe finished up his statements, he also expressed his sympathy for students who shared their experiences today.

“I am so sorry that any of you had to experience any form of what you spoke about today. We want to understand better what our students are going through.”

The Mentor district later sent an email to parents regarding today's events. It read:

"Providing a safe learning environment where students can grow academically, socially and emotionally is our number one priority in Mentor Schools. We are striving to cultivate an environment where each student feels valued and safe in school. Our team heard the concerns and accusations that were shared by students as approximately 150 students formed a peaceful protest outside of the high school this morning. The high school administrative team will follow up with students to address the serious concerns they shared with us today.  

"We understand our students' right to protest peacefully, but we do not support the idea of students walking out of school to do so. We would like to continue this conversation with our students in a productive manner. We do take all reports of bullying, assault, harassment, and racism extremely seriously and all reports are thoroughly investigated by our team. We believe the majority of our students make good choices and treat others respectfully, but at times some students make poor decisions. When this occurs, appropriate disciplinary action is taken and necessary support services are put in place for our students, though that information cannot be shared publicly due to student privacy laws. Often when we are investigating accusations, the Mentor Police Department and/or Lake County Job and Family Services are involved. If an offense rises to a criminal level, along with school discipline, students may face criminal charges through the Mentor Police, which is handled through the court system. 

"Rather than walking out, we encourage students to work with us to promote positive change in our school. Our doors are always open to students, staff and parents. Please join us in continuing to encourage children to report their concerns to a trusted adult so we can address them quickly. We also have anonymous reporting sources available as well via our 24/7 crisis hotline at 974-HOME or through Securly for students. We can assure you the safety of our students is our number one priority here at Mentor High School. 

"Thank you for your continued support."

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