Female students at Nash County Central High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, reported being harassed online from various anonymous social media accounts.
During a girls-only assembly, school administrators blamed the students for dressing inappropriately and told them not to report the threats, according to an audio recording. “Let me tell you something,” one administrator said. “If you don’t have proof of who’s writing it, don’t come to us. Because we don’t have proof.”
The school’s principal, Victor Ward, said they intended to send a different message to the students, according to a letter to parents that noted: “Our school leadership team held the assembly to proactively address their concerns and give them a safe space to talk about it with each other and school personnel.”
However, as outlined by the administrators, students should rethink their outfit choices. “No skin on your stomach should be showing,” one administrator said. “Save the showing of your bodies for later,” said another. “Because you’ll be the same one that comes to me talking about, ‘Look what they put on the central page.'”
Ward also addressed the school dress code in the letter, saying the expectation was set at the start of the school year. “All students and parents must sign and acknowledge the district handbook, including the dress code policy,” the letter states. “Despite sharing this information several weeks ago, it was necessary to bring it up during these assemblies; especially since many of these social media posts draw attention to the attire our students choose to wear.”
In an interview with WRAL, one parent said the school was placing the blame on the girls rather than holding the boys accountable. “I’m livid,” he said. “When I send my daughter out of the house, to the school, I expect that the school is going to do their utmost to not just protect her physically, but protect her emotionally.”
Ward issued a second letter to parents after the incident, apologizing for how it was handled. In it, he said he “understand[s] if the tone and choice of some of the words make your child feel unheard or if we were placing some sort of blame on your student. That was not our intent. We want to empower all of our students to make good choices and to let them know they are in control of those decisions. The entire event could have been handled differently.”
Ward said he would be present for all future student assemblies.