Dulwich College protest over 'rape culture' cancelled
A protest at Dulwich College over the “rape culture” row has been cancelled after students were threatened with disciplinary action by the school and a fine from police.
An organiser of Friday’s protest said he was bitterly disappointed it had been scrapped. He said he “woke up every day feeling shit about going to Dulwich College because it’s not a place that attracts or makes good people”.
A former student of James Allen’s Girls’ school, who also asked to remain anonymous, criticised the pressure students had been put under not to attend the planned protest.
“Dulwich College has for years totally ignored, dismissed and condoned by turning a blind eye, this predatory behaviour by students,” she said. “A protest was students’ only way to pressure the headmaster to actually tackle the sexual violence at his school.”
The march by pupils of several schools was advertised on social media as “a demonstration against the predatory culture of Dulwich College and the school management [which] condones it”.
In an email sent to parents on Thursday, Dr Joe Spence, the head of the £21,246-a-year independent school, said he had told pupils that anyone who attended the march would be fined by the police for breaching lockdown restrictions.
“I made clear [to the children that I] understood that a number of Dulwich pupils wished to express their support for the cause of gender equality and to show solidarity with victims of sexual abuse and harassment,” Spence wrote.
“However, I encouraged them to play their part in addressing these issues by engaging in dialogue with the college leadership team here and through local schools rather than by participating in a protest likely to bring on to the campus and the streets around the college pupils from other schools over whom we have no jurisdiction, with all the health, safety and public order risks that such an event would bring.
“It is also the case that demonstrations of this nature are unlawful whilst social restrictions are in place and the police have told us they will ticket and fine protesters.
In a message to parents earlier this week, Spence told parents he had reported some Dulwich pupils to the police after receiving allegations of sexual harassment after the publication last weekend of an open letter that branded the school “a breeding ground for sexual predators”.
The original letter, published by the Sunday Times, was written by Samuel Schulenburg, 19, and included about 100 anonymous stories from girls who went to schools nearby such as James Allen’s girls’ school (Jags).Protest posters against rape culture are seen outside James Allen’s girls school. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian
The allegations included assault, revenge porn, sexual violence, “slut shaming” and claims that the school has an “established rape culture”.
Public accusations of sexual violence by fellow pupils have also recently been levelled at Westminster, Latymer Upper, King’s College, London Oratory and Highgate schools. At Highgate, pupils walked out of classes on Thursday after the publication of accounts of alleged abuse.
The BBC claims to have seen a dossier of allegations made by more than 200 current and former pupils at Highgate school. The document includes first-hand accounts of alleged abuse as well as claims that rape was “tolerated” by staff.
The anonymous testimonies made in the document were written by pupils in response to the question: “What is your experience of rape culture at Highgate school?”
England’s new children’s commissioner, Rachel de Souza, has said the accusations are “alarming” and schools have clear advice to follow.
“It’s really distressing, and we get lots of testimony like this,” she said. “There is very clear advice on sexual violence and harassment” for schools. “When it is serious it must be escalated to both social care and to the police, and schools need to follow that.”