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.
Dr. Larry Nyland