Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The District's Title IX PR Effort

Seattle Public Schools has a real problem with Title IX compliance. They knew about this problem for years and took no action. Recently, these problems were exposed in the press. When the District started getting bad press about their Title IX problems they began to respond - to the PR problem.

I have long said that the School District only responds to three stimuli: litigation (or the threat of litigation), money, and bad press - especially bad national press. The District's senior leadership had no trouble with their Title IX failures until they were reported in the national media, in Al Jazeera America. Then they became a PR problem, and the District has responded to them as a PR problem.

Here is the heart of the District's PR response: a brand new district web page on Title IX.  This page can be found by clicking on Title IX on the Districts Departments page. I was not aware that the District had a Title IX department, but, apparently, the web managers think they do.

This page is still very new and its going through a lot of revision. It contains links to a number of interesting documents.

After some boilerplate language about how Seattle Public Schools does not discriminate, a description of Title IX, and a little blurb about sexual harassment, the announcements begin. As usual with Seattle Public Schools, their announcements are less interesting in what they say as they are in what they don't say.

At the top

The very top of the page has this announcement:
"The Seattle Public School District is currently conducting a general review of its Title IX Compliance program. This webpage will be updated as necessary."
A general review? Interesting choice of words. And no mention of the OCR investigation.

Task Force

First is the news that the district is forming a Task Force on Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment. The Task Force has a charter and people can apply to serve on it. Applications are due on September 26. There is no mention of whether or not this is the task force that is supposed to be convened annually according to the superintendent's procedure on sexual harassment. If it is, then it is the first time the annual committee has ever been formed in the three years since the procedure was written.

Policy and Procedure

The Title IX web page has links to the district's current policy and procedure on sexual harassment. The district goes on to say that the superintendent is updating the procedure and purports to offer a link to the draft of the revised procedure for comment. The comment period closes on September 26. What the district does not say is that the OSPI, in their Consolidated Program Review made revisions of the sexual harassment policy and procedure required actions for the District. What the district does not say is that they committed to completing those revisions by July 1 - and obviously have missed that deadline. What the district does not say is how obviously they failed to comply with the current sexual harassment policy and procedure or what steps they will take - if any - to improve compliance in future. And, finally, there is no link to the draft of the revised procedure.


The next section of the web page describes a number of resources that are supposed to guide the District in their compliance with the law and provides links to them. Among these are the Dear Colleague Letter from the Department of Education, guidelines from the OSPI, and the actual laws that are supposed to govern. What the District doesn't say is how they utterly failed to comply with any of these guidelines or laws or what steps they will take - if any - to improve compliance in future.


The next section names the various Title IX officers with vague descriptions of their duties. In some cases the duties are curious - school compliance officers are responsible for informal investigations, but there is no such thing as informal investigations - but in no case is there any assurance that any of them will know their duties or perform them.


Oh, well, I guess this is the section where we should get the assurance that the Title IX officers will know their duties and how to perform them. The training is "Coming soon." Not very re-assuring.


Title IX requires the district to post notices about non-discrimination in a variety of places. These notices are absent. Posting the notices was a required action from the OSPI Consolidated program review. The District committed to posting the notices by June 1. They are, obviously, past that deadline. Funny they didn't mention that here.

Audit History

This section provides a link to a web page called Audit History in which the District denies the accusations made that the former Title IX officer didn't know his job or how to do it. They provide links to selected audit documents and don't provide links to other, much more interesting audit documents. This is a new section and clearly a response to the accusations made on this blog. Funny how they can respond so quickly and decisively to a blog comment in days but can't respond to a gaping failure in student safety in two years.


The District's missing notices include references to how people should make complaints about sexual discrimination, harassment, or assault. They are supposed to use complaint forms. The District, however, doesn't have these complaint forms. Don't worry. They are "Coming soon!" The District is clearly more excited about the forms than they are about the training. What isn't noted here is that the District was always supposed to have these forms and they don't.

Sexual Discrimination

Here we find the usual boilerplate language and links to policy and procedure.


Here is more boilerplate language and links to annual Title IX compliance reports that count the number of teams, participants, and spending on boys and girls sports.


ConcernedSPSParent said...

Charlie, where can we find the more interesting Audit findings docs?

mosfet said...

District Taskforce is taking nominations until Sept 26 (wow, that's only a few weeks, is that a normal waiting time?). They've marked positions for two parents and two students. Please apply if interested!

Note: I am not claiming that the district will pay attention to the taskforce's recommendation. Honestly, I doubt they will, given how they ignored OSPI's audit, but it doesn't hurt to try.

One of the audits showing that Paul Apostle was not trained as a Title IX coordinator, long after he was appointed to that role:
See page 82 for notes on Paul Apostle not being trained. See page 84-85 for requirement that non-discrimination notices be posted on the website. See page 86 for requirement that district update sexual harassment policy.

mirmac1 said...

Another university denies rape. I guess SPS models itself after these institutions of higher learning...

Students Demand University Of Kansas Stop Calling Rape 'Nonconsensual Sex'

mirmac1 said...

At University of Kansas:

"The victim in that case filed a federal complaint, prompting an ongoing investigation of the school by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The probe, which began in July, is among the U.S. government's investigations of sexual assault at 77 colleges and universities.

The September Siblings group's demands included an internal investigation by the provost’s office into the school officials handling sexual assault cases, and raising the minimum sanction for sexual assault and harassment so that it exceeds the punishment for plagiarism.

The list also calls for the school to change how it refers to sexual assault: "Elimination of the term 'non-consensual sex.' It is rape."

Ron English must have been reading their rulebook... Hey, whatever minimizes the district responsibility to protect their students. Disgusting.

mosfet said...

Also, if -- as the district claims -- Paul Apostle was trained as a Title IX coordinator, then why didn't he do his job in the 2012 GHS case? Why did he punt it off to Ron English, district's general counsel?

The Title IX coordinator is responsible for figuring out what went wrong and who is accountable. The general counsel is responsible for minimizing the district's liability and protecting them from lawsuits. There's a reason why the general counsel shouldn't be acting as the Title IX coordinator. It's even explicitly forbidden by the Dear Colleague letter written by the Office for Civil Rights.

Conclusion? Apostle wasn't trained.

Charlie Mas said...

The belief (or conclusion) that Mr. Apostle didn't know his duties is the most charitable conclusion.

The only other two explanations are that Mr. Apostle knew his duties but chose not to fulfill them or that Mr. Apostle knew his duties and was directed not to fulfill them.

Believe me. The facts are clear. Mr. Apostle didn't take a single action following the reported rape at NatureBridge in November 2012. He appears nowhere in the documented actions taken by the District. Of the three possible explanations, ignorance of his duties is the most charitable and sympathetic for the District. It is the only one that doesn't imply malice or intentional disregard.

Charlie Mas said...


When it comes to PR, the District moves really fast.

They have already updated the Title IX web page. The officials section has been moved and the bit about the task force has been deleted. The application link has been removed, all information about the task force has been removed.

There's no call for applicants for the task force on the district's home page where these things often appear.

There is no link to the current procedure, just the policy.

This looks like the old Title IX web page with the addition of the Audit History section and all of the other new stuff removed.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link to the task force web page. I'm not sure how to find this other than to search for it.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link to the nomination form for the Task Force.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link to the news announcement, which should be posted soon.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a link to the draft revised sexual harassment procedure.

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting read:

Doesn't sound like SPS had any better existing Title IX structure than this school district.