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East Village Middle School Students Organize Walkout To Protest Instances Of Sexual Harassment And Assault

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Students at a middle school in the East Village spoke out Monday, saying they've witnessed instances of sexual harassment and assault among their peers, and that the school hasn't done enough to stop the behavior.

"I've seen people be touched inappropriately in and outside of school," a 13-year-old named Bailey told CBS2's Kiran Dhillon.

Bailey and her good friend, Rain, said they are fed up. The eighth graders at Tompkins Square Middle School said sexual assault and harassment are running rampant in their school.

"There's also been a lot of rape and sexual assault jokes made that have made everybody very uncomfortable," Rain said.

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The girls said they've heard from around 10 students in the past few months, alone. In some of the cases, they said students were too scared to come forward.

In others, the students have gone to the administration for help, but the perpetrators have only received what the students describe as slaps on the wrist.

"They were either given two-day in-school suspension where they just did their work in the office and then they'd come back and continue doing the same thing when nothing would change," Bailey said.

Frustrated with what they call a lack of response, the girls and some peers organized a walkout and protest on Friday.

"It has gotten to such a bad point and we wanted to take it into our own hands and make the school a safer place for everybody," Rain said.

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In response to the protest, a Department of Education spokesperson said in a statement, "Harassment of any kind has no place in our schools and we're providing supports to Tompkins Square to ensure these students and the larger school community know their safety and well-being is our number one priority."

The DOE added there were two instances of bad behavior in which the school suspended the students involved. It also said the DOE team that deals with gender-based equity issues is on site this week to help with training.

The department added the principal is creating an action plan to address student concerns.

The protest organizers said they're glad something is now being done.

"I genuinely think this is a good school. It just has bad people in it and sometimes they're not handling certain situations correctly," Bailey said.

The students said they're happy the administration is taking their concerns seriously, but added they won't give up until the root causes of the harassment are addressed.

CBS2's Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.

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