NORTH ANDOVER (CBS) – About 500 students walked out of the classroom Wednesday morning to protest North Andover High School’s handling of an alleged rape case.
They left the building at 10 a.m. to demand a change in how the school handles allegations of sexual assault after a student was arrested last week and charged with rape. They stood in a circle and decorated a courtyard with blue ribbons, the symbol of sex assault awareness.
Organizers say this has been brewing ever since 18-year-old Eliezer Tuttle, a North Andover student, was arrested for allegedly raping a girl in New Hampshire last month.
Court documents related to that case say that Tuttle has been accused of sexual assault in the past. North Andover police provided four reports of Tuttle’s alleged sex crimes to New Hampshire police.
Students say some of those victims go to North Andover High and they did not receive enough protection from the school.
WBZ-TV’s Louisa Moller spoke with the mother of one of the alleged victims. “She kept saying, ‘I have to go, I have to go.’ And, he didn’t hear her. And he didn’t stop,” the teenager’s mother said.
She says her daughter continues to suffer two years after she claims, she was raped by Eliezer Tuttle at just 15-years-old.
“Her soul was fractured into a million pieces and she fell apart,” the mother said.
The two were both North Andover High School students at the time. She says her daughter felt she needed to leave, after the school asked her to alter her behavior to avoid Tuttle in the halls.
“She can stay up there. We’ll get her school work to her. We can have someone escort her to the bathroom if she needs to go so she’s never alone,” the mother explained. “I’m like wow, that sounds kind of punitive.”
The district attorney ultimately did not prosecute the case, she says because investigators deemed her daughter too fragile to testify.
On Wednesday, an estimated 500 students walked out, demanding changes in how North Andover handles sexual assault allegations, after it was revealed that Tuttle has been accused of several sex crimes. The latest, the rape of a teenage girl in a New Hampshire IHOP parking lot last month.
“It just hasn’t been handled right. We just really want to make a change to that and put a stop to the way the administration treats these issues,” said Ava Gilboard, the walkout organizer.
More outrageous, attorney Wendy Murphy says, is the revelation that the school asked one victim, her client, to sign a contract asking her to stay away from Tuttle. All while he continued to participate in school sports. Murphy represents the victim who also got a restraining order against Tuttle.
“It’s outrageous. It’s absolutely illegal, unconscionable. It violates my client’s civil rights. It violates my client’s constitutional rights,” Murphy said.
Murphy says the school order has now been rescinded and Tuttle is being held without bail in New Hampshire. North Andover’s superintendent sent a letter saying that due to privacy laws he can’t comment specifically, but that Massachusetts law prevents schools from punishing students who have not been charged with a felony.
The superintendent has not confirmed that any student was asked to sign a contract, only saying that any crime reported to school staff has been reported to police.