Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Seattle Schools' Letter to Community on Garfield Rape

Update: in the Board Comments, each Board member addressed this issue (in his/her own way).  There was a range of verbiage used.  I was surprised at how they spoke out now, given their silence the entire summer (except for President Peaslee's letter months ago.)

Director McLaren is the only Board member to say anything nearing this:

"I regret whatever lapses occurred on part of district, both in communication and systemic organizational responsibility."

She is also the ONLY person, to the best of my knowledge, who has acknowledged that mistakes were made and that she is sorry it happened.

A couple of Directors support several speakers' call for a taskforce of BOTH community/experts and district staff.  I could support this taskforce only IF it was run by an outside entity.

Director Martin-Morris acknowledged the issue but went on to say that Seattle could be a leader in this kind of advocacy of providing information to students on sexual harassment/assault.  That's great but let's first get the actual protection procedures clear to ALL staff .  Safety first.

Carr talked about improvements being "impactful" and Patu pleaded that the district "isn't perfect" but trying to get it right and make changes.

(Have we heard this tune before on any number of issues?  We have.)

Director Peters had the good grace to point out that Board duties "include policy, law,ethics and, if we followed policies and laws" that our district would find themselves in fewer of these circumstances.

But oddly, a couple of Directors felt it necessary to say that the public doesn't know the whole story.   So the district's investigation is not comprehensive?  Why not?  Because we all know the students had a sexual encounter so since that is already on the table, what has been left out?  It seemed like a whiff of blame to the girl.

But it was left to President Peaslee (who always goes last in the comments and seems to always want to get a last and final word in) to push this issue of what happened.

She asked the audience and the public to consider that no one was charged with a crime and that there were two criminal investigations and no charges. She said not to create a new victim out of this incident.  (Clearly she meant the male student.)  She said not to use "retaliation" to correct a situation.     She said to respect all the Garfield students.

I'd like to believe she was just awkward in her statements but she also said that the public didn't know   all the facts.  I can only say in that moment it sounded like she thought there was some blame to the victim and that, by the male student not being charged, there was no crime (so don't make him a criminal).

I can only say that many, many jaws dropped in the room as she made these statements.  I appreciate and understand her statement that there were no charges made.  BUT that does NOT mean there was no crime committed.  She seemed to be trying to say that.

It is also troubling that she spoke of retaliation when the girl's family says that the girl was not notified by the school that her attacker was returning to the school and that his friends harassed her, both at school and in social media.

I thought maybe it was just me but in discussions after Board comments, it was clear that I was not alone.

end of update.

There is much that can be said about this letter.  It is rather vague, in my opinion.  The Board and the Superintendent is being urged to create a taskforce with both district staff and outside experts/community members.

The district cannot pat parents on the head and say, "Don't worry."  It's just not enough.

The letter to the community on the Garfield field trip rape:

The incident reported after a 2012 Garfield High School field trip is of concern to us all.  We would each be deeply shaken if our child was involved in such an incident.  While we cannot undo that event, we can learn from it and take steps to increase the safety for our students.  
We will continue to work together to support student safety both on and off school grounds.  We support Ted Howard in his leadership as principal of Garfield High School. 
As background regarding this incident: 
• The FBI and the National Parks Service immediately investigated the incident.
• Based on the investigation, the U.S. Attorney did not file any charges.
• The District also investigated and found the facts to be inconclusive.

We can and will, however, continue to learn from this incident.  As a result of this incident the District has:
• Established a Critical Incident Response Plan and trained administrators in how to respond to issues such as this.
• Reviewed and improved our training, field trip and chaperoning practices.
• Trained administrators in appropriate responses to critical incidents such as this.
 
We will be reporting to the School Board Operations Committee tomorrow on all incidents involving students the past year. We are also working with the Office of Civil Rights and will give careful consideration to their recommendations for improvements in our compliance to ensure that we are clear and current in our efforts to protect student safety. I have asked a senior management working group to review all processes related to the requirements of Title IX on sexual harassment to improve our notices, training, investigation practices, compliance actions, and remedies for victims of sexual harassment. 
Ted Howard, principal at Garfield High School, is equally concerned about this issue and is also committed to learning from this incident to improve safety for our students.  Given this experience, he and the Garfield staff are now even more aware, knowledgeable and committed to enforcing our field trip policies rigorously. 
We will also do everything possible to prevent harassment, intimidation, or bullying of all students including any retaliation toward any of the parties involved in this incident. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Larry Nyland
Superintendent

34 comments:

Jon said...

This seems to be a pattern.

Parents upset about something? No problem. Create a taskforce. Load it with people who support your position. Make the group too big to function and too big to come to any conclusion. Let it run for a long time, answering any questions to district staff with the response that we should wait for the taskforce to publish its opinion.

By the time the task force comes out with its muddled opinion, people will be tired from waiting so long and give up. Mission accomplished.

They've pulled this too many times. I don't think we should settle for a taskforce and waiting. Again.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jon, I agree. I think the taskforce IS needed but that it should be lead by outside people.

In the Board comments, I hear echoes of "we'll do better" and "we're working on it" and it just all sounds like bullet points.

How do parents KNOW the training and procedures have happened and will stick? Do parents need to closely question their principal and lead teacher for any field trip on who is chaperoning, background checks, etc.?

I would. I would not trust for a minute that anything will radically change.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Does the district now have a trained title IX officer or is 'Director' Carr still kicking that can down the road?

Catherine said...

why am I not inspired? Oh... I think Jon (et. al.) nailed it.

In the trust but verify department related to the incident school - since there are know hazing problems at Garfield, and the principal promised to address the issue (again) after last year's fiasco, and we all know the 10 most likely public locations where that hazing/froshing activity occurs, maybe it's time to make sure those locations are monitored during key frosting times by outside observers. The district won't do it, SPD won't do it, I think it's up to us as a community. I'm in for a shift or two. They've had an entire year to get things working correctly, now they can prove it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, there is currently no trained Title IX officer.

Mary Griffin said...

OSPI is holding a hearing on proposed rule changes regarding sexual harassment in public schools, including all Title IX related rules.

To view the CR-102 (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking), please visit this web site:
http://www.k12.wa.us/ProfPractices/adminresources/RulesProcess/WSR14-15-081.pdf

To view the proposed rule language, please visit this web site:
http://www.k12.wa.us/ProfPractices/adminresources/RulesProcess/OTS-6492-2Final.pdf
Written Comments:
Written comments regarding the proposed rule amendments are encouraged. Written comments must be
submitted to the Equity and Civil Rights Office by mail, e-mail, or fax on or before August 28, 2014 at 5:00
p.m. at:
Equity and Civil Rights Office
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
PO Box 47200
Olympia WA 98504-7200
E-mail: equity@k12.wa.us
Fax: (360) 664-2967
Public Hearing:
A public hearing to receive comments regarding the proposed amendments will be held as follows:
August 28, 2014
9:00–10:00 a.m.
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Brouillet Conference Room―4th floor
600 Washington St. S.E.
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

dw said...

Catherine said: maybe it's time to make sure those locations are monitored during key frosting times by outside observers. The district won't do it, SPD won't do it, I think it's up to us as a community. I'm in for a shift or two.

Sounds like a good idea to me, and I'd probably participate if something like this got off the ground. But it's not that easy.

It's virtually impossible to keep high school kids from doing stupid stuff. You can threaten suspensions, expulsions, whatever, and kids are still going to do stupid stuff. I was mildly surprised (and pleased) that Ted Howard was actually able to personally make a difference last year. Fortunately, it would seem he has a better ability to keep tabs on the activities than the students gave him credit for.

But what happens if the public venues get shut down? Do the kids take it to private homes? Stupid kids have stupid parents, as we all saw the many comments from parents that thought it was perfectly find for high schoolers to participate in hazing and drinking games. Some of the parties were indeed at private homes before the kids moved on to other sites.

I do think it's a good idea though. Two or three parents at a few sites, just hanging out ready to stream video from their smart phones would likely do wonders. Better get started now though, it takes time to coordinate something like this!

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

Mellissa,

I was appalled by President Peaslee's comments. She immediately shifted the discussion from responsibility for sexual assault and the District’s response that earned it a federal investigation to an advocacy role for the male student. She said we can’t have two victims. The male student is already a victim of school system that privileges his story, thereby enabling him to assault yet again.

Peaslee misled the public by saying there were two criminal investigations that exonerated the assailant. Peaslee knows there was only one investigation by the National Parks Service. She saw reports that the assailant testified with his mother in the room, but still admitted the victim told him to stop multiple times). Ms. Peaslee says the failure to prosecute means that the male student is not culpable, so the district isn’t either. He’s innocent until proven guilty she wrongly said. Ms. Peaslee knows full well from documents that Chief Ranger Smith in charge of the investigation wrote that the failure to prosecute does not mean a rape did not occur. Moreover the School Board has seen the victim's medical reports and read the assailant's own testimonies.

Ms. Peaslee relies on arguments that are an insult to intelligent people and do everyone—including the assailant—a terrible injustice. Ms. Peaslee is an extension of Ron English’s legal agenda and continues to foster a culture of sexual violence when she relieves on primitive self-serving arguments.

I’m sick and tired of leaders lying and duping the public. I hope you will write the school board and elected officials about this irresponsible tactic to distract public attention from the District’s own failures. Other students and parents volunteered the same response.

The District’s concerns for the welfare of students has never been expressed to our family in words or in actions. On the contrary, the District and Ms. Peaslee continue to be very concerned about the perpetrator. Our focus has always been on the District, not the assailant.

Parent who cares about all students


Anonymous said...

Reposting for the caring parent who signed with a longer than 2 word moniker...

Anonymous said...
Mellissa,

I was appalled by President Peaslee's comments. She immediately shifted the discussion from responsibility for sexual assault and the District’s response that earned it a federal investigation to an advocacy role for the male student. She said we can’t have two victims. The male student is already a victim of school system that privileges his story, thereby enabling him to assault yet again.

Peaslee misled the public by saying there were two criminal investigations that exonerated the assailant. Peaslee knows there was only one investigation by the National Parks Service. She saw reports that the assailant testified with his mother in the room, but still admitted the victim told him to stop multiple times). Ms. Peaslee says the failure to prosecute means that the male student is not culpable, so the district isn’t either. He’s innocent until proven guilty she wrongly said. Ms. Peaslee knows full well from documents that Chief Ranger Smith in charge of the investigation wrote that the failure to prosecute does not mean a rape did not occur. Moreover the School Board has seen the victim's medical reports and read the assailant's own testimonies.

Ms. Peaslee relies on arguments that are an insult to intelligent people and do everyone—including the assailant—a terrible injustice. Ms. Peaslee is an extension of Ron English’s legal agenda and continues to foster a culture of sexual violence when she relieves on primitive self-serving arguments.

I’m sick and tired of leaders lying and duping the public. I hope you will write the school board and elected officials about this irresponsible tactic to distract public attention from the District’s own failures. Other students and parents volunteered the same response.

The District’s concerns for the welfare of students has never been expressed to our family in words or in actions. On the contrary, the District and Ms. Peaslee continue to be very concerned about the perpetrator. Our focus has always been on the District, not the assailant.

Parent who cares about all students



8/20/14, 8:40 PM

-reality check

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mirmac1 said...

Response to Kaiser Staff Investigation Report

Attitudes Toward Sexual Assault at Garfield Final

Sexual Assault Case Documents REDACTED

Anonymous said...

One further word on lying: The Seattle School District has always claimed the FBI told it not to investigate the GHS sexual assault. KIRO reporter Chen spoke with the FBI ad determined that it "would never ask another agency not to investigate a rape" link below

Chen reported that "School officials said Wednesday they will review their records on their guidance from the FBI. An SPS spokesperson said the U.S. Department of Education advised districts to delay their own investigations if law enforcement is involved. "

This is completely contrary to Title IX that says districts must not hold of an investigation regardless of a criminal investigation under way.

http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/fbi-policy-disputes-seattle-schools-version-allege/ng6Mb/

Please ask the school board to stop lying. Don't be duped. Please believe all parents who could write volumes on the District's lies to avoid liability.

The Mother who eschews lying

Anonymous said...

I think that the student who is accused of the rape has been spreading his influence far and wide that the victim is somehow framing him for the crime and that somehow he is influencing people to think that she is lying. This is an old story about how women are kept down. It is similar to how racial injustice continues to be strong in 2014. With the current events in Ferguson, it comes to our awareness that the system is set up against African Americans. That is the same way that rape accusations are set up against women, especially against young women/teenage girls. Since they are not experienced and tough yet, their story may not be trusted. To me, an old woman, logic tells me that if it was consensual, it would not have been from the rear end since she was 15.
GHSmom

PissedoffSPSParent said...

@Melissa Westbrook,
You Asked: "How do parents KNOW the training and procedures have happened and will stick? Do parents need to closely question their principal and lead teacher for any field trip on who is chaperoning, background checks, etc.? "

If you look at the recent internal audit of Garfield (link below), you'll see in the volunteer section (page 5) that from the dates of September 2013 to Feb 2014, Garfield was STILL not screening its volunteers correctly according to district policy.

Clearly this horrific incident was not enough to get Garfield leadership to follow district policies. Moreover, because the board publicly announced tonight that it supports Ted Howard's leadership, apparently they also have no interest in making sure these policies are actually followed.

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/Internal%20Audit/Final%20Garfield%20HS%20Audit%20Report%20with%20Response.pdf?sessionid=c40e0803d78ad4fda2d07a8a19712df7

mirmac1 said...

GHS and SPS failed to follow the new "improved" procedures because they figured the parents would just go away. The latest English - orchestrated whitewash in July only made them more determined.

Anonymous said...

pissed off parent:

Home hospital tutor to GHS rape victim in 2012: "We though we'd solved our chaperoning problems"

Feb. 2014. Still not screening chaperones.

No improvement from period prior to 2012 rape.

Solution: student demonstrations and community service hours for demonstrating against the District to insure for their own safety absent adult responsibility.

Mrs. Miller

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, our elementary school is following the guidelines. Parent volunteers must submit an application and have a background check prior to chaperoning an overnight trip. They must also view the Sexual Harassment video from the District.

Even with following the guidelines-- unless I, my husband, or parents and teachers that I KNOW AND TRUST were chaperoning my kids at any grade for an overnight trip -- I would now not allow them to attend.

I cannot trust an entity that only responds with "Trust Us - We'll do better next time" with a precious individual and child. This incident is something that may forever hinder this child and those that love her from trusting and excelling, or anything beyond living forever more in the most protective and restrictive way mentally and physically.

It is not conscionable to just blithely hope for the best and excuse those that were too tired to care, or just down right don’t care, unless it means damaging their precious image for future career advancement.

I don’t understand how a human can disregard another human with such cold calculation and manipulation just to protect an inhuman bureaucracy.

-StepJ

Jennifer said...

Finally being covered by the Times in an extremely slanted article.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024355589_garfieldfieldtripxml.html

Anonymous said...

The School Board meeting (at least the part about the Garfield incident) was covered by KOMO on the 11:00 news last night, and featured the statements made directors McLaren, Patu, and Peaslee.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Protestors-criticize-Seattle-schools-handling-of-alleged-rape-272106241.html?tab=video&c=y

-North-end Mom

Reader47 said...

I just read thru most of the documents posted by Mirmac - I guess I should not be surprised that the District seems to be more interested in protecting itself from liability than in protecting a child. I've seen enough "behind the scenes" stuff to know that's how it works around SPS.
What's most disturbing is why no one can explain the long long long time it took for the District to "investigate" (and I use that term loosely). Really - do none of these people have children in their lives? They all come across as so heartless.
I can acknowledge that these might be...well..."difficult" parents to deal with. So what!! Do your bleeping job and parents won't have to go to such extraordinary lengths to protect their child.
Man, everyday I am more and more glad my kid doesn't attend an SPS school

Anonymous said...

Reader 47. Thank you for validating our struggle. To answer: KIRO TV busted the District's excuse that the FBI told them to hold off a investigation. http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/fbi-policy-disputes-seattle-schools-version-allege/ng6Mb/

The District now makes the same excuse concerning the Dept of Education, Office of Civil Rights, contrary to OCR policies.

The reason it took the District so long to investigate is at least twofold:

1. The District hoped by doing nothing the rape would blow over and spare itself a lawsuit/public scrutiny.

2.The District was completely ignorant of its responsibilities--from the chaperoning procedures to the federal requirement to follow Title IX. As Charles Mas writes, even when the rules are known, the District ignores them I was shocked myself to learn this.

Even though your kids are not in the District, please consider helping students everywhere by doing a bit of advocacy and following out work at stopsexualassaultinhighschool (you don't need FB to see it). You can email us at stopsexualassaultin high school@comcast.net There are simple cut and paste letter writing that can be done. . . .

Sexual assault can and does happen in any district. We received a testimony from North Shore District. The more we attract attention to the Garfield rape, the more we serve students everywhere. Grass roots activism is working, but only with help.

I'd rather be. . . . sleeping.

Mrs. Miller

Charlie Mas said...

There seems to be a misconception that the protesters want the boy held accountable for his actions.

I believe that what the protesters really want is the District held accountable for its inaction.

The Board and the staff know this. They are intentionally avoiding that issue by choosing, instead, to focus on the non-issue of holding the boy accountable. All of the talk about the boy is rhetorical misdirection and sleight of hand.

Charlie Mas said...

The Seattle Times has finally run a story about this, but they have turned off the comments for the story.

Sigh said...

"Catherine said: maybe it's time to make sure those locations are monitored during key frosting times by outside observers. The district won't do it, SPD won't do it, I think it's up to us as a community. I'm in for a shift or two. "

I agree. Has anyone chaperoned a school dance???

It is not out-of the realm for something to happen, on school property, during the day, either.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm running a separate thread on the Times' article as I have some other info related to this case.

Puffin said...

School Board Director Sharon Peaslee's assertion that there were two separate criminal investigations is false. Two agencies--the National Park Service and the FBI--teamed up to conduct a joint investigation. The NPS case report states that representative from both agencies conducted the interviews.

The District continues to emphasize that no charges were filed to absolve itself of its responsibility to properly investigate this incident. The US Dept. of Education disseminates to all educational institutions, a Dear Colleague Letter, which sets forth guidelines that schools must follow in response to reported sexual violence to be in compliance with Title IX. The Dear Colleague Letter states:

Police investigations may be useful for fact-gathering; but because the standards for criminal investigations are different, police investigations or reports are not determinative of whether sexual harassment or violence violates Title IX. Conduct may constitute unlawful sexual harassment under Title IX even if the police do not have sufficient evidence of a criminal violation. In addition, a criminal investigation into allegations of sexual violence does not relieve the school of its duty under Title IX to resolve complaints promptly and equitably.

District records show that the parents quoted this excerpt to the District and School Board on numerous occasions. For obvious reasons, they choose to ignore it.

Dear Colleague Letter:
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.pdf

mirmac1 said...

I have cited Guidance Letters often in calling SPS' failure to comply. They are not codified regulations. But an agency regulates by DOE chooses to ignore them, then they should expect to lose.

As elected officials (paid or not) you are expected to know the laws and regulations that apply to, and protect those, you were elected to serve.

mirmac1 said...

Sorry for the typos.

Charlie Mas said...

I like the way they portray this as "quick action" when it all comes a long, long time after the events. It is only quick action in response to the protests and media reports, not to the events.

Christine said...

Totally agree, Charlie. When Dir. Carr pointed out how much work they've done *this summer*, I was appalled. A year and a half later and only in response to protests and media coverage? And you want us to appreciate you for that? Feel gratitude that you are finally doing your job? Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

The district was negligent here, and some half-assed cya is too little, too late.

Anonymous said...

Charles and Christine,

Well stated on the inaction.

Sigh: regarding chaperoning school dances, a girl was raped at a dance according to Yonathan beruk Beruk who posted on the petition to remove Ted Howard.

g/p/seattle-public-school-board-new-garfield-principal-for-2014-2015-school-year

Mrs. Miller

Melissa Westbrook said...

I am seeking confirmation that all that was stated to have been done in Nyland's letter WAS done. I have my doubts.

I also want to know who the "senior management working group" that is
reviewing processes related to Title IX is.

I also continue to not like the district practice - when school staff have clearly not done the right things - for district leadership to say things like"are now even more aware, knowledgeable and committed to enforcing our field trip policies rigorously."

What would have been good to add is that "any staff involved in this incident have had their roles reviewed for how they may not have followed procedures and how to proceed in the future."

It seems like a complete whitewash of those staff members at Garfield. I understand it is a personnel matter but if Mr. English can turn a phrase when speaking to a victim'e parents or even the public in speaking of an incident, then surely the public can be better reassured with some words about the actual staff involved.

I have to wonder what the reaction of Garfield parents/PTA will be to seeing/working with Mr. Howard. I wonder if their PTA may even make a statement. I personally think that would be a good idea but it's their call.

Charlie Mas said...

Notice what is missing from this letter?

Do you notice that the letter does not include a commitment to comply with procedure, policy, regulation and law?

That is a commitment that Dr. Nyland will not and cannot make.