Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't tell us - show us

The School Board has a new form letter response:

"Thank you for contacting the School Board Office. Please be assured that we take the issue of sexual assault seriously and are continuing to work with all parties involved -- including state and federal agencies and the family -- to address the concerns that have been raised and ensure that the appropriate legal process is followed. The family has filed complaints with several oversight agencies, and we trust that resolution of those actions will be fair and equitable. 
Kind Regards,"
The Board wants us to be assured that they take the issue of sexual assault seriously? Really? Telling us that they care about it isn't convincing at all. They need to show us.

Here are seven things that the Board can - and should - do to assure us that they take the issue of sexual assault seriously.
  1. Demand an annual report as required by policy 3208. Demand it immediately - it is already 18 months overdue.
  2. Direct the superintendent to aggressively enforce policy 3208 and the associated superintendent’s procedure. Direct the superintendent to deliver meaningful consequences to any district staff - at any level - who do not comply with the policy or the procedure. Directing the superintendent in this way will require a majority vote of the Board - they will get to do it in public, which will be very encouraging to the community. They should let everyone know that they value student safety over anyone’s job.
  3. Direct the superintendent to include training for building leaders on the policy and on their obligations under Title IX as part of the annual building leaders meetings at the start of the school year. Again, this direction will require a public vote of the Board.
  4. Direct the superintendent to educate the headquarters staff on their legal duties to protect students and the correct response to reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Let them know that the law is a minimum - not a maximum - and encourage them to show a little human compassion to victims and their families. There is ample evidence that the JSCEE staff, starting with the Title IX officer, don’t know what they are supposed to do, and there is ample evidence that the JSCEE staff aren't showing compassion. Instead, they are treating victims and their families harshly as potential legal opponents from day one. All of these directions can be combined into a single motion.
  5. Direct the superintendent to enforce all guidelines, procedures, policies, state administrative codes, state statutes, and federal laws and direct him to deliver meaningful consequences to any district staff - at any level - who fail to comply. It is time to end the culture of lawlessness in Seattle Public Schools and replace it with a culture of compliance.
  6. Begin to enforce policy themselves. They need to stop allowing staff to fail to fulfill the requirements of their policies. Each member of the Board not only has license to this on their own, they each have an obligation to do so. Remember that every policy was adopted by a majority vote of the Board so they don’t need another majority vote of the Board to demand compliance. They should do it publicly so we can see them do it. Every one of them should be able to think of half a dozen policies that are routinely broken without even thinking hard. The Board sets the culture of the District and they foster a culture of lawlessness when they allow policy violations. Each of them. Personally. Now that they know where the culture of lawlessness leads, they cannot continue to tolerate it.
Honestly, I don't see how the Board can expect to assure the public that they care about sexual assault and student safety if they don't do these things. Their failure to take these actions will reveal the fact that they do not, in fact, care about these issues.

What else should they do?


Charlie Mas said...

Gee. It just occurred to me that the first person who needs to be held accountable for failing to comply with policy is the person who was responsible for submitting the annual report required by policy 3208. String 'em up!

mirmac1 said...

First I want to say that I appreciate Kathie Pham's personal response on the matter posted on a previous thread. Second, who do you think crafted this form letter? The district Communications office. If a few board members wanted to say something different, they can do that on their own. Unfortunately the party line has to be whatever English and crew feel limits their liability. I hope they lose their shirts.

Anonymous said...

The complaint to OCR lists a number of remedies which the District could implement assuming they were enforceable. I copied this from the Facebook page

OCR should fully investigate the District’s response to our family member’s sexual assault by another student on the November, 2012 field trip. OCR should issue a determination describing the District’s Title IX violations.

OCR should require the District’s employees, including teachers and administrators, to undergo training on Title IX guidelines for responding to reported sexual assault.

OCR should require the District to implement, utilize, and enforce strong policies and procedures governing student safety at school and on field trips, and schools’ response to sexual assault. These policies and procedures should require schools to conduct an active and thorough investigation into all sexual assault claims and to implement and utilize grievance procedures that facilitate the prompt and equitable resolution of sex discrimination complaints.

OCR should require the District to implement, utilize, and enforce policies to protect sexual assault victims after they report sexual assault.

The District did not follow its own grievance and Title IX procedures. We therefore request OCR to:
• Perform a compliance review of the District’s compliance with Title IX (previously and concerning the assault of our family member) and its adherence to Title IX directives regarding response to sexual violence.
• Require the District to undergo monitoring and reporting for a period of five years.
• Require the District to explain why its administration failed to enforce policies (including its 2009-2012 trips to NatureBridge) that would have provided field trip participants with a safe educational environment free of harassment, and why the District states that sex may occur on appropriately chaperoned field trips “under specific circumstances” in violation of the right to an education free of sexual harassment.
• Fully investigate the District’s response to our family member’s report of a sexual assault and its failure to conduct a prompt investigation.
• Investigate why the District’s investigation was not substantive, equitable, or completed, and why it ignored the factual information we provided. This should include an examination of whether the District’s regularly hired investigator conducted a complete and impartial investigation and why our contributions were never incorporated into a final report.
• Investigate and determine whether our family member was the recipient of discrimination on the basis of gender because she reported a sexual assault; consider the assailant’s prior disciplinary record as an indicator discrimination against our family member.
• Determine whether after granting our family member a school transfer based on sexual assault the District can reverse itself to claim she was not the victim of sexual assault.
• Determine whether the District complied with Title IX regulations regarding the assailant’s prior incident of “lewd conduct” on school property, whether that student was actually assaulted (thereby impacting the discipline meted out to the assailant for the rape of our family member), whether the District extended Title IX safeguards to that female student, and how that prior incident impacted the District’s response to our family member’s reported sexual assault.
• Determine whether the District’s was in compliance with policies concerning our family member’s 504 accommodations and whether she was the recipient of discrimination based on her disability. Determine whether the District’s agenda to mitigate liability impacted her ability to be fairly accommodated.
• Determine whether the District is obligated to fully disclose its findings and remedies to our staff negligence/misconduct complaint related to the violation of our family member’s Title IX rights.

To request documents associated with this case at no cost contact <]

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

" address the concerns that have been raised..."

That is cold.

The concern isn't some trifling complaint about some small-potatoes one-off issue.

For g-d's sake, IT'S ABOUT BEING RAPED WHILE AT SCHOOL (on a feild trip).

Really? "...concerns"?


Really, really stone cold.

Shame on them.

Yeah, really feeling' the love, concern, compassion dripping from this correspondence. Like they give a damn.

On the bright side, good to know they take felonies, like, you know, sexual assault, "seriously"!

That much is obvious by the way they took care of Emily after she was in the hospital for being raped. Very seriously, clearly. Clearly, got lots of attention and caring from Principal Howard, McEvoy and Banda. To make sure she was alright. To make sure the harm to her and her education was minimized. NOT. I think they just ran to their lawyer, English, behind closed doors and started strategizing immediately about how to minimize the damages and consequences to themselves.

This communication reflects their detachment, their CYA stance, their immorality. Always remember that the crime is never alleged. It happed. That the victim is never alleged, she is real and she bled. The only thing that is alleged is the identity of the rapist responsible. It is alleged "Althelete" did it until he is pronounced guilty in a court of law. But, he's on the record as admitting she said no.

With these facts, Communications should not have been sterile. To be so is to be part of the continued harming of this child. She deserves way better. Yeah, Banda's a really stand-up guy.

Eeeewwww. He's all your, Sacramento.


Anonymous said...

Mirmac, actually the letter from
Kathie Pham is the form letter. My guess is that Charlie's form letter was signed by her too. I didn't feel that form letter addressed the concerns I raised at all. I asked how I could trust that my daughters will be safe from sexual assault at school and said I think parents deserve to hear this issue addressed by the school board as soon as possible. The answer is basically "well, it's being addressed by the legal system". Not what I want to hear. I want justice for the victim but I also want to know that the board is going to ensure this does not happen again by holding staff responsible for enforcing the policies that are supposed to be keeping our children safe at school!

Gen Ed Mom

mirmac1 said...

Ah. I thought Kathie had sent a personal message before the party line one. Rereading it, I see I scanned it too quickly.

Still, the board - in its "governance" role - relies on the Communications Dept to craft these replies. In this tragic case, anything less than flat condemnation of district behavior, falls far short.

I do think Kathie is a conscientious and caring board staffer. And I'm frequently disappointed with the alacrity with which the Comm Dept jumps to curry favor with LEV (see PreK emails), TFA, the Alliance, and the usual suspects. If it ain't "good news" or their news, it is no news.

I am pleased to see Al Jazeera weighing in as a new media presence in our town.

mirmac1 said...

And I would go beyond the board holding staff to policy. The board and their one employee must hold staff to follow the LAW. Without delay or excuse.

It's been all to easy for staff and (past) board members to ignore the law to play politics or pinch Lincoln. If ANY institution is held to the highest standard, it must be the public school system. Next, our shadowy City Hall.

Per said...

Got the same message, verbatim, from GHS Administrative Assistant Leslie Hurd:

"On behalf of Mr. Howard, thank you for your email. Please be assured that we take the issue of sexual assault seriously and are continuing to work with all parties involved -- including state and federal agencies and the family -- to address the concerns that have been raised and ensure that the appropriate legal process is followed. The family has filed complaints with several oversight agencies, and we trust that resolution of those actions will be fair and equitable.

L. Hurd, Adm. Asst.
Garfield High School
400 23rd Ave
Seattle, WA 98122"

Charlie Mas said...

As I continue to think along these lines I'm thinking about what I should be doing - instead of just talking.

I'll ponder it this weekend and I encourage you all to think about it too.

How can we demonstrate - through action - our concern for this issue? Should we be contacting the Board? the superintendent? Randy Dorn? someone else in the OSPI? someone in the Department of Education? Should we be contacting the press? If we do contact these people what should we ask them to do?

Should we stage a march or demonstration? What are our demands?

Personally I would like to see the bad actors in this incident to be held accountable for their failure to follow procedure, policy, and the law. I would also like to see them held accountable for treating the victim and her family as adversaries. That's in addition to the actions described in this post that didn't include anything looking back.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a document from the OSPI that describes the duties of the district Title IX Officer.

Anonymous said...

What about contacting the student president of the Garfield high school PTSA, and imploring her or him to organize a whole-school student-led protest, including a walk out, to demand justice for "Emily" and to demand the SPS employees (Howard, English, etc), be held accountable AND demand that sexual violence and sexual harassment are absolutely NOT tolerated at GHS?

It shouldn't just be the adults involved in remediating this situation and ensuring it doesn't happen again.

Students should be involved. They are hard-working and sophisticated young people, and I am confident that they can show their strength and compassion for this tragedy. They should play an active role in the redemption of their school's reputation.

To be clear, none of this was their responsibility (except for the rapist), and none of this is their 'duty' to fix. And yet, they can and should get involved. They should show the adults how it's done. Sign pledges not to sexually harrass or harm a fellow GHS student or staff or anyone else for that matter, and to intervene or report if they witness any sexual harrassment or violence. The GHS PTSA student president could organize a talk during their walkout from one of the organizations that support survivors of sexual violence and who work to raise awareness and eradicate the violence. Obviously a visiting organization's message needs to be appropriate for minors, but just like we try and "bully-proof" our kids, apparently we need to try and "rape-proof" them to.

I imagine all high school student PTSA presidents walking in solidarity with the GHS PTSA president at their walkout to show the unity of their repulsion over this crime and it's subsequent 'handling' and their commitment to call for an end to sexual harrassment and violence on public school campuses and everywhere else too. The zero tolerance policy must be actively supported. These sexually violence crimes in our schools have to end and never be repeated. Student need to be part of the solution if it is to take hold and last.


-students matter

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a nugget from the District's response to the OSPI's Comprehensive Program Review. On page 82 of the pdf:

"Required Action: Submit evidence that the Section 504 Coordinator, Title IX Officer, and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator have been notified of their assigned role (e.g., job description, signed assurance, etc.)."

The District responded on April 28, 2014. They promised:

"Statement will be written which assures that the assigned
employees are aware of their designated roles regarding
Section 504, Title IX, and civil rights compliance. The statement
will be signed by each of the assigned employees."

The date for completion? May, 2014. Was it done?

On page 85 they gave themselves until July to be legally compliant in their handling of Title IX complaints. It looks like the OSPI found them deficit in this area and demanded that they address their failings.

In this document, on the following page, they gave themselves until 7/1/14 to update their sexual harassment policy (which was found to be deficient) - but they haven't.

Tell me again how they are taking this issue seriously.

Anonymous said...

The absence of these trainings, the lack of compliance with the law, the inaction on updating their own policies...these are all district-level problems. They can have negative consequences at schools beyond Garfield, and require district-level action--as well as district-wide advocacy. Think your kid is safe because they are at a school other than GHS? Think again.

I'd be all for a district-wide walk-out until the district can produce evidence that these basics are in place. After all, how can we really entrust our kids to the district before we have such assurances, knowing what we know now? Maybe the district needs a big "fix this by Sept 3, or we're not coming back" push.


Reader47 said...

I think the idea of involving students in some kind of "action" whatever that might be is excellent...

How about a rotating group of people who will silently stand outside JSCEE with signs saying "do your job" "protect our kids" "Have you read your title IX duties today" "End SPS Lawlessness Now" - ok maybe not those...not fully awake yet but that kind of thing tends to get media attention, which makes SPS nervous and then causes change...hopefully.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree with the idea of involving students. Because no matter what the friends of the alleged rapist think about him, I would have to think so many girls might think, "That could have been me."

I'll see if I can find out who got elected the head of the Student Senate. That would be a good place to start (along with finding the Garfield High President).

Also, Garfield had an underground student newspaper; I'll try to contact them.

Anonymous said...

would like to hear from some Garfield students. i don't like this got your back stuff at all and I know they read this blog when their school is mentioned as they were all over the hazing report, and not always in what I would consider a good way. If they do comment they need to remember to keep out names but a student perspective would be much appreciated.


Charlie Mas said...

I'm really troubled by the District's failure to keep the commitments made in the response to the Comprehensive Program Review. They committed to updating the sexual harassment policy by 7/1/14, and it hasn't been before any of the Board committees.

According to the document, the people responsible for that work are Deputy General Counsel John Cerqui, Labor/Employee Relations Manager Denise Williams‐Saunders, and Labor/Employee Relations Director Terry Meisenburg.

I will write to them today and ask about their progress on this task.

Inside as well said...

None of them work Fridays Charlie.

Meisenburg's last day is next Thursday. Think he might start caring about anything between now and then?

Fat chance.

Paul Apostle's creature and pal from Tacoma.

Reader47 said...

There is another document that appears to have different dates - title page doesn't come up but it's something like "Corrective Action Plan Tracking Log" has multiple dates crossed off for task of"
"Create a central repository of
employee responsibility policies,
such as sexual harassment,
discrimination, ethics, and
internet usage."

with Mr. Apostle as responsible party...original date was Jan 2013 - now it's Sept 2014. Anyone want to take bets on when that really (if ever) happens?
Corrective action tracking

Anonymous said...

KIRO's website has an article up about this.


Charlie Mas said...

The point of writing to Mr. Cerqui, Ms Williams‐Saunders, and Mr. Meisenburg isn't because I expect a response from them. I do it - and copy the Board on the message - to remind the Board to ask for the update.

District headquarters bureaucrats are not susceptible to public pressure or public accountability. That's why they can ignore us with impunity. But the Board is sensitive to public pressure. This isn't an effort to put pressure on the bureaucrats; it's an effort to put pressure on the Board.

Why do they tolerate these delays? Why don't they ever follow up on anything? Why don't they ever hold the staff to their self-imposed deadlines? Why doesn't the Board ever hold anyone accountable? The Board says that they are serious about this issue but they can't even bother to follow up on an audit finding?

I took a look at that Corrective Action Plan tracking document and I couldn't help noticing that every single one of the tasks assigned to Paul Apostle has a NO answer for "CAP Resolved Timely". What a screw-up.

Ed said...

You are too kind Charlie.

I use a different word.

Charlie Mas said...

I've written to the Board to ask them how they maintain their patience in the face of such incompetence. I don't expect a reply.

This action item was initially given four months. Then twelve months. Now twenty-four months. How could the original estimate of the completion time be so spectacularly bad.

By the way, all the action item requires is the creation of a file folder.

I don't know what it would look like if the Board took the issue of sexual harassment seriously, but I know that it wouldn't look like this.

I don't know what it would look like if the Board held staff accountable, but I know that it wouldn't look like this.

Melissa Westbrook said...

This would actually be the time for the Board to step in and flex some muscle. It would NOT be micromanaging to get staff to follow policy. I just wonder, over and over, when will this ever happen?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I really think high school students don't think like we adults, "That could have been me." We think, "That could have been my daughter." Back when the hazing was a hot topic 1+ years ago, I think most of the GHS students thought hazing was not something to worry about and that "tradition" was harmlessly good. I don't think until we have experienced close calls through life experience that kids who are 15, 16, realize how dangerous life is. At GHS some girls don't like the dress code because they think it unfairly sexualizes them when they feel they should be able to wear what they like. That is an example of them not knowing what a big bad world is out there. That is why parents have to realize that chaperones are important. That is why mandatory pre-trip meetings are important so rules and consequences can be understood by all. That is why they need real chaperones, not young people who don't realize what bad things can happen. In this instance, I believe the school should have taken extra care to inform the teachers/administrators to protect the general population since the perpetrator already had a sex incident on his middle school record. Just like the RHS guy who raped the special ed girl. For some crazy privacy reason the teachers were not informed about the dangerousness of that guy. The consequences are so bad that privacy is less important than safety.