The Liberal Democrats have written to Councillor Kaushika Amin, Haringey Council's Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families, in response to an open letter to governors at Highgate School from female students and alumni. The letter was regarding the school's rape culture and systemic inadequacies when dealing with victims of sexual assault.
Following a walkout of female pupils in protest at the abuse culture on 25th March, Cllr Liz Morris (LD-Highgate), said:
“What these girls have gone through is horrific and I applaud their true bravery in speaking out. It is hard to fathom how the school’s staff missed so many opportunities to properly support these girls and deal appropriately with the perpetrators. Tragically we know from Everyone’s Invited that Highgate School is not an isolated case and that this rape culture, and failure to address it, is not unique to London, but is a UK-wide issue.
“A whole new approach is needed, and we will therefore be writing to Haringey Council to ask them to engage with and encourage schools to carry out full reviews of procedures and support when victims of sexual abuse come forward - and to ensure that everything possible is being done to eradicate rape culture in our schools.”
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Councillor Amin,
We are writing to you following the shocking allegations that have emerged from Highgate School in recent days. I’m sure you agree that what these women and girls have gone through is horrific, and councillors will applaud their bravery in speaking out.
It is hard to fathom how the school’s staff missed so many opportunities to properly support these girls and deal appropriately with the perpetrators. However, we know from the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ campaign that this is not an isolated case.
A whole new approach is needed in how to tackle rape culture in our schools; from the constant low-level harassment of schoolgirls by their peers through to serious sexual offences such as those highlighted at Highgate School. However difficult it is to deal with these issues, we are sure you will agree that girls need to be assured that their allegations will be taken seriously, that they will get the support that they need and that perpetrators will be appropriately dealt with.
We believe that the council should show strong leadership and work with all the schools in our borough, including faith schools and academies, to support full reviews of how they deal with rape culture from misogyny and sexual harassment through to all levels of sexual abuse against girls. The council should produce a full set of recommendations to tackle these issues.
We note and welcome that Highgate School have appointed The Right Honourable Dame Anne Rafferty to lead an independent review of the issues raised by the testimonies.
We also believe there needs to be a full review of sexual education programmes in our schools, again with the council producing recommendations of what further education is needed to improve boys’ behaviour and to keep girls safe. These recommendations must come together with support and education for parents to help them speak about these issues with their sons and daughters.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Councillor Sakina Chenot and Councillor Liz Morris