Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Garfield Field Trip Incident Settled By Family

From SPS: 
Below is the announcement on the district’s field trip procedures and the Garfield High School mediation.

**Please note, the school district will not be providing any interviews.**

District continues to improve overnight field trip procedures

Leadership at Seattle Public Schools understands the value of overnight field trips for our students. We also place a high priority on student safety both at school and on school-sanctioned trips. In light of recent events, the district updated our field trip policies and increased training for staff to help ensure student safety.   

This recent work stems from a 2012 overnight field trip during which a Garfield High School student said she was sexually assaulted. Investigations by multiple law enforcement agencies determined there was inconclusive evidence of a crime. However, on Oct. 3, Seattle Public Schools went into mediation with the parents of this former student. The district settled with the female student and her parents for $700,000.

As a part of the mediated settlement, the parents have agreed not to pursue any monetary claims against the district, and to dismiss all of their pending actions in front of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Office of Civil Rights, and anywhere else. They have also agreed not to pursue any new actions, or to file further public records requests with the district. They have also agreed not to communicate further with the district regarding this incident or subsequent response action, and to not publicly identify or complain about the male student accused of the assault.

The settlement must be submitted to the School Board for approval on October 15. The settlement must also be approved by a court-appointed guardian ad litem, who will assure the female student's rights are protected. 
While the settlement does not hold the district liable for the incident, district officials do consider this a fair settlement that allows the district to focus its efforts on improving our processes to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment, and provides funds for the student to pursue her education.
Since the incident, the district has focused on improving overnight field trip procedures and working to ensure compliance to the federal Title IX mandates, which cover response to sexual harassment.

Specifically, the district has:

Improved overnight field trip procedures and training
In 2013, the district revised its field trip procedures and chaperone training requirements. School administrators were trained on these revisions during the summer of 2013. The field trip procedures and chaperone training requirements are being further reviewed this fall (2014) to reflect lessons learned.  
We are taking the following steps to ensure the safety of our students on overnight field trips. Here’s what parents and staff need to know:
·         There must be at least two chaperones on each trip of more than 6 students including at least one chaperone for every 10 students. 
·         We will not allow parent/teacher chaperones to bring their own younger children on the trip.
·         We require 24/7 supervision with bed checks in the middle of the night.
·         We require chaperones to maintain proximity to the students.
·         Parents and students are required to sign off on the guidelines; including the understanding that violation of the field trip behavior requirements may result in the student being sent home.
·         Lead chaperones are required to provide training to each of the chaperones on the trip.
·         Emergency procedures for the chaperones to report student or chaperone violations up the chain to security, the principal or the superintendent/designee as appropriate. 

Recent Work on Title IX compliance
We have created a new Title IX webpage, available at: http://bit.ly/TitleIXCompliance. The webpage details the district’s policy, procedure, and other news regarding Title IX as it applies to sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and athletics.
So far, our focus has been on updating compliance with the sexual harassment portion of Title IX. The district has appointed a number of new officials to ensure that our sexual harassment policy (Policy No. 3208) is upheld by all Seattle Public Schools schools, students, employees, and volunteers. These officials include:
·         District Compliance Official for Student Matters: Beryl Miller
·         District Compliance Official for Adult Matters: Brent Jones
·         Title IX Official for Student Matters: Michael Tolley
·         Title IX Official for Adult Matters: Brent Jones
·         School Compliance Official: Principal or Appointed Designee for each school
·         JSCEE Compliance Official: Brent Jones


Additionally, the district is forming a Task Force on Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment comprised of staff, teachers, principals, parents, students, and sexual harassment experts. The main responsibility of the Task Force will be establishing a robust and easily accessible program to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual assault, as well as educating both students and adults on how to respond to and provide support for victims of sexual assault.
The district is also revising its Superintendent Procedure 3208 regarding sexual harassment. The procedure includes a complaint form, as well as a notice to complainants of their rights, which is available on the Title IX webpage. The district accepted comments on the draft procedure through Sept. 26, 2014. We also sought input from both OSPI and OCR. Approval of the new procedure is anticipated by Oct. 24.
The district created a general notice concerning sexual harassment, which will be posted at all school administrative offices and on staff and student bulletin boards. This document is available on the Title IX webpage.
 Increased training regarding new changes
To update district employees on the changes we have made thus far, a number of new training sessions have been held, including: 
·         An initial training of the Title IX Officers on their duties was completed on Sept. 11, 2014. Follow-up trainings will be provided once all procedures are in place.
·         A training session for Executive Directors of Schools on the duties of Compliance Officers was held on Sept. 19, 2014.
·         Training sessions on School Compliance Officer responsibilities were held on Sept. 23 and 25 and Oct. 2, covering all school administrators.

The district is pleased with the progress made toward ensuring complete and comprehensive compliance with Title IX. During the next few weeks, the district will focus on the following activities to continue moving forward:
·         Changing Title IX notices on the district’s website pages to reflect new Title IX duties;
·         Advertising for a permanent position within Human Resources to perform district Compliance Officer duties;
·         Review of student health curriculum to address incidents of sexual harassment
·         Additional training for staff on responding to incidents of sexual harassment

For more information, please visit these web pages:

·         Background on the incident
·         Overview of Title IX compliance
·         Title IX audit history
·         New field trip procedures

43 comments:

Reader47 said...

hmmm.... not sure I'd have given this part up but...on the other hand, understandable from a "put this behind us" point of view..

"and to dismiss all of their pending actions in front of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Office of Civil Rights, and anywhere else.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"They have also agreed not to communicate further with the district regarding this incident or subsequent response action, and to not publicly identify or complain about the male student accused of the assault."

I found this interesting. It doesn't say that the family/girl cannot comment on the incident - they can't talk to the district nor identify the perpetrator.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's how they improved field trip procedures. They included this language in the field trip permission form for students:

"I assume full responsibility for any risk of personal or property damage arising out of or related to my/my child's participation in this field trip, including any acts of negligence or otherwise from the moment that my student is under Seattle Public Schools (SPS) supervision and throughout the duration of the trip. I further agree to indemnify and to hold harmless SPS and any of the individuals and other organizations associated with SPS in this field trip from any claim or liability arising out of my/my child's participation in this field trip."

If you don't absolve them of any responsibility for your child - even if they are negligent - your child can't go on the trip.

Charlie Mas said...

There. They fixed the problem.

Anonymous said...

I guess there must be a momentary pay out in excess of $250,000 if the board was involved.

Others money

Charlie Mas said...

It is worth noting that other people - not the student or her family - are free to continue to contact the District about Title IX issues, about sexual harassment and assault, about failure to comply with policy, about failure to enforce policy, and about failure to hold staff accountable for their failure to comply with policy.

Moreover, while the student and the family may not ask for investigations from regulatory agencies, other people may request those investigations. You don't have to be a party to the incident to request action.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean the family's new nonprofit pursuing Title IX awareness for high school families is kaput?

Does this mean the OCR investigation is over, or only that the family will not be involved in the investigation?

I think SPS is gasping with relief that it doesn't have to pay out more.

I also think this type of incident is likely to happen again. SPS is busy covering its butt and adding paperwork. At the school level, beyond Howard's Cancel Everything career-saving gesture, nothing has changed. Field trips are happening. Have chaperones been told about the newest policies and procedures - or the old ones for that matter? Don't think so. Do administrators know who is headed out on school trips at the elementary level, let alone high school? Doubt it.


Aghast

Anonymous said...

The press release opened with the announcement that the district would not participate in any interviews about this topic. So much for open dialogue.

sandi k

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I am disappointed that the family settled and at the same time, I can understand why they did. I hope their daughter finds some peace and is able to move forward.

HP

Anonymous said...

@Aghast
Not sure what your comment about what volunteers are on field trips, but as a volunteer at an elementary, here is what I have to do:

Seattle Public Schools requirements for volunteering at school have changed slightly for the 2014/2015 school year. Please make sure that you . . .
Complete a Washington State Patrol background check (this must be conducted every year);
Provide a copy of your drivers license to the front office ;
Complete an online sexual harassment training and print out the certificate and provide a copy to the front office.

We log into a computer on campus and wear a temp badge so that it is clearly seen we are checked in. Also, for overnight trips, a fingerprint back check with the State Patrol is required.

WS Dad

mirmac1 said...

The "hold harmless" language effectively neutralizes Howard's trip ban. They all can be as negligent as they want without consequence.

Anonymous said...

So, taxpayers are paying, and neither the perp nor the adults in charge are being held accountable. Do I have that right?

- Future Bulldog Parent

Patrick said...

I am very surprised that individuals can sign away their right to file public records requests!

Puffin said...

**Please note, the school district will not be providing any interviews.**

Except, of course, if you're the Seattle Times, whose reporter interviewed Ron English and the District's hired investigator for its article.

Anonymous said...

Aghast

The family posted their new mission statement and looks like it will be K-12.


Rachel

Anonymous said...

Those assumption of risk waivers aren't worth the paper they're written on. WA strongly disfavors pre-incident waivers and releases, and the facts, not some piece of paper, will still control in the end.

The new paperwork requirements smack of a huge, new CYA effort, which does nothing but preserve the district's right to say, "we told you so."

Good lawyers write tight documents with simple language. Bad lawyers write lengthy, exhaustive, redundant, and burdensome documents with confusing, and often contradicting language.

I wonder which we have in SPS, or advising them from outside?

WSDWG

Garfield dad said...

Any thoughts on how this will/might affect the current Garfield ban on overnight field trips? Does this development give them the protocol they wanted in order to move ahead with the planned field trips for 2014-15?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Garfield dad, unknown but I suspect that Howard wants trips to go forward and it will happen.

GarfieldMom said...

I have heard from two Garfield teachers that they expect news soon on field trips.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said...

Amazing. Seems the district had not anticipated providing parents who do not speak English, a release from liability form in their own language.

What we are witnessing with the obtuse field trip "procedure" is the district's knee jerk reaction to anything that points out how they fail to follow laws and protect/serve students. Step 1: Stonewall; Step 2: Deny; Step 3: Lawyer UP. Seems to be the winning formula at JSCEE.

Charlie Mas said...

There are three education news stories in the Seattle Times today. This one, one about an elementary student who threatened a teacher with a knife, and one about how the teachers' union paid a lot of the cost of the McCleary litigation.

The online comments on these news stories are heinous. The Seattle Times has a lot to answer for. We have an uncensored forum here, but we don't see anything like the kind of hateful things I read on a daily basis in the Seattle Times comments. The Times has a lot to answer for. They are the news source that is informing that perspective. They are feeding it. And they are giving it a platform to spread.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, could there be a method to what the Times is doing? Could they be making the union look as bad as it can while also making the district look bad?

Almost as if someone ELSE should be running the district.

Not.

Another Thought said...

Of course, we must have procedures and individuals to insure our students are safe. Anything less than assuring student safety is not acceptable.

However, there are many instances in which students can be harmed because they don't follow rules. The district needs language that protects them from such instances. Code of Conduct and signatures of parents/students need to be considered.

Students can and will find a way around rules. Taxpayers can't be responsible for such cases.

so long fat brains said...

The seattle times lost all credibility for objective journalism when it ran a full page ad for its pick for Governor.

Thankful we have this blog and the slog to get our info our we would only hear what the corporate machine was willing to slop our way.

I am glad the family fought as hard as they did. I am glad they took a small financial sum too. I hope the best for them. I hope the best for SPS too but what a rocky ship. I am a glass full type of person but right now I am feeling like a glass half fool.

I really don't know how our chief legal is still employed.

2cents

2cents

mosfet said...

@Charlie

Regarding the comments on the Seattle Times versus this blog: I don't believe that the commenters on the Seattle Times are special. I've seen plenty of vile comments on others news sites where they don't moderate comments. However, I believe that this blog is much more civil than the Seattle Times for a few reasons:

1. Comments can be and are sometimes deleted on this blog.
2. You and Melissa are active participants in the discussion and often prod people to check their facts.
3. There are fewer people reading and commenting on more articles here, so there's more of a sense of community.

mirmac1 said...

Another Thought,

This part really gets me though. Parent assumes full responsibility for damages related to the trip " including any acts of negligence or otherwise".

The district admits it can be utterly careless, break laws, ignore safety procedures, asleep at the wheel etc and yet they bear no liability. In fact, if something happened to an outside party, parents will "hold harmless" the district and must pay for the district's defense against outside claims.

Another Thought said...

"This part really gets me though. Parent assumes full responsibility for damages related to the trip " including any acts of negligence or otherwise".

We see similar things in medical/surgical consents. That does not mean that surgeons and medical personnel aren't held to a safety standard.

Greeny said...

Is this REALLY what is being added to "fix" field trips? Where is LEGAL representing us parents and caregivers? THIS IS INSANE.

Why would I entrust my child to anyone insisting I still hold "full responsibility" for them, even though I am not there? With this writing, even with a screwup in the extreme, say NO chaperones ("negligence") - SPS has (or is trying hard to - alarming) "pre-absolved" themselves from their core duty under the doctrine of in loco parentis: protecting our children while in their charge. This is not a "fix" - this is asinine. I personally find it shameful behavior by SPS legal, not just trying to wholly shift the burden to parent, but holding our kids hostage (parent not signing = kid no go.) This SHOULD be a PR nightmare for them, but will only be if parents call them out (ie DON'T JUST SIGN!!)

Reposting ftpermission form from above:
"I assume full responsibility for any risk of personal or property damage arising out of or related to my/my child's participation in this field trip, including any acts of negligence or otherwise from the moment that my student is under Seattle Public Schools (SPS) supervision and throughout the duration of the trip. I further agree to indemnify and to hold harmless SPS and any of the individuals and other organizations associated with SPS in this field trip from any claim or liability arising out of my/my child's participation in this field trip."

mirmac1 said...

Another Thought, I'm no malpractice attorney. If a doctor got a hospital to hold him harmless from any incidents, "including those due to his negligence", the hospital would pay for his defense and be responsible for any pay outs. Of course no hospital in its right mind would do that - but parents are expected to...?

Anonymous said...

The field trip permission form is quite faulty. Let's say that your child, Annie goes on a field trip to a Camp Cozy with bunk beds. Your child is assigned to sleep in a top bunk. Annie climbs the ladder in a normal fashion, gets into the top bunk and the bunk bed collapses because Camp Cozy hasn't maintained its bunk beds. The injuries from the bunk bed cause serious injury to Lucy Luckless and after six months in the hospital, Lucy Luckless dies. If you sign that form, you are indemnifying Camp Cozy for their neglect, such that not only will you be responsible for injuries to your child, repair to Camp Cozy's bunk beds, hospital bills for Lucy Luckless six months in the hospital AND any pain, suffering, etc claims that Luckless Lucy's parents have against Camp Cozy.

Leagle Eagle

mirmac1 said...

Leagle Eagle

Right. The faulty form will have to be tested in court (as if a family could afford that) AFTER going through the SPS Stonewall, Deny, Lawyer Up strategy. By then English will be retired and living in Palm Springs wearing his white hat.

Anonymous said...

"We require 24/7 supervision" & "we require chaperones to maintain proximity"
How is this going to work? When I was in highschool we went to Europe with the band and Canada with the Orchestra, and we were allowed free time to explore the cities on our trips. These new rules would mean that's totally forbidden, and all students would have to stay in large supervised groups at all time.
How will they work the trips where kids stay in hotels? There aren't many hotel rooms that hold 11 people.

CCA

Anonymous said...

"The settlement must also be approved by a court-appointed guardian ad litem, who will assure the female student's rights are protected."

Why can't the girl's parents sign off, since they're the legal guardians?

--walker

Charlie Mas said...

@walker, the girls' parents can't sign off because the law does not presume that they have their child's best interest at heart.
After all, some families would sign away all legal protections just so their kid could go on a field trip.

mosfet said...

Regarding the ad litem guardian:

Though I believe that the parents here are acting with their daughter's interests at heart, I am glad that it is a matter of procedure for a guardian ad litem to be involved. It keeps reminding me of Coogan's Law, for some reason.

Anonymous said...

The district's proposed waiver and release is at odds with established public policy and therefore I have doubts about its enforceability. It does send a message about the district's lack of confidence in properly conducting a field trip. As a parent, I would not sign such an agreement.

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

The language in the release is, in my view, standard for this type of activity. Compare it to the release that is required for a local overnight camp attended by many Seattle area children:

"In consideration for my child being permitted to participate in camp activities, I hereby agree to release [organization], its directors, officer, employees, agents and volunteers [organization] Releasees from all liability to me or my child for any loss or damage to property or injury or death to person, whether caused by the ordinary negligence of the [organization] Releasees or any other person, and while I or my child are at camp or participating in camp activities. I agree not to sue the [organization] Releasees for any loss, liability, damage, injury or death described above, and I agree to indemnify and hold the [organization] Releasees harmless from any loss, damage or cost they may incur due to my child’s participation in camp activities."

- Parent/Attorney

Anonymous said...

How will parents whose first language isn't English understand the liability waiver? Are these forms provided in other languages?

Ben

mirmac1 said...

Ben, I inquired. They hadn't thought of that, but are now going to do it. Hmmmm.

Anonymous said...

People who may have an interest in determining whether the field trip permission form is enforceable may wish to turn to Wagenblast v. Odessa, a WAshington State Supreme Court case from 1988, which held that as a matter of public policy school district release forms are invalid because they violate public policy.

The question before the court was "Can school districts require public school students and their parents to sign written releases which release the districts from the consequences of all future school district negligence, before the students will be allowed to engage in certain recognized school related activities, here interscholastic athletics?"

Parents from Seattle enjoined this case, seeking injunctive and delatory relief.

This case is available at http://www.leagle.com/decision/1988955110Wn2d845_1895.xml/WAGENBLAST%20v.%20ODESSA%20SCHOOL%20DIST.

Leagle eagle

mirmac1 said...

Well I hope someone will be so kind as to obtain an injunction before this derails some excellent learning experiences.

Charlie Mas said...

It takes a lot of diligence to pursue legal remedies against the school district. Most people don't have the time, energy, or resources for it.

The field trip permission slip language will only dissuade those who are easily discouraged. The really committed will push through it. It's a fig leaf, but that's all that's required to stop most folks.