Volleyball Player Quits Team After Game Suspension for Protesting Sexual Violence

A member of the female varsity volleyball team at Olympic High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, quit the team after learning she and other players would be benched for participating in a student-led walkout protesting sexual violence held on Friday.

"We were benched simply for demanding a safer environment not only for us but for all girls on a CMS [Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system] campus," Sereniti Simpson told The Charlotte Observer. The 16-year-old junior said she helped organize last week's walk-out, which was partly inspired by a male student at the school who was allowed to continue playing football after being criminally charged with a sexual felony.

When Simpson was told she would be suspended for a game for her actions, she quit.

"I will not play for a team or school that punishes its athletes for wanting a safer environment," Simpson said. "It's time to take a stand. We need to take action now."

Olympic High School's school athletic director, Stephanie Wilkerson, said in an email to the Observer, "The volleyball team members that received consequences either were seen at the unapproved protest or admitted that they were there."

A high school volleyball player quit her team after she received a one-game suspension for participating in a protest against school sexual assaults. In this undated stock photo, a volleyball is seen on a court floor. Getty

The football player was allowed to continue participating in the sport because he was arrested before the start of the school year, and district officials said the alleged assault happened off-campus, the paper reported.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district officials confirmed that the football player was wearing a court-ordered electronic monitoring device on his ankle during a recent game.

In a separate incident in September, a juvenile reported that she was sexually assaulted by a 15-year-old boy at Olympic High School. The boy was later charged with attempted second-degree rape, second-degree kidnapping and sexual battery, according to local news station WBTV.

Wilkerson said an in-school demonstration held before the walkout was peaceful, but she claims some students became disruptive later. Local media only reported one incident of unruliness when a student was led away by a police officer after she was accused of throwing an earring at Olympic's principal.

"It's infuriating as a female," one student's mother told the Observer. "Other sports teams were represented in the protest—hundreds of students were protesting—but the volleyball team was on the front line. If you can't punish them all, you can't punish any."

The Observer wrote that "at least two" volleyball players were suspended for a game, while Fox 46 Charlotte reported "several" girls were not allowed to compete.

Melissa McAtee, a student mentor at the school, called the volleyball players' suspension "absolutely hypocritical."

"We want our kids to speak up and speak out," McAtee told Fox 46 Charlotte.

Newsweek contacted Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.