East High principal apologizes for MMSD security coordinator’s statement on alleged sexual assault

East High principal apologizes for MMSD security coordinator’s statement on alleged sexual assault

Madison East High Principal Michael Hernandez sent a message to the school community and staff Tuesday morning to apologize for a statement made by the district’s safety and security coordinator in a News 3 Now story Monday night about an alleged sexual assault on campus.

Two 15-year-old boys have been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl in the bathroom.

When asked about the security of the building, Joe Balles said there are six security guards in the high school throughout the day, in addition to an educational resource officer during school hours.

The alleged sexual assault happened after school around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Balles said at that time there are usually two security guards on campus.

“Our buildings are full of kids, and kids will be kids. As terrible and tragic as that incident sounds, I would just ask that people just be patient. Our schools are very safe but there are incidents that are going to happen from time to time,” Balles said.

In the apology letter to families, Hernandez said, “Part of trauma sensitive schools is looking at the experiences students and staff have in our building that are traumatic or could trigger trauma responses. This means looking at not only the physical but also emotional safety of our building by providing a range of services for our students.”

.@MadisonEastHS principal is apologizing for something @MMSDschools‘s head of security said on #News3Now last night. I asked about the security during an alleged sexual assault. He said “Our buildings are full of kids, and kids will be kids.” Full quote: https://t.co/ui5IX6hUyG pic.twitter.com/Mqx46X73m6

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) April 16, 2019

Balles has released a statement following the backlash.

“I made an extremely poor word choice in my interview yesterday that does not represent my view or the district’s view,” Balles said. “It is never ok to rationalize, minimize or excuse sexual assault, and there is no excuse for my words, which did not recognize the profoundly deep impact that sexual violence has.”

The Madison Metropolitan School District has also released a statement about Balles’ comments.

.@MMSDschools head of security sent a statement about his words yesterday. The district received backlash after he said “… kids will be kids. As terrible and tragic as that incident sounds, I would just ask that people just be patient” in a story about an alleged sexual assault pic.twitter.com/LDe9FlgUvB

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) April 16, 2019

“There is no place in our schools for sexual violence or comments that minimize sexual assault,” the district said in a statement late Tuesday morning.

The statement said they will work with the Rape Crisis Center to “ensure that students and staff are learning about rape culture, sexual assault and consent and so that students know where to report incidents if they occur.”

Tuesday afternoon the Rape Crisis Center also addressed Balles’ statement, saying the organization was “deeply troubled” by it.

.@RapeCrisisDane: “Statements like the one Balles made to Channel 3, including the phrase “kids will be kids,” perpetuate a culture that facilitates violence, particularly sexual violence, in our communities. It is never acceptable to minimize any form of sexual assault.”

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) April 16, 2019

“Statements like the one Balles made to Channel 3, including the phrase “kids will be kids,” perpetuate a culture that facilitates violence, particularly sexual violence, in our communities. It is never acceptable to minimize any form of sexual assault,” the non-profit said in a statement.

“It really just perpetuated this rape culture that allowed for somebody to be raped on school grounds after school, and that’s what we work every day to counteract,” said Erin Thornley Parisi, the Rape Crisis Center’s executive director.

She said “kids will be kids” is similar to “boys will be boys.”

“When you make a statement like that there is an assumption that boys can not help but be sexually aggressive to girls and that is not the case,” said Thornley Parisi. “The truth is we can stop it, we use very effective prevention methods here working longterm in schools.”

She said consent can be taught and that message is constantly repeated in local school presentations.

Hernandez also said East High is working with the Rape Crisis Center to “problem solve together next steps to provide a safe space for all in our community.”

“There is no excuse for this type of behavior,” said Hernandez.

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