Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Title IX Update

The Seattle Public School District is currently conducting a general review of its Title IX Compliance program. They have promised to do a lot of work. They have made claims that a significant amount of that work is done. It is less clear what, if anything, has actually been done. The Board Audit and Finance Committee has asked to get an update on Title IX Compliance progress at each of their meetings until further notice. That Committee will be meeting tomorrow, so let's preview their checklist.

Appointment of Title IX Officials.
The District announced the appointment of a number of Title IX officials. They included Pegi McEvoy as Title IX Coordinator, Michael Tolley as Title IX Official for Student Matters, Brent Jones as Title IX Official for Adult Matters, each principal as the Title IX Compliance Officer in each school, and Brent Jones as the Title IX Compliance Officer in the JSCEE.

Except that Ms McEvoy was replaced as the Title IX Compliance Official. I don't know when it happened, but that job has been split in two. The duty of Title IX Compliance Official for Student Matters has been assigned to Beryl Miller, the Behavioral and Emotional Support Team Supervisor, and the work of Title IX Compliance Official for Adult Matters has been assigned to Mr. Jones.

Here's a funny thing. They all share a single email address:

Yes, there are links for both references because one web page names Ms McEvoy and another web page names Ms Miller and Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones is supposed to supervise himself, which is tough, but Ms Miller is supposed to supervise her boss, which I believe is even tougher. These appointments are, of course, seriously questionable and represent some pretty thoughtless governance and management. Can anyone really envision Ms Miller compelling Mr. Tolley to take some action? Can anyone imagine how effective it would be to appeal a decision by the Title IX Official for Adult Matters, Mr. Jones, to the Title IX Compliance Official for Adult Matters, Mr. Jones? Let alone appealing a decision by the JSCEE Title IX Compliance Officer, Mr. Jones, to the District Title IX Official for Adult Matters, Mr. Jones, and then to the District Title IX Compliance Official, Mr. Jones? Is this effective oversight? Is this a fair appeal process? Is this meaningful backup?

Check out slide #9 from the Sexual Harassment Training PowerPoint that tells staff:
"School Compliance Officials should go to the appropriate District Compliance Official– For student matters, Beryl Miller, 252-0620– For adult matters, Brent Jones, 252-0025If the District Compliance Official is not available, you should go to one of the following: – Title IX Official for situations involving students only: Michael Tolley– Title IX Official for situations involving adults: Brent Jones"
So if Mr. Jones isn't available, go to Mr. Jones. This is actually written on their training slide.

It appears that the District intends to hire someone specifically to serve as the Title IX Officer for the District. That job hasn't posted yet. In that case some of these duties may be re-assigned.

The District says that the initial training of the Title IX Officials on their duties was completed on September 11, 2014. That was before Ms Miller's appointment was announced, so it is highly unlikely that she participated in that training. So it's unclear if that box is checked. She was appointed by the September 23 training.

Training sessions for school administrators on School Compliance Official responsibilities were held on September 23, September 25, and October 2, 2014. Training materials included the Primary Duties of the School Compliance Official and a Power Point presentation. That training was pretty funny. It mostly tells people to follow the policy and procedure. This is the presentation that Mr. Howard, principal at Garfield, dismissed in the public meeting on field trips as ineffective. The training, delivered on September 23, directed the school Title IX Officials to send a notice home with the students in the first day packet. Not a very helpful instruction to give three weeks after school starts.

Training session for Executive Directors of Schools on duties of Compliance Officials was held on September 19, 2014. I don't know what elements were included in that training.

The District promises a lot of future training. They promise to train the District Compliance Officials on procedural requirements, the school administrators on School Compliance Officials responsibilities, and follow-up training for everyone after the procedures are revised.

It's amusing that the District is doing this work to direct the staff to adhere to the sexual harassment policy and procedure while the District leadership, the superintendent and the Board, are out of compliance with the policy and procedure that calls for annual advisory committees and annual reports which have never been done.

Title IX requires a number of notices, forms, and reports. The notice to students in the first day packet was already mentioned. Notices are also supposed to be posted at all of the schools and workplaces, added to a number of documents, and applied to number of the District's web pages. This work isn't done and, in a number of cases, it hasn't even been started. I don't understand why this takes more than a week.

The documents that I have seen are generally good - and it is, of course, better to have them than to not have them. Take a look at this notice that advises complainants of their rights.

Corrective Actions.
This is an area of real trouble because this is the thing that runs counter to the Culture of Lawlessness. The District's official position is that they have never been directed to take any action to address failures in their Title IX compliance and they have not extended the deadlines on any of the Title IX corrective actions that they have been directed to take. Yeah, I know. Spend a moment with that.

The documents, of course, tell a different story. Despite the grave concern expressed by all of the District leadership over the reported rape at NatureBridge in 2012, they didn't take any action to address problems with Title IX compliance (not that they admit any) until after the media started talking about the incident this summer.

HR officials cited for Title IX non-compliance in 2012 committed to resolving the issue in four months. When that deadline passed they revised their expected completion date to a year. When that deadline passed they revised their expected completion date to two years - a day after the responsible staff person's retirement. The Board Audit Committee, despite their espoused outrage and concern, did not bat an eye at the extended expected completion dates.

On March 13, 2014, the OSPI directed the District revise their sexual harassment policy and procedure. It was a Required Action coming out of the Consolidated Program Review. On April 28 the District committed to having them revised by July 1. No revised policy has been brought before any Board committee nor is there one on any committee agenda yet.The superintendent has drafted a revised procedure (though long after the July 1 commitment). He is soliciting comment before making it final.

There were other corrective actions required:
Submit evidence that the Section 504 Coordinator, Title IX Officer, and Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator have been notified of their assigned role (e.g., job description, signed assurance, etc.).
The District committed to updating job descriptions by June 2014. They say that it is still on their to-do list.

Submit an action plan describing how and when the district will update all district and building publications (including building handbooks, course catalogs, and newsletters) to reflect the district's most recent nondiscrimination statement by the start of the 2014‐15 school year.
The District committed to having this by June 1, 2014. As mentioned above, it remains undone.

Submit an action plan describing (1) the process the district will use to log and track future complaints; and (2) how and when the district, including all buildings, will annually inform all students, parents, and employees of the discrimination complaint and appeal procedures, such as in staff and student handbooks
I'd say they got this done, though not by their self-imposed June 1 and July 1 completion dates.

The Board Audit and Finance Committee reviewed these elements at their quarterly audit meeting on June 19. The minutes of that meeting do not reflect any impatience with the staff for missing the June 1 completion commitments nor any concern that the July 1 completion commitments would be missed as well.

The Audit Committee now maintains a sort of Title IX Audit log. It first appeared at the Audit and Finance Committee meeting of August 19. Here is the part of the minutes of that meeting that speak to the log:

Kevin Corrigan provided the committee with a written Consolidated Program Review (CPR) tracking log for all CPR findings from the 2013-14 school year. This log reflects actions take to date. Ron English spoke about Education Amendment Title IX and suggested changes to training and compliance procedures. Mr. English spoke about the Title IX log that includes findings and other work. He confirmed there will be Assistant Superintendents or other cabinet-level staff assigned to all of the comments to ensure follow through and total accountability. Directors spoke about how the Title IX items as well as CPR items will be closed out and Mr. Medina confirmed they are brought to the attention of the Internal Auditor or Washington State Auditor and then incorporated into the audit universe/cycle. Directors asked what prompted the Title IX log and Mr. English noted this review was focused primarily on issues of sexual harassment. 
Directors asked that Title IX checklist be revisited at the next Committee meeting.
Again, despite all of the breast-beating about their grave concern, the Board didn't express any here. In fact, they had to ask what this was all about.

By the way, in the minutes it says that the Directors wanted to revisit the checklist at the next meeting, but it was not on the agenda for the next meeting, September 11. It is on the October meeting agenda as a routine item.

Let's take a look at the Title IX checklist that Mr. English prepared. Please note that the dates are the dates for the next action, not expected completion dates. After the first two items that have to do with defending the District in outside investigations or hearings, it goes straight to the 3208 policy review. The next step was to prepare a draft by August 15.  That was almost two months ago, but no draft has been seen. The draft would have been an internal document, but surely it wouldn't take two months to wordsmith it.

Then comes another investigation and then the Incident Response Team. We have seen the procedure for this. It's nothing new - the Critical Incident Response procedures have been around for years. You'll notice they tout the development of these procedures, but they don't make the actual procedures public. I've read them so I know why. It is a Public Relations plan, not a student safety plan.

The next item on the log is the training for building leaders on the Critical Incident Response procedure (a fifteen minute powerpoint that basically said: "Call the JSCEE").

Then comes the annual report. It was supposed to have been scheduled for presentation to the Board by now, but it has not been.

Then the appointment and training of Title IX officers, which was described above.

Next on the log is the PR response to the bad publicity. That was done in September and has already been ridiculed on this blog. The PR people are some of the only ones who actually complete their duties on schedule.

Finally, the required actions from the Consolidated Program Review. They seem to say that they have done it and that they are going to do it by October 1, an action date that they have obviously missed. Mr. English's log conveniently neglects to have a line item for the revised sexual harassment policy required by the OSPI CPR. Hmmm. Funny.

The District is working very hard to maintain the public perception that they care about this and are taking prompt action while, at the same time, their inaction shows how little they really care and how committed they are to taking no action at all.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if the settlement and Ron English's declaration that "the district does not admit any wrongdoing or liability" in this matter will stop the Title IX review in its tracks.

--- swk

Reader47 said...

Posted on open thread but here's live link to ST story re: Garfield settlement

$700,000 settlement reached in Garfield High field-trip case

mirmac1 said...

No. Because OCR is still investigating - as they should. Title IX protections have been essentially non-existent at SPS. And English cannot evade responsibility for that bone-head omission.

I am happy for the female student and wish her a healthy, happy life.

mosfet said...

The CIRP can be found at a SSAIHS site here.

$700K is actually pretty minor compared to some SPS salaries. Paul Apostle (prev Title IX coordinator, who didn't perform his duties) made $176/yr in salary. Pegi McEvoy (now one of the Title IX coordinators?) makes the same. Ted Howard (who the parents complained against) makes $127K.

Anonymous said...

Keeping your kids safe online (posting here since there is no open Friday forum):

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Detectives posing as children online caught six suspects they say were trying to meet children for sex.

Among the six suspects in the child sex sting operation are a Whatcom County corrections officer and a Navy sailor.


Anonymous said...


It's a systemic problem so the title IX investigation will continue.


Anonymous said...


SSAIHS folder belongs to a SPS grad and is distinct from the family's FB page.