Sunday, July 27, 2014

Something Horrible Under Every Rock

People frequently ask me "What fuels your activist energy?" and I tell them "Outrage." "But how," they ask,"can you stay outraged for fourteen years?" "I can't." I tell them. "I'm newly outraged every couple days. And you would be too if you watched the District closely. There is something new that crops up - generally twice a week - that is a source of new outrage."

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.


Melissa Westbrook said...

To reiterate one point (that was just confirmed to me by SPS Communications):

"To answer your question, the District has never seen the FBI report, we just know that charges were not pursued."

The district knew that the FBI was investigating and never asked for their report.

Never followed up. Just sat on their hands.

Somehow they knew that the FBI wasn't pursuing this case BUT didn't think to ask for the investigation report.

I know that isn't criminal but it is just the highest form of what? laziness, wanting to run away from a troublesome situation, ignoring it, or just hoping no one will notice?

Too late.

It's funny because I had been thinking that Dr. Nyland, coming in new, probably could not do anything.

That's wrong. He will be the superintendent with all power vested in that position. He has the advantage of fresh (untainted) eyes. I think HE should review the whole thing and then he should ACT.

Anonymous said...

What are the references to "flip?"

As in Herdon?


Melissa Westbrook said...

And I note, still complete silence from the Seattle Times.

Lynn said...

every single rock I flip over reveals something horrible

From the second paragraph of Charlie's post.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's something that needs to be said, but I haven't seen it overtly stated yet.

It is undoubtedly true that sex, including non-consensual sex, could occur in a school or during a school activity even if the adults followed and practiced the best care. Even if the chaperones had done their best, something still could have happened. In that case we'd have to acknowledge that the chaperones did their best and were blameless for the outcome.

But the chaperones did not do their best and they bear a share of the responsibility.

It is possible that the superintendent could have reached the same conclusion and that conclusion could have been supported by the Board even if the policy and procedure had been followed. In that case we would have to accept the decision. In that case we would hold the district harmless from liability and their reputation would be intact.

But the district staff did not follow the policy and procedure, let alone the federal law and therefore we reject the superintendent's conclusion and the Board's vote of support for it. And they retain liability and their reputation is in shreds.

I want to be crystal clear about this:

If the District wants to protect their liability and their reputation, they should follow and enforce their policies and procedures.

That path will be far more effective than lawyerly tactics to weasel out of their liability and marketing messagaes to protect their reputations when the inevitable disaster occurs.

Anonymous said...

1. "Flip" means he is flipping over rocks and finding sewage.

2. Charlie has conveniently provided a detailed and coherent starting point for a lawsuit by the family.

3. Is there a lawyer out there willing to work pro bono or reduced fee or contingency for a family that has spent all its savings on treatment for their daughter? I hope someone will step up. If I had a law degree I'd do so in a second. Lawsuit doesn't have to be on the sexual assault. How about criminal negligence or malfeasance or ? (lawyers out there, what would be the right term?) around keeping students safe because

4. the only way and I do mean the ONLY way we will ever see improvement in SPS is to sue the s(@*&#@ out of everyone in the chain of command in this case. The only way any one person and the system at large will make a crucial change will be to drag every person's a$$ into court and have the lawsuit noticed by media and civic leaders and parents. Not every person in the chain of command may be found culpable, but the bad publicity and time spent dealing with the lawsuit means every person will be acutely aware of their most basic responsibility to Seattle's students forevermore which, as EdVoter said in the other thread, is the
6. so, lawyers, please step up for this family and start a civil suit with these names:
7. a. The chaperones on the trip - staff and volunteers
b. Garfield vice principal and principal
c. whoever is in charge of safety compliance at JSCEE
d. whoever that safety compliance person directly reports to
e. whoever at JSCEE was responsible in 2012 for writing and/or training principals and teachers on chaperone requirements
f. the former? Title IX JSCEE employee
g. the JSCEE signer of the memo to the family that claimed JSCEE had done an investigation when it hadn't
h. Ron English
i. Jose Banda
j. 2012 - present board members: Martin-Morris, Carr, Peaslee, Patu, McLaren, Peters, Blanford, DeBell, Smith-Blum

And on a related note, where the hell is the teacher's union and principal's union on this story? Not a peep because no doubt they also want to cover the employees
a$$es instead of our students'.

Students First

Puffin said...

Masterful. You know what they say, "leave no stone unturned."

Another rock (boulder?) is the glaring conflict of interest of the District self-adjudicating a matter in which their liability is at stake.

You could fill a quarry with all of the rocks Charlie's uncovered.

Charlie Mas said...

Since Paul Apostle and Jose Banda are no longer district employees, would the district have to provide them with a defense if they were sued for their actions taken when they were district employees?

Anonymous said...

@ Students First:

With you on the lawsuit. The publicity angle needs more development. For instance, who is going to contact city council, the mayor's office and voters at large?

Do we really want to vote for Preschool for All and put the city's 3 and 4 year olds in a system that can't keep teenagers safe?

This is the final straw in my no vote there. If Burgess and Murray hear they may be impacted by the laxness of SPS staff and board, then there's another fire that can be lit to keep all students safe.


Mary Griffin said...

I wonder how much the Gates-funded Solutions Jounalism project influences the Seattle Times' decision to forgo reporting on this issue. The applicability of Title IX provisiins and enforcement is national news; the fact that the same federal law applies to high schools needs far greater publicity. This case highlights many if the areas where a district can go wrong. The implications are huge and the payoff would be be beneficial to thousands of victims nationwide. There are big lessons here, education reporters, that can benefit a lot of girls and boys that at first blush, have nothing to do with STEM or math scores, but I can guarantee that a student who feels sexually harassed can not learn. And when we sre talking about a culture which systemically responds in an ineffectual manner, we are implying that sexual harrassment is part of our educational environment for all students. And when the Times chooses not to report on a federal Title IX investigation of Seattle Public Schools, they are choosing to endorse that mindset.

Anonymous said...

@ Griffin: Perhaps the SPS culture of lack of accountability to student safety and sexual harassment is partly behind Seattle Times Blethen's editorial claim that only 18 percent of high schoolers' are ready for college and career. Would Blethen or his staff connect those dots (if the 18 percent claim were even true). Doubt it.

Griffin, as you know, SPS's ability to keep its most impacted SPED students safe is often in doubt too.

Students First

Anonymous said...


Can we find our who the lone sane Director was/is?

I bet it is Sue Peters. Currently, she's the only one with (1) brains, (2) heart, and (3) balls.

Can't imagine anyone else would have the strengthen of his/her convictions to act on that fact that "something was rotten in Denmark", so to speak.

Thank you, Board member, for speaking up for "Emily". Picture her lying on the floor, with an athlete-rapist on top of her, forcing his pen** in her rectum, and her crying and saying no.

You said "No" too, Board member. The only one. Be proud. Shame on the others. Shame. They should know better. Why are they on the Board, if they stand by on watch "Emily" on the floor, helpless.

Yeah. Graphic. And violent. And 'untoward'; and ugly and a whole bunch of things. That's what rape is. Don't look away. Don't be silent. Maybe it will be your daughter next. Or your brother's. Or your neighbor's.

Don't look away.

And, thank you, Sue. I know it just had to be you.

Conflicted Interest

Anonymous said...

It might be good to post some comments on the SPS Facebook page. There are few other public forums for feedback. Email is so anonymous and we'll never know if they get 10 or 1,000.

-old timer

Charlie Mas said...

Board votes in executive session are not public. I don't think they are even supposed to talk about it.

Anonymous said...

@ Conflicted Interest. No, Peters doesn't get praise and doesn't get a pass. She is one of three, according to Charlie, who sits on the Audit and Finance Committee and knew more intimately than the other Board members that the District was/is in complete non-compliance with the federal Title IX rules.

It appears that she knew this and granted extensions to getting compliance up to date AT THE SAME TIME the fallout from the field trip was happening. Where is one email or meeting minutes to show that she or Martin-Morris or Carr or Patu expressed outrage or connected the dots to urgency on Title IX in the wake of the incident? (I do note that Patu wrote an email asking about the assault itself and for that I am grateful. Very grateful. But where was the leadership to assure lessons were learned and protective actions taken for the future? I haven't heard that she did this follow up.)

Peters might be smart and have heart. That applies to all the board members I guess - as well as most of those who work in our schools. But the fact remains that these board members along with the 2012 board members are at the helm of the utter breakdown of the system to keep our kids safe. And the utter breakdown of the system to not just sanction those on the front lines of the incident but the utter failure of SPS to methodically put the highest priority on the current and future safety of 50,000 kids.

Peters is part of the problem and currently there is nothing publicly to show that she or anyone else in leadership is part of the solution beyond some mouthed pr talking points probably vetted by Ron English's department. If the board would like to point out the concrete actions they have insisted be taken in every SPS school as well as at the district level then that would help reassure parents and would help alleviate the current appearance of serious dereliction of leadership. If Banda wasn't already gone I'd be first in line to help kick his posterior out of his office and to kick the butts of every single administrator and teacher down the line out with him. I am still thinking about whether an effort to recall all the current board members is feasible or helpful to being certain our district never ever abdicates its responsibility to student safety again. Today I am thinking a recall effort may be necessary. I don't exactly see the board lit on fire.

Students First

Catherine said...

S"ince Paul Apostle and Jose Banda are no longer district employees, would the district have to provide them with a defense if they were sued for their actions taken when they were district employees?" Yes - the district would have to.

While executive sessions are not public (nor are their minutes, and you're right they can't talk about it in public either) who voted how does have to be revealed. Or they have to revote in public.

This all sheds some additional light on the hazing tradition at Garfield and what the administration there like did when it did "all it could" which would appear to be not a thing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just checked and President Peaslee's letter is not posted at either the district Facebook page or website. That may be because it got released on the weekend but I have to wonder if it will ever appear at all.

Anonymous said...

The iteration of procedures and laws not followed is breathtaking to read but it means nothing to SPS. They have lost lawsuits over evil and reprehensible conduct in the past and haven't changed.

What is lacking in this district is checks and balances. SEA is spineless and self-serving. The parents who complain are typically upholding narrow self-interest and can be placated over time.

There is a residual and consistent lack of morality and ethics in this district. Until a substantial group of people care enough beyond self-interest and their own children, the pattern that drove me and others out will not change.

--enough already

Reader47 said...

Based on the calendar - it looks like the Board had a meeting on July 18th - a "special meeting" AND an executive session with "potential litigation" attached. One can only imagine this case is the impetus (or else there something else out there lurking). Ah to have been a fly on THAT wall....

Anonymous said...

oops the special meeting was for the interim supt. but not the "potential litigation" part


ConcernedSPSParent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ConcernedSPSParent said...

Students First:

Firstly everyone on the Audit and Finance committee that kicked the certification of a knowledgeable Title 1X officer down the road is at fault. Did Peters do so, I don't know, she is the newest member of that committee. I do commend her and Patu for being the only two directors to push back on the district. Who did not push back, well that would be Sherry Carr, the chair of the Audit and Finance committee. In fact I believe Carr has been chair for the entire can kicking saga. The district needed a knowledgeable Title 1X officer and it did not have one, I lay a large portion of the blame with Carr on that one. I will not hold my breath waiting for her to step and and take any responsibility as she has not done so in 6+ years

Anonymous said...

STUDENTS FIRST: 7/27/ 12:25

Many of the persons you mentioned are a part of the parents' extensive staff complaint to Michael Tolley. Please request it from the District.

Because a staff complaint is relegated to an internal investigation, parents requested that Superintendent John Welch of the Puget Sound Educational Service District initiate an investigation of those under his jurisdiction. Parents have ample evidence that the Seattle District is unable to conduct an objective investigation of its own staff. They are also concerned that the definition of misconduct will be extremely liberal to avoid admission of the misconduct that occurred on the field trip.

Contact Superintendent Welch of PSESD, The Professional Practices Department at OSPI, and other agencies to see whether families have other accountability pathways.

Who does the legal department report to? The Superintendent? The Washington Bar? Who does Michael Tolley report to?

Who is ready to initiate the action necessary to hold irresponsible individuals and the School Board accountable?

The Mother

Anonymous said...

Students First: re Seattle Times

The Seattle Times reporter came to the parents home in July of 2013. They have been provided an ample supply of documents including the District's own documents demonstrating gross negligence on the field trip, the District's false talking points prepared for the media, copies of the assailant's testimony that he was told to stop the sexual behavior multiple times, and the District's report showing that he sodomized her for 10 minutes.

They were given the OCR letter confirming that an investigation was opened. Apparently the Times does not believe the community should have this information. They prefer to report on more important information that is clearly trivial. Or perhaps they wish to feel welcome at open School Board meetings.

The mother gave the Seattle Times a short letter to the editor describing Jose Banda's legacy and referring to the OCR investigation. That would have been a simple way to report the news, but even that was to much for them. The painted their own portrait.

Not to worry, other local media are on the story.

The Mother

Anonymous said...


I have an image of General Counsel Ron English sitting around with his underlings. Remember he declared himself in writing to be the spokesperson for the District, the Superintendent, and the School Board.

They are laughing at us because we're engaging in intelligent discussion.

Activists are calling the victim's family. Regular, peaceful demonstrations with placards and informational fliers--just like the "No Iraq War" campaign are needed--until the region understands. Then other cities, other states will pay attention. Shameful Seattle will be a lesson to the nation.

(Meanwhile the Seattle Times will fail to cover the right to an equal education free from sexual harassment and violence.)

A back-to-school pamphlet should instruct parents and students to beware of sexual harassment/assault and other violence on Seattle School District field trips. Let us ask for donations of paper, perhaps from the District or its benefactors?

Families should be warned of the District's view that if sex on field trips occurs "under specific circumstances" it does not mean that chaperones failed to perform their duties, as Ron English wrote. (See family's FB page)

Concerned citizens are ready to begin taking action. They may contact the family to participate in a concerted effort. Students should be awarded community service hours for participating in such educational demonstrations that will prevent their friends from being sexually assaulted while under the care of the Seattle School District.

Families must protect their own children. Similarly, the District's release forms must be revised to reflect the laxity that the District demonstrates.

If the Seattle School District were really concerned with safety, it would immediately admit how it failed families and disclose how these failures occurred. Until this occurs, its motto "Everyone Accountable" must be changed to "Liability Over Accountability." Is there a petition available for such change?

And what about the rapist? Who will educate him? The Seahawks are next on my list. Who is on yours?

-A family member of the victim

Anonymous said...

Has anyone contacted the education editor at the Huffington Post? She is on twitter. I don't know enough about this story to, but it seems it should come out. Charlie, I would reach out or have the family do.
-tweet it

Melissa Westbrook said...

Readers, I would remind you that NO one has been convicted of any crime. I understand the high emotions and feelings of this incident. So it would be best to say "alleged rapist."

seattle citizen said...

The spotlight of public action, as A Family Member suggests, would go far to a) raise awareness in the public eye about this situation, and b) spread information to families and students about rape, harassment, and other sexual crimes - raise awareness about what these are, why the community (at least...) will not tolerate these, snd what rights and services are available. Can we start planning some actions to coincide with the soon-approaching new school year?

seattle citizen said...

To the victim and her family, my heart goes out to all of you. These are public schools; we are the public; we have sometimes failed to hold OUR public schools accountable. For our part in that, for our failures to ensure that staff is providing safe schools, my sincerest apologies.

Anonymous said...

I have often felt that this site is one step from a witch hunt and there have been times when you throw enough stones you hit a witch.

But while I utterly applaud the ire and support of this young woman's family let's step back from the crucifying every single person in stone's throw.

Why not add the students who were there and participated.. are they not witnesses or accessories to the crime.. there were bunk mates who heard or saw the encounter.. Oh wait they are children.

Do you see when you place children in adult scenarios they still are children which may shock some of you to think otherwise. And when you are a child you do idiotic things.

Funny how you all respected and admired Garfield a year ago when they were protesting Scrap the Map, now it is suddenly a school with problems.

The history of Garfield both good and yes bad is well documented and some just of rumor or well of actual experience but nothing came of it.

How many of you spoke to the teachers, the chaperones? Has anyone spoken to the Principal or Vice Principal?

I am not one to ever defend Ted Howard, I have found his history to speak loudly itself.

Calling for lawsuits? Well why put this family through the court system which will take YEARS and subject them to more pain and costs as they will have to pick up the tab for the initial costs and that is an expensive proposition.

So a boy has a history of sexual misbehavior. Is he still at Garfield? Then he should be in mandatory counseling and therapy given that history. Consensual sex with minors is very big grey area and it is clear that this boy given his statements needs proper sexual education. That FLASH curriculum is another disaster that is part of the problem.

The district covers up what they choose to cover up. They in turn crucify and punish who they choose to. A teacher like Mr. Greenfield gets a board hearing over a student who did not like the curriculum. Did Mr. Greenfield sexually assault this kid.

What about the Teacher who had sex with the Student at Garfield two years ago? Was there a board meeting about that? Was not Mr. Howard the Principal then?

Do you want to be like the board and pick and choose who is worthy or not of support?

But scrap the map, teaching civics that is a board meeting. Wow just wow, this is indicative of a larger issue of culture and attitude about what the "poor" in Seattle deserve and get from its public schools.

The outrage here is just as selective. The lack of media coverage is also quite telling. A federal investigation gets a 4 minute spot with no interviews with any School officials? Why not?

This will go away. There will be no resolutions but if this was a Substitute who said something "weird" to a kid in a bathroom, or a Teacher who "touched" kid, kissed their feet (remember that Lowell incident?) there would be SWAT teams and King 5 news special reports.

Really start looking under all the rocks here to see the slime beneath. It is not just the schools

This city has had the feds here more times in the last decade then New Orleans. Heck of job here apparently as it has done nothing to resolve the issues that divide a city than more by its ship canal.

So before you get the torches and run into the hills screaming the Monster. Take a look at the Doctor that created this monster and see what needs to be done there.

Clearly its easier to run amok and scream then onto the next.

A 14 year old boy in Kent has been sentenced to adult prison for rape of an 8 year old. Reading his comments and statements the boy is mentally ill and needs to be put into a proper facility to get help. Nope he is a sexual offender for LIFE. We have real problems here realizing that our children, particularly the poor children are not getting the services they need.

And we have no idea about how to.

-- A Grown Up

Anonymous said...

I am not exactly sure what point you are making A Grown Up because your commentary is all over the map. But one thing you said rings true to me and it's part of the reason I am so angry. You can't put teenagers in adult situations and expect them to act like adults. You can't let a bunch of teenagers supervise themselves all night in a big coed group. Teenagers on a school planned trip should be treated like teenagers, not given the freedom to do whatever they want all night long. You can't think of every bad thing that might happen on a school trip, but you can think of a few things that might happen if you leave a bunch of kids unsupervised together all night. This is common sense. No one who planned this trip seemed to have any. This is protecting the kids from themselves and from each other. Kids don't think they need this kind of protection, but they are kids. As parents we assume that teachers and school administrators know that kids need to be treated like kids and not allowed to get themselves into adult situations. In this case, it seems we were wrong.

Gen Ed Mom

Charlie Mas said...

@A Grown Up,

I'm not entirely sure what it is that you're trying to say. Your comment is a basket of self-contradiction, but I feel you deserve a response.

I don't believe that some people are good and some people are bad. I do, however, believe that people sometimes do good things and sometimes do bad things. I don't hesitate to distinguish the two types of actions. Moreover, I believe that people sometimes do their jobs well and sometimes do their jobs poorly. And, again, we can distinguish between high and low quality work.

So I don't pass judgement on people - that's far beyond my role, but I can and will judge the morality of actions and quality of work product. A grown up should be able to see the distinction between "You did a bad job." and "You are a bad person."

So I have no trouble respecting and admiring some of the things that happen at Garfield and deploring some of the other things that happen at Garfield. It's not a contradiction at all because this isn't a comic book where the villains are all bad and only do bad things and the heroes are all good and only do good things. Moreover, Garfield is a big school with lots of different people who all act independently.

As far as lawsuits go, an attorney is taking the family's case on a contingency basis. The lawyer will only charge fees if they win.

The boy is no longer a student at Garfield. The students on the field trip were members of the class of 2013 and 2014.

I have not addressed all of your points but, honestly, I couldn't understand your point for most of your comment. If you could clarify any that I missed I will be happy to address them.

The teachers who were the chaperones on the trip may be wonderful teachers, but they screwed up those nights. They screwed up and a 15-year-old girl paid the price. Are we supposed to ignore the failure because they are good teachers the rest of the time? Is that how it works? How many good jobs do you have to do to get a free pass on a bad job? What's the correct ratio?

Or can we say "good job" about the things they do well and "bad job" when they screw up?

Anonymous said...

@grown up -
That 14 year old Kent boy was a 230 pound man who is the brother of a convicted rapist. That little 8 year old girl never stood a chance. Many people are trying to make sure that that little girl and the "Emily's " of the world get a chance.

Mary Griffin said...

@Annonymous post @8:23,

I have little sympathy for adult rapists. But I do know this: A fourteen year old boy is a fourteen-year old boy. The fact that the brother of the boy is a rapist does not indicate guilt. The fact that he was convicted indictes guilt.

But getting beyond that, the fact that a fourteen year-old beat and raped a young girl and that he had a brother who was a rapist is telling you more about the pathologies in that family. It is likely that that the fourteen year old boy suffered the same fate as the little girl as well as Emily. None of this stuff happens in a vacuum.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Grown Up, I can only tell you that NO one is saying all the adults involved are bad people. No one. And Garfield is not on trial here. I'm supposing this might have happened at any school. (That said, the hazing has to go and that IS particular to Garfield.)

They may have been given little to no instruction on their duties and what that would look like. But they were the grown-ups (just like you) and they could have used a lot better judgment.

I thought of contacting these teachers and the vice-principal (as can anyone else). You know what they'll say? No comment. They are not going to talk to anyone under advice of counsel.

"Consensual sex with minors is very big grey area"

Somewhat. Some states would call it (do call it) statutory rape.

I don't think anyone is calling for lawsuits by the family; that is their personal call.

But there are certainly other people who - if not checked - might find themselves in court.

Mary Griffin said...


If we are talking about rape, then there is a rapist. If we are talking about alleged rape, then we are talking about an alleged rapist.

No one person has been named as a rapist. So I think as long as we are talking about rape, then we are talking about a rapist.

I have no problem talking about alleged rape, but if I were a family member, I would have a difficult time doing so.

The fact that no one has been charged or found guilty does not change the circumstances of what the family claims happened to "Emily."

If you came home one day to find your house burglarized, you would not tell people an alleged burglar had been in your home and that you had been allegedly burglarized, nor would I go telling people you were allegedly burglarized, although if I were a journalist or an insurance adjuster, that is how I would report it.

So to summarize my roundabout post, I think it is fine for those who are family and friends of the family them to use the words rape and rapist. I can't see it happening any other way.

Charlie Mas said...

In order to bring an action against anyone for saying "rape" instead of "alleged rape" the boy would have to come forward and identify himself.

Pretty darn unlikely.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just tryin' to protect this blog. After the complete nonsense of the lawsuit against me, you could understand why I might be careful.

Anonymous said...

Melissa - thank you for your continued outrage and perseverance flipping over those rocks. This story brought back so many memories of my experiences three years at Lowell. Ignorance of procedures, failure to follow procedures, unwillingness to listen to facts and discern the truth... But this is so much worse. It was difficult as an adult dealing with an employment issue - I can't imagine what it must be like for this young woman and her family fighting the district over issues of safety and physical and mental health. One thing I do know is that my fight - and most likely this family's - would have been much more difficult without your blog. You have my utmost respect and appreciation and the Miller family has my sympathy. I am hoping the situation turns around for them


Anonymous said...

The story rings so true as told by "Emily" that I wonder if there were any women in the group of FBI or National Parks Dept. who determined that the evidence couldn't bring a conviction. Common sense says that if it was consensual, it wouldn't have been anal sex. The proof at the hospital showed rape. Who at the FBI or Parks Dept. knows more about rape than the rape specialist at the hospital? Although she entered his cabin voluntarily the final result was sexual violence. The boys who were in the cabin should step up and tell their story to the Title IX investigator or the Civil Rights investigator when the investigation starts. The friend of the perpetrator who said she was moaning sounds like a guy who would say anything for a buddy. I think it is all misogynistic.
Truly Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Truly Anonymous,

Perfectly stated. Visit the family's website if you and others would like to support this through some type of action.


Anonymous said...

"The boy is no longer a student at Garfield. The students on the field trip were members of the class of 2013 and 2014."

How can this be? He's in the class of 2015

It's hard to know who is more morally depraved--the rapist or the school administration.

Mrs. Miller

Anonymous said...

Gen Ed Mom--

True. The male chaperone had no idea how to chaperone teenagers; as you mentioned, he applied adult standards to teenagers. Excerpt from District's report:

After the female Students left, Mr. Ward went to his room. He kept the door open and allowed the male Students to settle down. Mr. Ward then left his room and announced, “All right! I’m going to bed. Be respectful of your peers.” He then went to his room, shut the door, donned some earplugs, and went to sleep.

At approximately 10:30 to 10:45 PM, loud voices and lots of activity woke up Mr. Ward. He stepped into the hallway and saw some male Students wrestling. Mr. Ward checked the male Students’ rooms and did not see any female Students. He then announced, “Guys, seriously, it’s getting late and you need to be respectful of your peers. I can’t keep you from staying up. But, go to your rooms and be responsible and quiet.” One of the Students answered, “All right, Saint Nick!” Mr. Ward then returned to his room and went to sleep.

At 12:00 AM, loud voices woke Mr. Ward a second time. This time, he went into the room where Student 2 was assigned to sleep. Mr. Ward, who did not see any female Student, then announced, “All right. Last chance. Lights out.” A male Student answered, “All right. Sorry.” Mr. Ward then returned to his room and went to sleep.--excerpt from District's report

Last chance before what? Before the kids texted to leave the cabins! Before what consequences? Surely if the two teachers off in distant cabins by choice were close by to flunk their students, the kids might have obeyed the rules.

Mrs Miller: A sole chaperone can not provide the mandatory bed checks. Had the two teachers who organized the trip elected to sleep in the area of the students, there would have been 5 chaperones to share a night watch. As it was, only one of the 3 chaperones who watched the students was authorized/background checked to be on the trip. Therefore one authorized chaperone for 27 students. Not only is that a poor ratio, but none of the 5 chaperones on the trip (including the 3 staff teachers) had ever read the chaperone rules.

These are the facts from the District's own documents.


Anonymous said...

Truly Anon ... I've got to confess, the situation raises questions about the other students who were witnesses. I know that nobody could have shut me up. No is NO. Where are the witnesses. I hope they don't have the moral and civil rights vacuousness of the District here.

Truly horrified

Charlie Mas said...

Visit the Naturebridge site and you'll learn that the cabins have rooms within them. A cabin might have half a dozen rooms with sleeping space for 4-6 people in each.

I haven't read anything about there being anyone else in the room - in the cabin, yes, but not in the room.

So the question becomes, would proper supervision require opening the room doors within the cabin?

Anonymous said...

I find the focus on blaming the chaperones (in some of the comments here and in the Stranger article) to be annoying, short-sighted, and very much playing into the district's hands.

It does sound like the chaperones were completely unprepared and incompetent. But chaperones are unpaid volunteers.* It is the responsibility of the school district to properly screen, train and prepare volunteers. At my school district (near SPS) everyone who chaperones field trips is given additional information and training by supervisors in the school building. It sounds like that didn't happen at all - yet another example of SPS's culture of lawlessness. Blaming volunteer chaperones, rather than the people who are paid to ensure training & compliance with district regulations, is exactly what SPS would love for you to do. Once again they can blame someone else (yes, it was the fault of the parents who attended who didn't know how to watch large groups of kids!) rather than their own training and oversight.

*Yes, teachers are paid, but they aren't paid additional money to attend field trips. They give up their evenings and weekends to attend field trips because they believe it's best for kids, not because it's part of their job description.

-Education Watch

Anonymous said...

Truly Horrified: About Witnesses

More horrifying: the District didn't include information from a girl's mother in its investigation. That’s because in this case, the District discounts information provided by women.

This is one example of the gender based discrimination that has informed the assault from the minute Principal Ted Howard dismissed the report of rape ("We can't have any allegations here," he told Dad) but privileged the assailant's tale of "alleged" consensual sex.

The morning after the rape, a mother reported to a Garfield teacher that her daughter witnessed a rape. The teacher reported to Principal Ted Howard. The email appears below from a public records request.

Next, the assailant's long time friend said he saw consensual sex. The Parks Service investigation report says he told the assailant "I have your back." Clueless but transparent. It's unclear that he was even in the room when the information is analyzed from investigations 6 month apart. That's why Title IX requires a prompt and equitable investigation.

The District turns a blind eye on the mother's report to the school, including medical reports, the assailant's FB posts, his prior disciplinary history, the victim's account authenticated by her therapist, and the assailant's own testimony that he was told to stop multiple times. That's rape, but the District privileges his tale. He’s more important to the athletic department. The female is devalued (no disciplinary record, completed 4x her community service requirement before 10th grade and accomplished musician.)

Gender based discrimination. Girls are the most vulnerable in a District that fosters a culture of sexual violence.

From: Samar, Serena L
To: Howard II, Theodore
Cc: Lee, Lenora
Subject: Per your request
Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 9:05:04 AM
On Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 7:21 a.m. I arrived outside the main office where I was parking my bike. Ms. Moore caught my eye and approached me.

Ms. Moore stated there was an incident on the Ecology field trip and she took [redacted] home last night and she was very upset as was her Mom. I stated that [redacted] is naturally dramatic. Ms. Moore said, no this is a little more serious. I asked if everything was ok. She told me that there was an incident on the field trip where [redacted] witnessed a rape. She was in the top bunk. She also stated that it is still under investigation.

I thanked her for telling me about the incident. I also asked about another student on the field trip that is a male and on my caseload. She asked for his name. I replied with [redacted] . She shook
her head “no” that he wasn’t mentioned in the allegations.
Serena Samar
Case Manager
Language Arts Teacher
Garfield High School

By the time the eyewitness and assailant were interviewed 6 months after the rape, their stories changed from their initial stories to the National Parks Service. They had months to refine their stories before the District conducted its investigation.

The District has the most important extracts from the National Parks Service investigation including the assailant's testimony and the eyewitness. Because it's redacted, it could likely be available through a public records request.

Re: the District's errors and omissions in its investigation, request the parents' Oct. 18, 2013 response to the investigation report. The response provides an analysis of the available information. This information, and much more, was never incorporated into the District's final report.

--The Family

Anonymous said...

Education Watch, I agree with you. It is absolutely the district's job to screen and train chaperones. The district failed here 100 percent. The school administration also failed. Even if the district isn't doing a good job, the school principal should care about protecting his kids.


Anonymous said...

Also, the chaperones were set up to fail. There were not enough.


Charlie Mas said...

I understand that there are a lot of folks who are dissatisfied with the chaperones' performance. I am, too.

But the bigger issues, such as the Title IX complaint, is not about what happened that night, but about what happened (or didn't happen) in response to that night's events.

The rules for chaperones have been changed since then. There was a response.

But there still hasn't been a response to the failures among the management and executive class staff. They need to be held accountable and their rules need to change as well.

Mary Griffin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Griffin said...

Charlie, you and Emily's family are doing a great job bringing attention to this issue. But I think the emphasis on the issue that that the family is making on its facebook page is the most important issue: the fact that there is no awareness of how Title IX applies to high schools.

Even a student advocacy driven website which is now in the nation news, "Know Your Title IX", contains no references to applicability to high school. I think you and Emily's family need to tap into the strength of these types of groups to get action on this issue at the national level.

I think that speaking out on a national level could be very powerful and ultimately aid healing for "Emily" and others.

Charlie Mas said...

I have a couple updates to report.

First, I heard back from one of the three people in HR who were assigned the task of revising the Sexual Harassment policy and procedure. He said that they are in the process of reviewing the policy and that they have asked for extension of the deadline due to a scheduling conflict. He says that he's sure they will be bringing the policy forward for review in the near future.

I'm not sure what any of that means. I've sent him a follow up email seeking clarification.

I got an absolutely brilliant response from the internal auditor, Andrew Medina, about the Corrective Action tracking tool. Really, I cannot give him enough credit for his prompt and thorough response.

The tool, it turns out, is pretty new. It was first shown to the Board in March. He notes that the log only shows the outstanding tasks, so it always looks like nobody is getting anything done. He noted that while Mr. Apostle had six items outstanding on the June 2014 log, that was actually a big improvement over the March 2014 log when he had 17 outstanding items. He also clarified the meaning of the log entries for me. While the date for expected completion may be amended (with the old date remaining but lined out), those don't imply an extension in the due date. The due date may or may not be revised. Most of Mr. Apostle's tasks have 3/13 or 6/13 due dates. He has not been granted extensions from the Board - he's overdue.

So all that's missing, I guess, is the accountability.

Anonymous said...

Charles Mas,

"The rules for chaperones have been changed since then. There was a response."

When a district has rules but doesn't follow them, what is the use of new rules? The old rules would have sufficed if they were followed. What is the good of new rules if they aren't followed and enforced. As you say, enforcement is critical. Unfortunately we had to call in the Feds to police the District for failing to implement Title IX and undertake a national media campaign (with the help of dedicated activists like yourselves) but what are the consequences when district and state laws are ignored?

The Mother

Anonymous said...

Mary Griffin,

Thank you for acknowledging the importance of educating families about Title IX at the high school level. Families of younger students need this information too. That argument is spelled out int he OCR complaint posted on the family's FB site: stopsexassaulinhighschool. Mary, and others, if you'd like to help our small group of activists who plan to form a non-profit to advance this important cause, please contact us through the website or at

There's room for everyone's talents, anytime, in the fall? In the winter? This is a long, sustained effort.

Ms. Miller

Anonymous said...

GEM--you wrote that the school principal should protect the kids. That's what the policies say: the principal is responsible for the safety of the students even on field trips.

Ted Howard failed and tried to cover up. In addition to failing to protect students, Howard has fostered a culture of sexual violence when he failed to give equal consideration to a report of rape and take the required steps. That's the chief reason the creator of the petition wants a new principal.

The originator of the petition is a third generation Garfield graduate and was class president for three years in a row. She is ashamed of her school, and rightly so. She needs at least 500 signatures ASAP to take it to the school board.

The Family