As you may know, Seattle Public Schools wasn't quite up to snuff on Title IX compliance. The person responsible for Title IX compliance didn't know his responsibilities and, consequently, failed to perform his required duties. When this dreadful situation came to light (with tragic consequences), the District... well, the District didn't do anything for two years. But when this dreadful situation triggered a federal investigation... the District still didn't do anything about it. But when word leaked out and it appeared in the press and people started to hound the Board over it, then we saw some action. In just a couple months the District has finally pretended to take the quick action it should have pretended to take two years earlier and is now promising to talk about planning to address a long-standing deficiency.
Here's the news:
- There is now a Title IX Compliance web page. On this page we learn that "The Seattle Public School District is currently conducting a general review of its Title IX Compliance program." I guess that's the polite way to describe a federal investigation.
- There's a link to the Board policy on sexual harassment. It's a charming work of Utopian fiction. It does not reflect the actual practices of the District in any way. According to the web page, "The District is currently updating Policy No. 3208, and we hope to post the new draft soon." Hmmm. No mention of the fact that the OSPI Comprehensive Program Review required that action, or that the District promised to have it done by now. Also, still have yet to get the first of the annual reports required by this policy.
- There's no link to the Superintendent's Procedure on sexual harassment, which is also tagged for action in the OSPI CPR. Here's a link for those who enjoy reading fantasy fiction. You'll particularly enjoy the part about an annual ad hoc committee to review the effectiveness of the policy and procedure and recommend changes. Here's a recommended change: follow the policy and procedure.
- There are links to the state and federal laws related to sexual harassment. Read these so you can determine exactly what laws the District is breaking and how.
- There's a link to another page with the names of the Title IX Officers. I'll spare you the suspense. The Title IX Coordinator is Pegi McEvoy and the Title IX Official for student matters is Michael Tolley. There are brief descriptions of their duties and responsibilities. As Title IX Coordinator Pegi McEvoy "is responsible for monitoring all trainings, providing notices, annual reporting, tracking the District’s response to complaints, and identifying and addressing District-wide patterns/systemic problems." As Title IX Official for students, it is Michael Tolley's duty to "assure prompt, comprehensive, and equitable investigations of any formal complaints communicated to the District, ensure proper training, and identify and implement appropriate remedies."
- Here's something interesting. The web page also mentions School Compliance Officers. According to this web page, The school compliance officers "will be responsible for providing a school-level response to complaints, overseeing informal investigations, and identifying and addressing patterns/systemic problems within their school. Each of these Officers will receive training in the prevention response and remedies for incidents of sexual harassment." That's interesting because, if you read the policy and procedure for sexual harassment, you'll find that there are no informal investigations.
- Back on the main Title IX web page there is a section heading for training, but it only says "Coming soon." That's interesting because the District claims that they have conducted training already. Or did they? Don't ask because even they aren't sure. Seriously. They aren't sure if they did the training. I guess the new Title IX officers who are supposed to track training weren't announced back then, so no one tracked whether the training was done or not.
- The section titled Notices has some blather about how the district policy requires notices about sexual harassment and the complaint procedures. Actually it's the law that requires them and, as we all know, there are no such things. This web page says that they are coming soon also.
- There's a link (that works if you delete the extra close parentheses at the end) to the Office of Civil Rights so you can make an effective complaint after your original complaint falls on deaf ears at Seattle Public Schools.
- At the bottom there are links to Title IX compliance reports, but they're only about athletics. You'll note that they are in the athletics section. There are no compliance reports about sexual harassment or discrimination. That's easy to explain: no compliance, no compliance reports, amiright?
New pages have been added!
2012 Nature Bridge Field Trip Incident. This web page, a complete embarrassment, manages to completely ignore all of the Title IX issues and focus exclusively on CYA for the District. Not one thing written here is relevant to Title IX. Beyond that, a lot of it is simply false.
The District narrative includes a long list of statements, such as the fact that the feds didn't prosecute. Consider each of these statements and ask yourself: What does that have to do with Title IX? Most of the time you will conclude that the District's narrative is full of a lot of stuff that doesn't matter at all.
Changes to District Procedures on Field Trips... This web page purports to describe the actions that the District has taken. But notice that this web page doesn't actually tell you anything.
According to this web page, "The District has also developed a Critical Incident Response Plan to respond to extraordinary situations at schools," I've read the Critical Incident Response Plan. It's a PR Plan, not a student safety plan. It's all about how to manage potentially bad press. You'll notice that no link to the plan is provided. They don't want you to read it because they are confident that you will imagine and presume something better.
A team including the Deputy Superintendent, three Assistant Superintendents and the General Counsel has been established to conduct a review all District procedures, standard notices, and investigation and training practices and reporting requirements relating to sexual harassment.
Ah, once again the District has leapt into action - just two years after the event. And what action. They have announced a team to discuss a review. For the next six months they will use the announcement of this team to stiffarm any hard questions about Title IX issues. If the public outcry dies down before then the team never even has to meet. If not, then they will meet and the District will have another six months to claim "The Team is developing a plan." They expect the outcry will trickle down by then for sure. If not the Team will announce and distribute their plan, which will be nothing more than a list of the documents they promise to review. Of course we already have that list: District procedures, standard notices, and investigation and training practices and reporting requirements. They can then go another year in the hope that this will all just go away before anyone can expect them to actually deliver the product of their review. If everything goes according to plan they will all have different jobs before any actual work product is expected.
The District has added the really inadequate and insulting letters from Dr. Nyland and Director Peaslee to the Title IX web pages as well. There's no point in bothering with them. They will only make you angry.
As noted, the District has a link to the Sexual Harassment policy, but does not provide a link to the Sexual Harassment superintendent procedure. A reading of the procedure is what will give you the best understanding of the district's failings in the NatureBridge case. Here it is.