North Andover school safety meeting focuses on sexual assault policy

NORTH ANDOVER, MASS. (WHDH) – After staging a walkout last week, dozens of North Andover students and parents voiced their concerns about the district’s sexual assault policy at a school safety meeting Thursday night.

Superintendent Greg Gilligan discussed changes to the policy including an independent review of how the school deals with incidents of sexual assault.

The meeting comes after Eli Tuttle, 18, who students say was a senior at North Andover High, was arrested in New Hampshire and charged with rape.

Court paperwork alleges that in February, Tuttle took a teenager to International House of Pancakes in Salem, New Hampshire for a date, but instead of going into the restaurant, he allegedly pulled her into the back seat of the car, choked her, and raped her.

Speaking directly to the school’s top administrators, the teen who says she was assaulted shared her harrowing experience.

“Imagine being in my shoes, waking up with constant anxiety every morning. Knowing that I was going to go and make my best effort to get an education while facing my perpetrator,” she said.

The student said that the environment became so hostile that she had to transfer to night school.

Concerns over “school safety plans” that at least one student was forced to sign, also dominated the conversation.

The agreement states that she had to avoid any contact with the student she accused, stay away from the school’s main hallway and gym and report any conduct to staff under penalty of discipline.

“I felt like I was being punished for what my perpetrator did to me,” the student said in her testimony. “I couldn’t go anywhere in this school without administrators watching me.”

The girl’s grandmother got up and said, “She was made a prisoner when she came to school every day.”

Many who spoke at the meeting felt that the district could do more to ensure their safety.

“I want to get follow-ups of everything that is going to happen,” student Ava Gilbord said.

“We are proud of our measures so far,” said Lexi Regan. “But I think we will find out in the future if this was a good or bad meeting by what policies are put in place and what changes are made.”

Gilligan says the independent review should be completed within the next few weeks.

Students say they will keep pushing for change and begin meeting with local lawmakers.

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