Student Journalist Reporting: Sexual Assault in Bethesda School Dance

After the report, the school elected to cancel the event, called “Vike-A-Thon”.

BETHESDA, Md. — An op-ed piece by a student journalist at a Bethesda high school has inspired change on campus after the report uncovered a number of allegations that a school event perpetuated a “toxic atmosphere … conducive to sexual abuse”.

The story, published in the school publication “The Black and White” by Walt Whitman High School 11th grader Eliana Joftus, details allegations of underage sexual assault and substance use at an annual school dance, called “Vike-A-Thon”.

Click here to read the original student report in full.

According to the report, the event has taken place at the school for the past 10 years. Now, following allegations published in The Black and White, school officials have decided to cancel this year’s dance.

The event is described as any typical school dance, where students gather in a dark gym with loud music and bright lights. The report clarifies that it is a “rave-style fundraising event”.

However, the piece goes on to state that the dance is known to students for its emphasis on scoring casual encounters with as many peers as possible and that the event has traditionally been plagued by drug and alcohol use among students. . The report, which sticks to attributing quotes to students by first name, details the experiences of various young women who have been grabbed, pressured and assaulted.

The story includes quotes from the school’s principal, Robert Dodd, who says no student reported to him about sexual misconduct at the event, according to the report.

The story also suggests that for the amount of money the event brings in for the school, there might be some hesitation in scrapping it, saying that in February 2020, sales brought in $24,000.

“The Vike-A-Thon, some say, is making too much money to be worth canceling,” the opinion piece reads. “But Whitman’s management’s job is to keep students safe, and no amount of money is enough to make rampant abuse on school grounds acceptable.”

Following allegations made in the article, the school sent a letter to the community explaining why this year’s event would be cancelled.

“We have come to the conclusion that it would be inappropriate to hold this event in light of these serious concerns,” reads the letter from Principal Dodd, who adds that he will work with officials from the Central Schools Office. Montgomery County public authorities and, if necessary, the county police department to conduct investigations.

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“We urge students to immediately share any information about unsafe behavior or serious incidents with school administrators so that we can safeguard the well-being of our students and the school community,” the letter reads. Resources regarding bullying, harassment and inappropriate behavior have also been included for students who may need them.

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