Heritage High School senior blasts administrators in speech, faces discipline

Charles Chandler said the school had refused to address bullying and sexual assault complaints at the Evergreen School District school

6/6/19 2:00 p.m – This story has been updated to include a letter from the principal of Heritage High School and other new details.

VANCOUVER — Students at Heritage High School in the Evergreen School District are planning a walkout at lunchtime on Friday in protest of how the district is handling controversial comments from a graduating senior.

A screenshot of a video posted to YouTube of a speech by Heritage High School Senior Charles Chandler.
A screenshot of a video posted to YouTube of a speech by Heritage High School Senior Charles Chandler.

In a letter sent to parents by Heritage High Principal Derek Garrison, the school explained that graduating senior Charles Chandler had deviated from pre-approved comments and began speaking of “perceived negative aspects of the school.”

“You will walk through these halls and get called ‘stupid, ugly, an idiot, a piece of crap’ and so many, many more insults,” Chandler says in a video of the speech posted to YouTube. “You will also get told you are too tall, too short, too wide, too skinny, too smart, too dumb, too different.”

Chandler then drew gasps from the crowd when he targeted the high school’s administration for failing to address problems with bullying and sexual assault on campus.

“To you underclassmen, who have to endure all the things the school throws at you for two or three more years,” Chandler said, “a school where the administration closes their eyes to everything that happens at the school. Their school. The sexual assault, the bullying, the depression, the outcasts. They do nothing to fix it. They just cast it aside like it’s nothing. Or if they do take notice, they take the side of the accused and not the victim.”

Those comments were met with a round of cheering from many of the students in the audience, who had looked confused moments before.

Garrison’s letter to parents alleges Chandler’s speech contained “many inaccuracies, inflammatory statements and unsubstantiated accusations.”

Garrison says Chandler was brought in to speak with school administrators who explained that spreading rumors and “inaccurate information” was “extremely problematic.”

“We met with him at great length, discussing several options for a restorative resolution,” Garrison’s letter reads, “or as a final option, if the student didn’t want to work towards a resolution, disciplinary options would be undertaken (per school district policy) that could include not walking at the upcoming graduation ceremony. After considering the options, he (Chandler) opted to not participate in graduation.”

Garrison adds that the meeting with Chandler was followed by a conversation with his parents, who came to speak with administrators. Following that, an Instagram account linked to Chandler said Garrison told his dad “if girls can’t handle a few touches and gropings from boys being boys then they need to grow up.”

Garrison calls the quote “blatantly false” and “a statement I whole-heartedly, categorically and emphatically refute.”

Click to view PDF.

“Even when people speak about very real and serious problems in the world in which we live, if they add untruths about other people, including students and staff, it can be considered harassment and bullying,” Garrison’s letter continues. “When untruthful comments are made in public forums, such as hallways, classrooms or assemblies, we need to be mindful of their potential effect on others, and have a duty to protect them.”

Garrison adds that Heritage High staff are dedicated to ensuring the “physical and emotional safety of our students.”

The district also released further details about how complaints of bullying and sexual harassment are handled:

“As to the reporting of incidents and school follow-up, here is the process as per district policy 3207 (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying). These reports are investigated thoroughly and reviewed by a number of different people. The school and district did investigate these incidents fully and completely immediately after they were reported. The statements made during yesterday’s speech are not reflective of what the investigations found. Due to confidentiality and privacy policies, the district cannot provide information on what actions taken with individual students may or may not have resulted due to the investigation.”

Chandler’s speech has prompted plenty of online backlash. As of this morning the YouTube video had been viewed over 250,000 times, with the hashtag #letcharleswalk trending on Twitter and Instagram. A Change.org petition has already drawn nearly 800 signatures with a goal of 1,000, and a Reddit thread that, as of this publication, had garnered over 2,000 comments, many sharing similar experiences with bullying and harassment being disregarded by administrators at Heritage, as well as other schools. Students say they are planning a walkout at 11:38 a.m. on Friday in support of Chandler.

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