This story, of the rape on a Garfield field trip in November of 2012, is setting off outrage like a string of firecrackers. The more I look into it, the more horrible it is. As I follow up on every statement and review every action, there is source of outrage. Seriously. I know that if I turn over some rocks I will find bad things, but in this case every single rock I flip over reveals something horrible. Every time I look into any aspect of this case I am outraged anew.
Let's start with the field trip procedures. This trip was approved, but (flip) it was approved with completely inadequate supervision. Furthermore, the supervision actually provided (flip) was in effect less than claimed since teachers slept in separate cabins away from the students. The first night was total unsupervised chaos (flip), the students broke the school trip rules and the campground rules (flip) without consequence. After that acknowledged experience on the first night (flip) no steps were taken to improve supervision on the second night (flip), when the rape occurred.
The one positive response to this incident that the District took was to re-write and strengthen the rules for overnight trips and field trips in general. The feedback from the rule change (flip) was that it was expensive and difficult to screen the volunteers, so a number of schools didn't bother with it. There was, of course, (flip) no consequences for non-compliance.
The District had a Title IX officer, but (flip) he didn't know his responsibilities under Title IX. That was an audit finding. The District gave him four months to learn his duties. At that deadline (flip) he still had not learned them, so they (flip) gave him another eight months. There were (flip) no consequences for missing the deadline. At the new deadline (flip) he still had not learned them, so they (flip) gave him another twelve months. There were (flip) no consequences for missing the second deadline. The third deadline hasn't passed yet, but (flip) the Title IX officer has resigned from the District. This means (flip) that we don't currently have a Title IX officer. It probably also means that the new Title IX officer, when appointed (flip), won't know his or her duties and (flip) will get a re-started clock to learn them. All of this information was available to the Board and was reviewed in the Audit and Finance Committee at quarterly audit meetings, but (flip) at no time did anyone express any urgency or concern about the failures or hold anyone accountable for them. The Board did respond to the information with a demand, but (flip) the demand was for an updated timetable, not immediate action.
The District has a sexual harassment policy that governed this case, but (flip) the policy wasn't followed. In fact, the district (flip) is still out of compliance with the policy. The policy calls for an annual report, but (flip) the District has never produced that report in the three years since the policy was adopted. The Board must have known about this requirement because surely they read the policy as part of their preparation for the appeal, but (flip) none of them ever mentioned it to the superintendent or held him accountable for failing to deliver the report. The appeal was in February - they've had several months to demand the report (flip) but we still have none. The OSPI, in their Consolidated Program Review found problems with the policy and made revisions a Required Action. The District, in their response, committed to updating the policy by July 1, 2014 - (flip) that was three weeks ago, and there is no evidence of any work to revise the policy. Revisions have not even been introduced in any Board Committee, let alone discussed there, referred to the Executive Committee for addition to a Board legislative meeting agenda, introduced, and voted on. Even if a draft policy should be on a committee agenda for their next meeting it would be about six weeks before it could be adopted by the Board. There are three people named in the response to the CPR as responsible for revising the policy (flip) they have not been contacted by an impatient Board. They have not been held accountable for missing the deadline. It's unclear if they have even started the work.
The Board is - still - in the middle of a policy revision project. They are currently in Phase II (flip) the sexual harassment policy is not among those flagged for review and revision in Phase II.
The District has a sexual harassment procedure that governs this case, but (flip) the procedure wasn't followed. In addition, the procedure requires the superintendent to annually form an ad hoc committee to review the effectiveness of the procedure and the policy and make recommendations, but (flip) no such committee has ever been formed. The Board must have known about this requirement because surely they read the procedure as part of their preparation for the appeal, but (flip) none of them ever mentioned it to the superintendent or held him accountable for failing to form the committee. The appeal was in February - they've had several months to demand the committee be formed (flip) but we still have none. The OSPI, in their Consolidated Program Review found problems with the procedure and made revisions a Required Action. The District, in their response, committed to updating the procedure by July 1, 2014 - (flip) that was three weeks ago, and the procedure has not been updated. There are three people named in the response to the CPR as responsible for revising the policy (flip) they have not been contacted by an impatient Board. They have not been held accountable for missing the deadline. It's unclear if they have even started the work.
Title IX is very clear about the actions the district is legally required to take following a report of a sexual assault (flip) but the District didn't even realize that this was a Title IX issue at first and then (flip) didn't know what Title IX required of them. The Title IX officer was supposed to take the lead but (flip) he never took any action whatsoever in this case. Instead, the action was taken by the Safety Officer who (flip) didn't know the Title IX requirements either.
Take a moment and stop right here. The District has these elaborate audit procedures. And they worked. They found the problem and they listed required actions to correct the problems. But no one took the corrective actions. And then, when the oversight mechanisms revealed the fact that the corrective actions had not been taken, still no one acted. The District is not short on oversight. It is not short on processes to discover problems. The District is short on accountability. The District is short on moral courage. The District is short on people who will draw the line and demand action. I think it is worth noting that the members of the Board who sit on the Audit and Finance Committee and had a front seat to all of these failures of corrective action were Sherry Carr, Harium Martin-Morris, Betty Patu (through December, 2013), and Sue Peters (since December 2013). In fairness, the minutes of their June 19th meeting are not yet available. Who knows. Maybe the three Board Directors chewed people's asses at that meeting. Right. And maybe I'm gonna play centerfield for the Mariners. There can be no question that Directors Carr and Martin-Morris have a lot to answer for. They need to tell us how they are holding staff accountable, because we just aren't seeing it. Not anywhere.
Did you know that there was a rape on a Garfield school trip in 2008? What changes were implemented after that event? What lessons were learned? (flip) None, apparently.
There was a District investigation, (flip) that was half-assed and came months too late. The District at first said that they couldn't do an investigation until the FBI finished (flip) but this is false - they are required to conduct their investigation concurrent with law enforcement's investigation - and they never checked with the FBI to determine when the FBI was done. The District started their investigation (flip) but only after the family demanded it. Then the District told the family that they had done an investigation (flip) then, when family asked for a report, the District acknowledged that they had not, in fact, conducted an investigation.
In the adjudication of the complaint, the superintendent had a lot of information (flip) that had nothing to do with the question. It was full of "blame the victim" data that simply wasn't relevant. It's like an elementary school word problem in math in which they give you a whole bunch of numbers that you don't need to solve the problem. Here's the only question for the superintendent to answer: Did unwanted sexual touching occur? Yes or no. Here's the only answer: the boy acknowledged that there was sexual contact after the girl said "no" (flip) that contact is, by definition unwanted sexual contact. Astonishingly the superintendent determined that he could not conclude that sexual harassment occurred. While this sounds like a neutral, inconclusive determination, (flip) it is equivalent to a determination that no sexual harassment occurred. In the absence of positive determination, the default is that it did not.
In the appeal to the Board there was, again, a lot of information available (flip) most of which was of the extraneous blame the victim variety. A quorum of the Board (six members, Director Peaslee was not present) voted in the majority to uphold the superintendent's determination. Here is a bright spot: at least one of the Board directors voted to overturn the decision. The Board was prohibited from considering any other question (flip) though the appeal was on multiple topics. The general counsel gave the Board instruction (flip) and cowed them into submission. They should constrain his actions, not the other way around. Who's the boss here? Board President Peaslee (flip) who was not a party to the appeal, wrote in her letter that the policy and procedure were followed (flip) but she isn't authorized to say that since 1) noncompliance with the policy and procedure is a complaint by the family pending appeal before the Board and 2) she isn't authorized to make such statements on behalf of the Board as a whole. Plus, of course 3) it's patently false.
The Garfield principal, district officials, and the Board have been expressing their deepest concerns and sympathy for the victim and her family in the press (flip) but they have never demonstrated concern in their actions or expressed any sympathy for the victim and her family directly to them. Their tears are just for the media, not for the people. The Garfield principal and district officials had some contact with the family at first, (flip) but they quickly became adversarial, they withheld information, they contradicted earlier statements, they lied, and when they weren't doing those things they were simply non-responsive. They just stopped communications. The callousness and animosity expressed in the internal documents is heart-breaking. It's not simply clinical or professional detachment (flip) it's passionate opposition to the family's claims and arrogance about their invulnerability. I don't recognize these authors as human.
All of this, of course, ties into the District's culture of lawlessness. Each of these individual acts of non-compliance is like a flower from the tree which is that culture. The rape itself is a fruit of the tree. Everyone allows the rules to be broken because it's just a little thing each time, but all of those little things give license for bigger things. And the total absence of accountability teaches that there is no accountability. And the worst part of all of this is that there isn't. No one has been held accountable for any of their failures their bad actions or their inaction. The student who committed the rape has not been and will not be held accountable. The "chaperones" who neglected their responsibilities have not been and will not be held accountable. The principal and assistant principal who neglected their responsibilities in planning the trip and in the aftermath of the rape have not been and will not be held accountable. The District officials who failed in their duties to comply with the law have not been and will not be held accountable. The superintendent has not been and will not be held accountable. The Board has not been and will not be held accountable. The bastards were right. They knew that they would get away with it because no one in Seattle Public Schools ever enforces any rules or holds anyone accountable for breaking them. They were absolutely right. Even in this case with such horrific outcomes they were right: no one ever enforced the rules and no one was ever held accountable for breaking them. Each person in the District said the same thing as the rapist's friend: "I've got your back." They are all accomplices.
I know that when I make an investigation into the District's actions I will find some dirt. There is no other case I can remember that had so many rocks to look under and had such horrible things under each and every one of them. As an activist fueled by outrage, this an entire refinery tank full of it.