I only watched the Board comments and a bit more of the meeting. (They moved at lightening speed and I think may have adjourned by 6:30 pm.) This is NOT coverage of all their comments but just the issue-specific ones that they made.
I wish I had heard one Board member say that he or she was committed to following thru on every stated commitment and accountability measure that staff has said. No one did.
She thanked some group in the corner for coming (and I believe this was in reference to the Garfield field trip incident).
For some reason, Blanford has to turn everything into some personal story. I appreciate that he is trying to relate to schools/issues but it is odd that he does this during every single Board comment period.
He did say he thought a taskforce should be assembled to go over this issue of sexual harassment. He said he had "spent huge amount of time in meetings with principal and staff and district staff and last night with parents/community." But he offered no ideas about how it would happen.
He also said a constituent asked if the district had a policy about talking about the Ferguson, MO shooting. He said one school board in Illinois had specifically told teachers they could not talk about it at all. He said it was a genuine teaching moment. I agree but it does have to be handled carefully. I believe that direction should come from the district and not individual teachers.
She said, about the Garfield incident, "although we were not able to be public when this came to our attention, the School Board is very concerned about Title IX compliance. We are committed to making sure that the district steps up and does what is needed and demanded by situation. Field trip incident was a "wake-up call to this district". A taskforce is good idea"
I'm glad that she, too, believes there should be a taskforce. But neither she or Blanford looked at the Superintendent and said, "I hope to see this happen soon."
Also, would any of us have known about this without the parents and their advocacy? I do not think so. Certainly no newspaper (save The Stranger) has said much about it at all.
Would the district or Board have said anything without media attention? I wonder.
Director Peters was eloquent in mentioning "bookends" of the strength of district from the Eckstein Jazz Band playing at the Board meeting then reflecting on the weaknesses seen from the Garfield incident. She said the district needs to teach our students what sexual harassment and rape are. "We need to educate them well to keep them safe."
I normally would not agree that it is the district's role to explain these issues but since the district has a policy, students - no matter what their parents say - should understand what the district will and will not accept in behavior between students (not to mention what the law says).
She also said that she had "mentioned this before but worth stating - Math in Focus cost less than was estimated as much as $1.4M less. Thanks to all who did the negotiations" to get the district a lower cost.
She also said there was a NCLB petition to Duncan about the requested SPS waiver but it also acknowledges failures of NCLB. She said it might be good to send in your success stories of our schools. (She noted one of the petition organizers was a group that she co-founded, Parents Across America.) Here's a link to Secretary Duncan's Facebook page if you want to tell him about the good things in Seattle Schools.
She also acknowledged "mistakes" in the Garfield incident but that they would learn from them. It was not all that reassuring. I think there was someone else in history who said, "Mistakes were made." I don't think it enough.
I honestly did not think Director Peaslee would, for two Board meetings running, not speak in a unifying manner. At this point, I think she is more concerned about protect the district.
Others have transcripted her remarks, here's mine:
She said there was "a lot of "misinformation" about this incident.
She said the clear and current info from superintendent is that he has asked the senior management working group to review all processes on Title IX and sexual harassment to improve our notices, investigations and training practices, compliance and remedies for victims of sexual harassment. We've established a CIR plan, blah, blah, reviewed and improved our field trip training and chaperone practices and principal training.
(I'll interject here to say that I want to see documentation that all these trainings have taken place. I don't know - a sign-in sheet with date and times - something beyond "we did this, believe us." We're long past taking anyone's word on this serious issue.)
She said the Garfield field trip incident has shaken the entire district to its core. She also said there had been "an immediate response at the school level" and as soon as incident came to the attention of district administrators "action was taken." "We know there are gaps in our process and we are looking at those and addressing them from a number of different angles. We need a more rapid, effective response." She said they had their own internal investigation for "over a year."
I would need "immediate response" defined because most of the evidence does not show that effort.
I have also requested some documentation about this trip that I think may reveal more issues. I know for a fact that one of the teacher chaperones took a couple of days personal leave off after the trip and told students in the class that it was because "something happened on the trip."
She said they "cannot undo the unfortunate incident but we can learn from it and we (the district) will continue to take steps to increase safety."
She again said that the "facts are that FBI and Parks Service investigated. No criminal charges were filed and no one was charged with rape. And it is unjust to accuse someone of a felony offense they were not charged with. I would appreciate it if people would think very seriously about the language they use in describing the events of this situation."
I will say here that on that point she is somewhat correct. I believe that this blog should have used the phrase "alleged rape" (which I did at the beginning but did not follow thru with all my threads). It has been not legally established that a rape happened. That said, anyone has the right to say "I believe" a rape happened.
She stated that the "district also investigated and facts were inconclusive."
"The parents of the victim have filed with OSPI to review Board's decision and the hearing will be in November."
She said the parents also filed complaint with Office of civil rights of US DOE. She said there was a "briefing paper available more about the incident."
She said the "parents have submitted a formal claim for financial compensation which is the first step towards litigation. Our outside attorneys are working with parents to resolve this matter and won't comment further while pending claim."
I can only say I hope the parents will NOT accept any claim. I hope they take the district to court and have the whole thing hashed out. I say this not to punish anyone but this district needs a real cold splash of a reality check. No more of this busywork to cover up what appears to be lack of oversight and professionalism. Not with children's lives on the line.
Is this to be like the Wall Street debacle? Everyone is sorry but no one is to blame? No accountability? Well, then, the parents of the victim may be doing everyone a favor by their courage. (I can completely understand if they DO settle with the district if only to get on with their own lives.)