Monday, June 22, 2015

Garfield New Orleans Field Trip Report

I will be doing a lot of reading over the next several hours as I received both the report and the exhibits.  I have to say - just scanning the exhibits - that there are many contradictions from what I have heard from several directions.  It's going to be interesting cross-referencing both.

What I can say is that there are two connecting issues that could be problematic for the district.

One is that it is not clear if the district made an effort to find out the past history of the male student involved.  The "admissions form" for SPS does ask two questions about past discipline issues and the parents are supposed to "certify" that these are "true and accurate."  What is problematic is that the attorney for the teacher could not get access to this student's admission form.

Did the district know this student had issues (and, in particular, had been in trouble for nearly the same behavior at another field trip)?  I have heard that someone at JSCEE did know this but again, did anyone tell Principal Howard or any of the GHS staff?

Two, is Ms. Burton's lawyer's claim that the male student might not have been able to go on the trip and if he had been able, Ms. Burton would have supervised him differently.  Ms. Burton has taken students on many field trips during her career.  If she can prove that she has indeed handled students differently, based on past behaviors, on some field trips, she bolsters her case.

The lawyer also claims that the small amount of drinking done by the chaperones had no direct effect on the two sexual incidents that occurred.

More to come. 

89 comments:

mirmac1 said...

If Ms Burton is like many teachers, she has likely been asked by parents for accommodations for their children. All she would have to do is produce emails showing this.

Of course there are just as many teachers who say NO, they will not make accommodations and require the parent to accompany the child. This is illegal BTW if the child has a disability.

It is not clear whether that is the case in this instance.

dw said...

Now is when the REAL conversation can start happening.

I haven't seen the report yet, but there are very clearly two different issues. First, the management of a particular student. Second, the behavior of the teacher and chaperones.

The first one is complex, and I wouldn't even speculate yet on whether we, the public, will ever know all the details, though I'm sure there will be lots of conversation happening.

The second issue is not very complex at all. The chaperones and Ms. Burton disregarded the documents they signed that clearly stipulated no alcohol. This was not accidental behavior, as in "oops, I tripped and knocked over a student", or "oops, I missed the bus and didn't get back in time to supervise the next activity". This was purposeful consumption of alcohol in direct violation of district policy and signed contracts. This has the potential on any field trip, especially overnighters in far away cities, of putting the students at risk. If the report backs up what we've been hearing from those who were there, at least one adult was incapable of dealing with even getting back to their room, let alone dealing with any kind of emergency that might have come up. There is no excuse.

I'm not sure I agree with the teacher being fired over one single incident, but I completely understand if that happens, due to nature of this second issue alone. I do think that if she is re-hired, she should never be able to go on another field trip like this. Ever. And neither should any of the chaperones who were involved.

Anonymous said...

Is someone stating a fact that the student who sexually harassed others is disabled? Even if that is true, the IDEA provides NO protection for sexual predators, NONE. Please don't drag special ed into this issue, there's enough predigest out there already without piling this on top.

Be Fair

Anonymous said...

An excellent article about memory, implanting of facts as it relates to children.

http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/false-memory-crime

- Truth Sayer

Anonymous said...

I do think that if she is re-hired, she should never be able to go on another field trip like this. Ever. And neither should any of the chaperones who were involved.

Getting all high and mighty, aren't we? If she is "re-hired"... I'm sure she'll NEVER want to take any students on any field trip. ANYWHERE. What a nightmare, FOR HER. And golly-gee-whiz. It isn't all that easy to find chaperones. I can certainly understand parents taking a drink before bed, or at dinner. What a bunch of puritans. Did they park illegally too? I thought the alcohol was shown to be irrelevant.

We should just cancel all field trips from here on out. DW - you're going to love middle and high school with no field trips.

Reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Her lawyer had some interesting reasoning on the drinking.

Reader, what you say may be true but the district has policies for a reason. You only need one parent to drink too much before something terrible happens.

Again, the policies are there to protect everyone and if everyone follows the policies and something still happens, then the only fault will be in the person who breaks those policies.

Patrick said...

According to reports, one of the adults was so drunk they had to be escorted back to their room. That means the trip is short two or more chaperones: one drunk, one or more relatively sober ones escorting the drunk one.

What kind of an example does drinking set for the students? If the chaperones can break their word not to drink, why shouldn't the kids smuggle in some booze too?

Alcohol isn't a parking violation and I don't think the adults sign an agreement not to commit parking violations while on the trip.

TechyMom said...

This district policy is unreasonable and needs to be updated. We are telling adults that they are responsible enough to be in charge of other people's children, but not responsible enough to use their own judgement about whether to have a glass of wine with dinner? Really?

Of course getting stumbling drunk is not appropriate. That parent shouldn't be allowed to chaperone overnight trips again.

Unreasonable policies are often ignored. We need reasonable policies about something as important as this.

Anonymous said...

TechyMom

It is absolutely not unreasonable to have a no alcohol policy. If you don't agree with it, don't chaperone trips. One person's concept of how much is enough is different than another persons. I know that if someone has to work in an emergency capacity for my child, then I don't want a drop of alcohol in their system. I know many people who think they are sober enough to drive, when in my eyes they are not. It has to be no tolerance. Otherwise, why can't I have a beer at lunch when I am at school teaching? Where do you draw the line? As a teacher, I see no excuse for adults drinking when supervising students. None. The parent having too much and stumbling back to their room is a prime example why there has to be a no alcohol policy.

Parent/teacher

mirmac1 said...

Be Fair, I'm not trying to inflame predigest(sic) readers. My point is that great teachers make accommodations if they a) know their duty; and b) know that a student needs them. Some situations make NO accommodations appropriate.

Anyway, you're hyperventilating over something that was not suggested. I stated it was not clear what the student's status was.

Anonymous said...

How is it unreasonable to expect a chaperone not to drink while providing supervision? You're signing up to go on a job, not a vacation. If an adult can't manage to go a couple days without a drink, they shouldn't be chaperoning.

Drinking and using good judgement don't always go hand in hand. It's pretty damn easy for one glass of wine to lead to two, regardless of good intentions. The point is to minimize risks.

I'm with dw

Anonymous said...

No, Techymom, we are telling them that not drinking while in charge of other people's children is reasonable. That's not the same thing as telling them their judgement about their drinking isn't responsible. And clearly, at least one person who signed off on not drinking DID drink too much and COULDN'T make proper decisions or take good care of the youth in his/her charge.

As I said in the other thread, my child was on a field trip with a boy who broke his arm late at night, in his dorm room. The teacher in charge of that group had to drop everything and drive the boy to urgent care, contact the parents, make sure the other chaperone(s) were aware she had to leave, etc. I would much rather that be handled by someone who had had NOTHING at all to drink. And, god forbid the person in charge of that boy was like the chaperone on the New Orleans trip and got stinking drunk?

I'm blown away that some parents think it's ok to drink while on a trip far from home with other people's kids.

Really? Really?

Anonymous said...

Please notice that the lawyer did not say that violation of a policy was an acceptable action.

The lawyer also claims that the small amount of drinking done by the chaperones had no direct effect on the two sexual incidents that occurred.

TechyMom, I disagree with you. I prefer a policy that is definitive enough it can be enforced. When chaperones and teachers bend the rules, it hardly inspires students to follow them.

The district policy does not need updating.

The SPS has a reasonable policy about something as important as this.

The district has failed to provide meaningful consequences to administrators who violated policies and procedures in the past in regard to field trips.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

I can think of many adults I would rather have watch my kids after one drink rather than other, less astute adults technically sober. It is not that easy for one glass of wine to lead to two for an adult, any more than it is for heated words to lead to punches. You order one, and then not another. Pretty easy. The person who got drunk showed bad judgement in the same way adults show bad judgement in all kinds of situations. I find the puritanical attitudes about alcohol here a little frightening, especially given that alcohol was in no way way involved with the problem.

We have many district policies we do not enforce, so the uprising here that they signed a contract seems disingenuous at best. We need fewer rules (I would say the alcohol ban for responsible adults should go, but is open for discussion), and then we need to enforce the fewer rules.

-sleeper

mirmac1 said...

I have prescription medications that warn I may experience drowsiness. Does that make me ineligible to chaperone? In the Nature Bridge case the chaperones failed miserably without a lick of alcohol.

The policy is unreasonable, nonsensical and overdrawn. What does it say about weapons; or boxcutters for that matter? Should chaperones refrain from caffeine after dinner?

The policy was written so broadly as to absolve the District from liability. Not to actually "ensure" student safety.

Anonymous said...

I would never let my kid go on an overnight, alcohol consent form or not. If my child is anything like I was at that age it would be nothing but trouble. I don't know how y'all are so trusting with your kids or their classmates, or the chaperones.
West Parent

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute - these kids are in high school - many of them going off to college in the next year or so and you would never let them go on an overnight trip?

I guess I am more trusting than you are.

We feel that our kids need to experience personal responsibility and have the opportunity to make some choices (good and (hopefully not so) bad) without parents hovering before they move all the way across the country on their own.

These field trips have been an incredible part of their high school experience and we are very thankful to the teachers (and the many chaperones) who have given them the opportunity to go.

Yes, things can happen - but these trips also go off without a hitch (and many more do than those that have an issue).

-Trusting Parent

NOLA-Parent said...

Patrick, the report states that one adult appeared to be intoxicated. Others had wine with dinner at the start of a 3-hour boat trip, in a restaurant dining room filled with many diners doing the same thing. The District's investigator found, with the one exception, that “all of the chaperones drank in moderation”, and “none of the chaperones were intoxicated or impaired to the point where they could not carry out their duties as chaperones”. He said, “the investigation uncovered no evidence that consumption of alcohol precluded Ms. Burton or the other chaperones from carrying out their duties.”

No one is disputing that the drinking was outside District guidelines. It was wrong, and the parents and teacher all regret it. They have said so, to the District and in public. But it had nothing to do with the core problem - a student with a history of sexual misconduct being placed at Garfield (after an expulsion from another school), and allowed onto this field trip, with no info whatsoever passed from the District to the Garfield. And the District now threatening to fire the teacher because of it.

The teacher and parents made some mistakes. But, according to witness reports, the student misconduct was occurring at GHS and outside of the hotel during the field trip (and yes, also one incident in a room). Compliance with District guidelines had not and would not have prevented the ongoing pattern of behavior. The District knew the student's history; the field trip student background checking process failed because the student's history was never entered into the PowerSchools system; the teacher and chaperones were left blind. So, what now? Fire the teacher, and we're all good?

Those of us associated with the choir program have been ready to accept reasonable disciplinary action from the District. The teacher's 3-month suspension, effectively shutting down the choir program over 4 classroom periods for half a semester, was extremely painful for everyone. Then, the District put termination on the table, as if the teacher is the big problem here. This is extreme and unjustified. We cannot accept the scapegoating of a good teacher for a safety issue that the District clearly could have prevented, if they had simply followed their own rules.

mirmac1 said...

As the the parent of a band student, I appreciate NOLA-Parent's post. Like Trusting Parent, I'm conscious of loosening the apron strings in HS, after years of parenting my child; I remember the great job my parents did when I leave WA at 18 for college. They let me study overseas, not knowing where I was or who I was with. I'm sure it caused them heartache and concern yet life is a calculated risk.

I admit that I'm troubled of reports that the student misconduct had been happening in various settings. However I am concerned that any parent would know anything about what is in a student's PowerSchool records. Perhaps the investigation was released to participants and witnesses for some reason.

My thought is that at least Ms Burton acknowledged the errors and actions within her (semi) control - unlike the NatureBridge dodgers. I am not surprised that SPS HR pulls the termination button at the last minute. I don't doubt that the District's solution is PR-motivated, rather than one that preserves positive learning experiences for music students at home.

cmj said...

If the District had informed Ms. Burton that the student in question had been kicked out of another school for sexual misconduct, she might not have let him go on the field trip. However, what if he were allowed to go on the field trip? Would she have informed the rest of the chaperones (who were not district employees) about the boy's history? Wouldn't that be a violation of the boy's privacy? I don't see a problem in telling a teacher about a specific student's disciplinary history...but I'm not sure that other chaperones (parents who probably have children who go to class with the student in question) should necessarily be told about it. We have to balance safety and privacy here, and I'm not sure what the best way to do that is.

NOLA-Parent said...

cmj, I agree with your comments about the need for a balance between security and privacy. Since the background checking process is conducted by the school (using District systems) and reported back to the teacher prior to a field trip, the initial decision would be between the teacher and school administrators, I assume.

If the school decided to grant permission to a student with a known misconduct history, I would expect them to have a supervision plan in place, and probably bring at least one chaperone in on the plan. Often, groups of students are assigned to specific chaperones, so there would probably be a need for some chaperone involvement in the supervision plan. It is not uncommon for parents to discuss confidential issues (such as health concerns) with the assigned chaperone prior to a trip - in fact, this occurred on the choir trip. A good approach would be to obtain parental consent to discuss a student's misconduct history with the assigned chaperone, as a condition of the student's participation on the trip.

Unfortunately, none of these discussions occurred regarding the troubled student who attended this trip. We have been asking the District to engage constructively with the choir parent group on these and related concerns about student management on field trips, but have largely faced a brick wall, compounded by threats of termination of a dedicated teacher and loss of a valuable program.

Charlie Mas said...

NOLA-Parent, you and I have very different ideas of what is "the core problem" here.

You seem to think that the core problem is that a student with a history of sexual misconduct was placed at Garfield without the District informing the school. That's not the core problem. Not at all.

There are three core problems:

1) Adults who committed to follow a set of rules broke those rules. Don't brush that off - it is one of the core problems and would be a problem with or without the sexual harassment/assaults.

2) Complaints of sexual harassment/assault were made to a teacher and it is unclear if the teacher followed the procedures and policies in place when responding to those reports.

3) The school district does not have a transparent and consistent process for addressing possible violations of policy and procedure.

Or, to put it another way, the District is so concerned about protecting itself from liability that it will throw anyone and everyone under the bus to evade it. At NatureBridge their position was that none of the teachers did anything wrong, for fear that admitting violations of policy or procedure would expose them to liability. In this case they may assess a ridiculously draconian punishment on a teacher as part of their defense and effort to disown their liability.

Those are the core problems.

mirmac1 said...

I believe a chaperone can have a "legitimate educational interest" in a child's needs and history. But only if the parent allows it. BTW, I've engaged with the district on a similar issue just today. Parents should be clear with staff on just WHO they wish to share these matters with. If staff is uncler, they should ask the parent for permission to share specific info with a few individuals with legitimate educational interest.

Frankly, I'm more concerned that a chaperone make accommodations/modifications and understand FERPA, than whether s/he has a glass of wine at dinner.

Finally, any risk of sexual misconduct should preclude anyone from an overnight trip unless with 1:1 supervision. These matters are within SPS control - if they do their job.

Anonymous said...

This back and forth over whether there are too many rules or the rules are unfair or irrelevant are astonishing given what happened, so I have to ask, is this typical of Garfield? This is the same school after all with parents who defended hazing.

I like rules for field trips. Over time spent in three school districts, they've always been reasonable and fair and served a purpose. This is why so few parents volunteered. To volunteer meant you weren't going to New Orleans for wine and a good time. You were on call for 24 to 72 hours at a camp ground, a naval base, the state fair. I volunteered once. That was enough. It was exhausting but there was a reason I and every other parent was exhausted. It was work.

Westside

Anonymous said...

The district policy should have been that if you get expelled for sexual misconduct, you can't go on overnight field trips in the district. The district was negligent in lack of proper policy.

-NNNCr

ChoirMom said...

No chaperone or teacher would have been driving a car on this trip. There were multiple chaperones who would have been able to handle a late-night medical emergency effectively. Should we also insist that all chaperones must prove they've gotten an adequate amount of sleep each night of the trip and that they are not going into the trip with chronic sleep deprivation? Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation can have serious effects on motor skills and critical thinking, similar to those seen after drinking alcohol. People with chronic sleep deprivation are even more of a danger, because they are likely to believe they are just fine. Anyone here who has never been responsible for the welfare of children while sleep deprived? Or driven a car while a bit sleepy?

Patrick, district policies require one chaperone per 10 students. There were 8 chaperones plus the teacher, for a total of 9 official chaperones (and an additional parent who was there but not as an official chaperone) for 38 kids. That's more than twice the district standard. Half of the chaperones could have been helping the one drunk chaperone back to her room and there still would have been plenty of chaperones for the group by district standards. The kids were always under more than adequate supervision.

mirmac, I don't think any parent had access to or knew what was (or in this case, was not) in Power Schools. We now know from the report that there was significant information given to the district and solicited by the district from the private school that *should* have gone in Power Schools, or should at least been communicated to GHS in some way, that was not. Some students and parents knew before the release of the report because the student had told other students he was expelled and because people talk, among other reasons.

cmj, I don't know if there's a prohibition on sharing that kind of info, but as a chaperone, I have had access to students' medical info forms as well as other FERPA-protected data (which, by the way, I did not look at because I had no reason to do so). SPS volunteer training includes info about the importance of maintaining student privacy, so certainly the district expects that non-employees might have sensitive info (say, a volunteer aide in a classroom who needs the info to carry out their work).

I think the article on helicopter parenting that was posted last week-ish would be valuable to revisit if you think you don't ever want your kid to go on a field trip. Consider that if you keep the leash too tight, you will have a child who goes from a school environment of having to ask permission to use the bathroom to the freedom and responsibility of college life, and it might not go so well if they have not been allowed to experience any freedom and responsiblity before hand. My kid is off to college next year in the heart of one of the biggest urban areas in the country, and I have no qualms about that. After numerous overnight trips to large US and foreign cities, ample freedom to go out around the city of Seattle alone or with friends, sometimes until well after midnight, and experience navigating adult environments and situations, all with generous helpings of trust from us and ongoing conversations over the years about everything under the sun, this kid is ready for adult life.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's the problem for Ms Burton and her supporters: Policy 5006. I suggest you read it.

It says that "Possession, use, consumption, or being under the influence of alcohol or of an illegal and/or controlled substance, including marijuana (cannabis), on school premises or at a school-sponsored activity involving students" by definition constitutes an act of unprofessional conduct.

It also says that "When the Superintendent or his or her designee possesses sufficiently reliable information to believe that a certificated employee... has committed an act of unprofessional conduct, within a reasonable period of time of making such determination, a written complaint shall be filed with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.".

Get it? Drinking on duty - including field trip duty - is specifically named as an act of unprofessional conduct. The superintendent must, by policy, make a written complaint to the OSPI if he believes that a teacher has committed an act of unprofessional conduct. He has no discretion in the matter. It's not up to him.

Ms Burton has admitted drinking on the field trip. She made the admission on television. I would say that constitutes "sufficiently reliable information".

Like it or not, the superintendent is required to make that written complaint to the OSPI. Don't ask him not to do it - he doesn't have a choice. The policy requires it.

Those are the rules. Now, I can understand it if people don't like the rules. If that's the case then what should we do? Simply ignore them? I suppose that the superintendent could ask the Board to amend the policy, but how should it be amended? Should the word "shall" be replaced with "may"? Do we want the superintendent to have that discretion? How could it be used in ways that you might oppose?

dw said...

Reader said: I can certainly understand parents taking a drink before bed, or at dinner.

On their own time, or in their own homes, sure. This was not that situation. When you agree to chaperone and sign the reams of paperwork that describe what is and is not permissible, you lose the right to make up your own rules, whether you think they're fair or not.

and: We should just cancel all field trips from here on out. DW - you're going to love middle and high school with no field trips.

If the choice is having irresponsible chaperones (and unfortunately in this case, a careless teacher as well), then I'm perfectly fine with no field trips. It's just not that big a deal.


TechyMom said: responsible enough to use their own judgement about whether to have a glass of wine with dinner?

and: Of course getting stumbling drunk is not appropriate. That parent shouldn't be allowed to chaperone overnight trips again.

Do you not see the irony of your two statements back-to-back? Clearly there are adults who are not responsible enough to use their own judgement when it comes to alcohol. Your own statements acknowledge this. Sadly, that's the reality of today, and it's why rules like this need to exist and need to be enforced.

Unreasonable policies are often ignored. We need reasonable policies about something as important as this.

There is absolutely nothing unreasonable about the simple expectation that people stop drinking alcohol while they are taking care of other people's children. I cannot fathom why people are getting defensive about the "right" to drink, when these folks all signed documents saying they would not. They were wrong, period.

If someone thinks the rules are unfair, then complain or try to change them, but do not disregard them. In the meantime, if anyone reading here feels like they can't stop drinking for a couple days when away on a field trip, please do not volunteer.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand the defensiveness of some parents when shenanigans come to light regarding Garfield HS. I recall parents defending the school's hazing tradition. That teacher, as beloved as she is, is a liability for the district.

- sober up

TechyMom said...

Actually, I put those statements back to back to illustrate my point. A no-alcohol policy did not prevent that chaperone from behaving irresponsibly. Zero tolerance doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

Proof TechyMom, for that last statement?

- sober up

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have finally finished carefully reading both the Exhibits report and Investigation report.

A least two times I left my computer, swearing. I was that upset.

When I write up my thread, I will ask that people understand, I am not going to pass judgment but I am going to note that people read rules and signed documents saying they read the rules and would abide by them. By signing them, they are saying, "I will follow these rules to the letter because I am agreeing to watch out for other people's children including my own."

Your signature is your bond.





Anonymous said...

Look. Drinking is part of our social norms. And working 24/7 is not. Mirmac hit the nail on the head when she noted that these "rules" are rules to protect the district from liability - and nothing more. Fact. People can not work 24/7 for days on end. Is it even legal to work people 24/7. Probably not. What about the "rule" of law? People WILL have private time, and they WILL need to rest. They WILL do what they need to do during that private/rest time. Get over it. Fact. As ChoirMom noted, there were plenty of sober chaperones. Students were never at risk because some chaperones "bowed out". Fact. People drink and take care of children, every day, all over the world. Drinking was absolutely not the issue. People drink ALL THE TIME on field trips. Go on any winter Friday night to the Snoqualmie pass - and notice all the drunk chaperones. And those are actually drunk. No crying over that. Rules are not really rules - if rules are never enforced.

Reader

Anonymous said...

The real solution - is to require the district to hire professionals to do the professional work of chaperoning on all field trips. And that includes limiting working hours, providing breaks, and paying for transportation and lodging costs. If you want quality, you have to pay for it. We only require chaperones because we are too cheap to hire professionals. If we want "rule followers" - we have to pay for it. If you don't pay, you've got no right to expect that people's word is worth anything at all. Somebody signs something. So what? Why does the district think that a signature, and a promise, is worth anything at all? Clearly it is not. A choir parent signs something promising to be really, really good, and to never take a drink, and to stay up all night checking rooms. What is that worth? Absolutely nothing. And it doesn't absolve the district of liability either. (But, none of that is the issue here.)

Reader

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm an outlier then. Two overnight camping trips with my kids' elementary school, numerous field trips, not to mention the Girl Scout activities I've chaperoned and I've NEVER imbibed.

You might have a problem if you can't go a few days without alcohol while chaperoning students.

- sober up

Melissa Westbrook said...

No one is required to "stay up all night checking rooms."

I, too, have chaperoned a couple of overnight field trips. No drinking by anyone and we had fun and so did the kids.

"You might have a problem if you can't go a few days without alcohol while chaperoning students."

Agreed. But as one chaperone's lawyer stated, they were "in the French Quarter in New Orleans."

I'm baffled. Where are the grown-ups?

cmj said...

Melissa Westbrook wrote Agreed. But as one chaperone's lawyer stated, they were "in the French Quarter in New Orleans."

Why do the parent chaperones have lawyers?

Melissa, will you be posting the report itself?

ChoirMom said...

Charlie, as a concerned parent and a past victim of sexual assault, I have to disagree with you. The core issue for me, and other parents I've talked to, is absolutely the district's failure to inform the school of the boy's past history.

I am far more concerned that the school district failed to warn GHS of the alleged perpetrator's history so that Garfield staff could make a plan to protect other students from assault than I am about any of the other issues you mentioned. I would rather the district always make it a priority to try to prevent sexual assault than prioritize the reporting of assault after it happens. (I am not saying the policies for reporting aren't important; I'm saying they are far less of a priority than prevention.) In any case, from what is outlined in the report, it appears that she followed the policies for reporting -- maybe when you read it you'll see something different.

I'm sure my concern is influenced by the fact that one of my children was on the overnight trip with the student and had a class with him, and my other child had a class with the boy in an unconventional classroom setting that affords far more opportunity for sexual misbehavior than the typical room with desks and chairs. I wonder how other parents feel, knowing that the district made a mistake of this magnitude and seems more interested in focusing on behavior that didn't have anything to do with the assault than focusing on the behavior of district staff who could have helped prevent it.

On your other point, I don't recall anyone saying that the Super shouldn't do what's outlined in that policy or know of anyone who has asked that he not file a complaint with OSPI as required. I also haven't heard anyone say that she should not be disciplined for breaking the rules. What I hear people saying is that while some degree of discipline is called for, firing is too much. She herself has suggested disciplinary action that far exceeds what I would consider a just punishment. I may find the puritanical rules about drinking ridiculous (my kids have attended schools in a non-US culture so my perspective is a bit broader) and disagree wholeheartedly with the rules about boys and girls being allowed in the same hotel room (both discriminatory and outdated) but breaking those rules does call for discipline. We are urging the superintendent to look at the bigger picture of her history and value as a teacher and to use his judgment in finding an appropriate solution that doesn't put a chill on students' willingness to come forward in the future nor on other teachers' willingness to continue leading field trips. Best case scenario would include a requirement for Ms. Burton's participation in restorative justice actions that would increase staff and students' knowledge of what constitutes sexual assault/harassment, how to report it, how to prevent it, etc.

sober up, you shouldn't assume this is a Garfield problem. That might lead you to have false confidence that similar incidents don't happen at other schools. Nor should you suggest that Garfield parents who are defending this teacher are the same parents who defended hazing, or the same parents who defended teachers from the NatureBridge trip, nor that any of the parents even discussing this incident are all in agreement about the teacher's, chaperones', and district's actions. I haven't talked to any three parents who all agree about this whole mess. I have my own theories for why it always seems like Garfield is the school that ends up in the news, but I've got friends from schools all over and I know for sure we ain't the only ones with problems.

Anonymous said...

I and other teachers I know have been on several field trips and there was never any drinking by teachers or chaperones. I certainly did not find this unusual.

Not drinking for a few days is hardly working 24/7.
Chaperone service is just that a service not a vacation. It is not an opportunity to make up your own rules.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Here's the report: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2109061-ghs-investigative-report-final.html

- sober up

Charlie Mas said...

ChoirMom, if the issue were the boy and his behavior then you wouldn't have anything to say about Ms Burton - as her behavior is a completely separate issue. And yet you have a lot to say about Ms Burton. So what really is the issue for you?

Curious said...

Wow. The pearl clutching is very strong here. Thank you reader, techymom, choir mom, trusting parent, and mirmac for being voices of reason among the temperance union. I personally do not care whatsoever that the teacher or parents had wine with dinner. That had absolutely nothing to do with the sexual predator in the group who should have NEVER been allowed to participate on this trip. Did school administrators at Garfield know about his history? Or did the district not feel that was important enough to share - that's what I want to know. And how are the girls doing, who no one ever mentions anymore. That's who I care about here. The chaperone who got sloppy drunk should not be allowed to chaperone again - there's no excuse for that.

I chaperoned an overnight field trip this spring for my kid's high school music group - it was a wonderful experience, and I would hate to see opportunities like that going away for students due to negligence and deflecting liability on the part of the district.

Anonymous said...

Yo Curious, if you're okay with the school district being sued time and time again because teachers such as Burton fail to enforce rules (i.e., too afraid to tell adults AND students "You can't do that")--that's cool. That's money that's not going to classrooms.

- sober up

ChoirMom said...

Charlie, I said it was the core issue, not the only issue. I'm pretty sure I was clear about that.

Curious, no one at Garfield knew the boy's history. Employees at the district did and one opted not to put it in his records or notify Garfield. From the statement provided today to the media by Friends of Garfield Singers:

· Pages 4-5: “All students who signed up to go on the field trip were subjected to a background check.” The check was done in the “PowerSchools” program maintained by the District. “Although at least two SPS district employees were aware of [Student 1’s] expulsion [from a private high school in June 2014], that information was not included in PowerSchools or provided to GHS officials.”

· Pages 17-21: Part II: “Issues Relating to [Student 1’s] Disciplinary History and Inappropriate Behavior Before the New Orleans Field Trip” This section details that the prior high school had “suspended [Student 1] and he was not allowed to go on any overnight field trips.” (page 17). The student’s expulsion was disclosed to SPS by the student’s parent during the admission process, and investigated by the District with the prior school. The prior school disclosed on May 8, 2014 to SPS that the student misconduct had occurred on a field trip to New Orleans (page 18), followed by the field trip ban and other restrictions. This section further explains at length the information discovered by SPS, including what the investigator characterized as a “history of repeated acts of harassment and misconduct” by the student at the prior school” (page 27). None of the information was disclosed to GHS or entered into PowerSchools (pages 19-20).

· Page 21: Section D covers “Inappropriate Behavior by [Student 1] Before the Field Trip” (at GHS). This section further explains the ongoing pattern of misconduct, and finds that none of these incidents was reported to GHS officials or Ms. Burton.

· Page 27: The District’s investigation concludes: “It is likely that had GHS officials been aware of [Student 1’s] disciplinary history at [prior school] they would have either opposed [Student 1’s] transfer to GHS or, at the very least, attached conditions to his enrollment in order to protect other students. It is also likely that had GHS officials and Ms. Burton been aware of [Student 1’s] expulsion from [prior school,] GHS would have denied him permission to go on the New Orleans field trip.”

Charlie Mas said...

I'm going to repeat: no one - not the girls, not the commenters on this board, not the mob who wants to retain Ms Burton - has made much noise about the groping. They have all treated it like it was no big thing. Note above that the concern was not the groping but the failure to inform the school about a student's discipline history.

All of the noise has been about the threat to Ms Burton's position. Is anyone really going to pretend otherwise?

And what is the source of the threat to Ms Burton's position and career? Policy 5006.

This policy says that any teacher who drinks at school or at a school-sponsored event has committed an act of unprofessional conduct. It doesn't leave any wiggle room for drinking in moderation. It doesn't leave any space for when the students are not around. And it was made perfectly clear to everyone on the trip that the rules for school behavior apply during the field trip, so it doesn't exclude field trip time. It's a zero tolerance policy.

So let's say that you're genuinely upset about the District's failure to include the student's discipline history from the previous school in the PowerSchools database. Fine. The person responsible for that is likely to lose their job. But that doesn't save Ms Burton. She isn't in trouble for anything to do with the alleged sexual harassment/assaults. It turns out that she responded correctly to those reports. She's in trouble for her failure to follow and enforce the rules of field trips for the students and the chaperones - which she freely admits. She has no defense for these accusations.

I will note that the girls said that they were reluctant to report the sexual harassment because they wanted to protect Ms Burton. They knew that if they reported, then Ms Burton's refusal (it was a conscious choice) to enforce the rules would come to light. So, to a very real extent, Ms Burton's cavalier attitude about the rules gave cover to the alleged groper. She contributed to the opportunity for that behavior to continue. And the girls were right. The report did reveal Ms Burton's refusal to enforce the rules and has now lead directly to a threat to her career and, almost certainly, a moratorium on Choir field trips for several years.

Don't like the rules? Work to change them. Work to get the hotel room visitation policy amended. Work to allow adults to drink and smoke weed in moderation while serving as chaperones - if you think that should be okay. Personally, I think adults can forego booze and marijuana for a few days as part of their commitment to the chaperone job, but if you think that's too much to ask then work to get the policy amended. After all, once you allow alcohol how can you oppose marijuana? Work to get the rules changed, but, in the meantime, it isn't okay to simply ignore the rules. Doing it as an act of civil disobedience? Fine, then accept the consequences; don't fight them. That's how civil disobedience works - you go to jail for your principles.

Policy 5006 is a zero tolerance policy. Drink on the job and you're in trouble deep. Ms Burton has admitted that she did exactly that. She also admitted that she consciously chose not to enforce the room visitation rule, which is equally rigid. A careful or clever person could have found a way around both of these rules without much trouble. There would have been no trouble if the drinking were kept in moderation and were done after curfew so the students never knew about it. There would have been no trouble if the field trip included some space for mixed gender socializing. How hard would it have been to arrange that? Perhaps one of the chaperone rooms with chaperones present would have been allowed within the rules.

This is an issue because of the threat to Ms Burton's career and that threat is due to her violation of Policy 5006. That's the core issue.

Anonymous said...

WOW ... what a report!!
From the last sentence in the report....

what is needed is a change in culture that sees policies not as recommendations but as the basis for ....

Given that several contributors to the preceeding 40+ comments clearly view policies as recommendations . .. good luck Garfield community with improvement when it comes to field trips.

Really incredible that the district office person apparently had no concept of her responsibilities . .. hard to have much confidence in adults in the SPS community if the actions of many of the adults in this report are typical. Talk about a strong chain failing because of its weakest link . .. bummer.

To all those doing a great job... keep going.

-- Dan Dempsey

Melissa Westbrook said...

Choir Mom, GHS did have the opportunity to know the boy was expelled. It was on his official transcript from the private school. Curiously, the investigator says it was in an out-of-the way place on the transcript that would not be easily noticed.

So you'd have to wonder at any school that would not make it clear to another school that a student was expelled and why.

I don't necessarily fault GHS but yes, they could have known if someone had really gone over his transcript.

Anonymous said...

What I'm wondering is why the boy's parents allowed him to go on the field trip? Presumably the parents had all the information regarding the student's inappropriate behavior at the private school and the incident at Garfield prior to the trip, and any other complaints about the student's behavior. What made the parents think he would be able to behave appropriately on the New Orleans trip? Why didn't they ask for supports, talk to the teachers or chaperones? The behavior in question is not trivial - the student is not far from adulthood - when the consequences of groping a woman are more severe than expulsion from school.

Tami

Anonymous said...

Tami,

Thank you as I was asking the same thing. That report shows a parent engaged and aware of their son's problems and issues and is taking medication. What if it was a physical illness and that medication was absolutely necessary? Gee I would have gone out of my way to ensure my child's safety and health.

And then we have what I have finally figured out is this whole privilege thing. Chaperones agreeing to a set of behavior and utterly ignoring it. Well good to know that the apple and the tree there as I am assuming they were parents of many of the students who had no problem with skirting rules and regs.

It is clear that the one bandit that made out here were Attorney's as almost everyone had one and those who didn't I find interesting was the actual accused kid. Why would anyone not talk to anyone without one? Do you honestly think it makes you seem less guilty?

As you can read in the investigation the Attorney's there make conclusions and speculations about adults veracity without issue. Yet the students of course are angels who would never lie, exaggerate, confabulate or confuse facts. Even the "bottom touching" which seems as if it didn't happen may have anyway as the apology was inferred to mean that, that she was too "drunk" despite being in the company of others who never saw this incident, it still leaves the "impression" that something went on... love that one. And this is what Lawyers do with words.. new game on Apple.

So what have we learned? Well nothing that claims SPD called NOLA and when you try to find incident reports from either they don't exist so where are those reports?

A student claimed here many of the "facts" in the report and I found that interesting as how would she know unless told by whom? A parent I presume or their attorney. So we have more rumor mongering and again data leaks that only mean confidential is about the children. Their parents names are all over this report and you can see the kids pics on the choir page. So good one on that

And again how does Garfield admin manage to stay so squeaky clean after years of bizarre antics at that school? Wow Ms. Burton is going to take the fall on this kids. And kids you are responsible for some of this. Accept it and grow and learn from it.

- Wow Just Wow

Anonymous said...

I hope whatever school the boy is enrolled in now, has this information.

HP

Lynn said...

Tami,

From the report: Parent admitted that she had reservations about allowing student1 to go on the GHS field trip. She said that student1 improper behavior on the identifier field trip was due to the fact that student1 had not brought his RCW 42.56.360(2) medication on the trip. Parent claimed that she went to some lengths to ensure that student1 had all his medications with him on the GHS field trip. Although she attended various planning meetings, Parent never shared her concerns with Ms. Burton, the chaperones, or any other GHS official. She did claim, however, that she intended to let student1 chaperone know that the chaperone needed to ensure that student1 take his medication on the trip. Parent said that she was told that student1 chaperone would contact her prior to the trip. However, when no chaperone contacted her, Parent made no attempt to contact the chaperone or Ms. Burton, because according to her, the identifier experience was “very much about shame.”

This is really shocking. Clearly she was not concerned about the safety of the other students on the trip. Wasn't she worried about the possibility her son would do something that would get him arrested?

HP,

Me too.

Anonymous said...

This line in the report is so upsetting:

"As a result of an incident occurring on a 2012 GHS field trip that exposed SPS to significant legal expense, SPS updated its field trip procedures..."

Even official documents the school district makes public admit that SPS only cares about its legal expenses, not whether students are raped.

-Parent&Teacher

Lynn said...

The report refers to the possibility that Garfield would not have accepted the student if the administration had known of his history. Is that possible or did the investigator not know that schools have to accept every student living in the assignment area?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Charlie in that I haven't seen many comments that express concern about the children who were sexually assaulted and their families. Among the chorus of parents voicing their concerns about the teacher, I wonder if any have taken a moment to reflect on how they would feel if it were their child who was sexually victimized. If it were my child, I would want answers about why students believed they had adult approval to co-mingle in each other's rooms without supervision, in violation of the rules put in place for their safety.

I'm also disturbed that the victims felt inhibited about reporting the abuse out of fear for the repercussions for the adults on the trip, or the impact on future field trips. A retaliatory environment in the wake of reported sexual harassment is a civil rights issue under Title IX. I doI wonder about the ramifications for the victims.
Now that the terms “Garfield High School,” “field trip,” and “sexual assault” are firmly wedded in the public’s mind, does it dawn on the district leadership how their mishandling of the NatureBridge episode has returned to bite them? On that trip, students signed statements that they would stay out of the opposite sex cabins at all times. The chaperones and teachers never enforced this, then as now giving students the green light to flaunt the rules. On that trip, the male student in question had been previously disciplined for sexual misconduct on school grounds, but no one cared to evaluate whether he posed a risk to female students in an under-supervised setting. And no teacher was placed on administrative leave as far as I know for unprofessional conduct, i.e. not enforcing SPS field trip policies in force at the time. District leadership did not hold teachers and chaperones accountable then, thus perpetuating the culture of not taking policies and procedures seriously.

The investigative report calls for a culture change—one where the district holds people accountable for failing to abide by policies designed to keep children safe. What’s it going to take for this to happen?

Adam

Charlie Mas said...

Does anyone want to suggest changes to Policy 5006 to allow for drinking in moderation? Anyone?

Does anyone want to suggest changes to the rules on students visiting in opposite sex hotel rooms on field trips? Anyone?

People supported these ideas earlier. How about now?

Wouldn't it be easier for chaperones to create spaces - other than student rooms - where students can socialize? Wouldn't it be better if people would just go a few days without alcohol? Wouldn't it be better if people just followed the rules instead of breaking them and promoting a culture of lawlessness?

Anonymous said...

Melissa is correct. Your word is your bond. If you cannot abide by the overnight field trip policies don't volunteer to be a chaperone. Those policies are meant not only to protect students but also the adults. Selective enforcement leads to what happened on this trip -chaperone too drunk to walk, enabling environment for alleged groper.

Anyone who believes that lax enforcement of the overnight field trip policies is confined to GHS is delusional. This should be a wake-up for every high school and middle school that participates in adjudicated events that require overnight travel.

I was also surprised that the names of the chaperones were not redacted as many had students on the trip. So much for confidentiality.

I don't know if this should end Ms Burton's career in SPS and I have a great deal of respect for her but the lapses in judgement and disregard for policies gives me pause.

Alum parent

Charlie Mas said...

Does anyone want to suggest changes to Policy 5006 to allow for drinking in moderation? Anyone?

Does anyone want to suggest changes to the rules on students visiting in opposite sex hotel rooms on field trips? Anyone?

People supported these ideas earlier. How about now?

Wouldn't it be easier for chaperones to create spaces - other than student rooms - where students can socialize? Wouldn't it be better if people would just go a few days without alcohol? Wouldn't it be better if people just followed the rules instead of breaking them and promoting a culture of lawlessness?

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

Ms. Burton's consumption of alcohol at dinner had nothing to do with the sexual misconduct that occurred. The districts's abject failure to inform the school and Ms. Burton of the student's disciplinary history had everything to do with the horrible sexual misconduct that occurred. I am surprised that you are so focused on what I consider to be a very secondary issue.

-SPS HS Bound

Melissa Westbrook said...

SPS HS Bound, you are right. The drinking is not the reason this situation occurred.

However, it was wrong to do this by all involved.

The students were able - at least two times - to see chaperones drinking. What do you think they thought?

As they had a later curfew time - set by Ms. Burton - and were allowed access to each others' rooms the entire time,day or night,what do you think they thought?

What message do you think the students got from the chaperones?

Anonymous said...

SPS HS Bound, what about Burton's and the chaperones' failure to enforce the no-mixing rule in the hotel rooms, where much of the groping occurred?

Save her job if you must, but as mentioned in the report's paragraph "Prior Choir Field Trips", troublesome incidents happen when Burton is on the scene and someone will very definitely be needing to chaperone HER. She's coming to define a culture of lax mores.

- sober up

Lynn said...

sober up,

I am curious what would come up in a report on prior field trips held by every group at every SPS high school. There is no way this is limited to Carol Burton.

Anonymous said...

When we do failure analysis at work, it is rarely one thing that causes something to happen but rather a series of things that in of themselves may not have caused the failure but contributed to it. There were a series of failures on the part of SPS and of the teacher and chaperones. Take away one of these contributing factors, and it decreases the chance that the assaults would have occurred.

Failures contributing to the overall:
1) SPS failed to notify GHS about the student's prior issues.
2) Teacher and chaperones failed to follow policy of no mixing of sexes in the hotel rooms.
3) Teacher and chaperones failed to follow the no drinking alcohol policy.

Yes, 1) may be the most egregious but the other two contributed.

HP

Anonymous said...

Lynn, you're right. Where would the public find such information?

- sober up

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, you're right. The investigation mentions other issues that happened on other field trips with Burton that were not her fault (graffiti, pot).

I am certain this happens at every school on at least one field trip a year.

Sober Up, I suspect that schools have to track that info and you could make a public disclosure request.

HP, in my new thread today that is exactly my conclusion as well.

Anonymous said...

I heard Burton on the radio this morning and I was taken aback by the casual way she mentioned having led dozens of field trips in which the boys/girls visiting in rooms together and teachers/chaperones drinking was routine, despite both things being strictly against the rules. The issue for me isn't that this one time something bad happened, but that for years, Burton has ignored the rules with impunity. And I agree with Melissa and HP's conclusions.

Really? Really?

Anonymous said...

Someone should be investigating exactly who at Blanchet placed information about Student 1's previous transgressions on such a hidden place on his transcript, and why. There are much bigger issues going on here, but that is (partly) at the source of it all. This was disrespectful towards this student's future school, at the very least, and at most, deliberately misleading and a source of great damage to his future classmates and teacher.

The other HUGE chink in the system is SPS admin's failure to inform Garfield staff of Student 1's troubling history.

As a future SPS parent, this is very upsetting.

The greatest failure here was not personal, but systematic. SPS should step up to the plate and take some of the blame upon itself for its failure to adequately protect its students. Blanchet should also make a public statement about its failure to adequately inform this student's future school of his record of repeated transgressions.

-parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Parent, I do not think - from the investigation - that the transgressions were on his transcript. The only notation (and it was in small type) was that he had been expelled. There appears to have been a discipline record that a JSCEE staff person asked for from Blanchet and received. The staff person then had a couple of conversations with the male student's mother and doctor and felt the student was good to go on being enrolled in SPS.

That SPS staffer is being investigated separately because, despite all that background checking, she did not notate this student's past issues in any SPS documentation including PowerSchools.

As I said in my newest thread, it's pretty surprising that any school - private or public - would minimize that a student was expelled.

Charlie Mas said...

I never suggested that Ms Burton's consumption of alcohol lead to the sexual harassment. I don't know why you would imply that I did.

Up until recently all of the concern was over the threat to Ms Burton's job. Doesn't anyone care about that anymore? Now instead of protecting Ms Burton, everyone seems to be sharpening their knives for Ms Miller. Quite a reversal. What about her employment history and all of her long years of dedicated service? No nuance or mercy for her? Funny how we ration that stuff.

But now the threat to Ms Burton's job is merely "a very secondary issue" and no longer worthy of discussion. I guess I'm just stuck in the past. You have newer, hotter pots to boil.

Anonymous said...

I have been on many field trips in 2 SPS highschools. I have never seen a chaperone or teacher drink alcohol. Rules about mixing genders in hotel rooms have been policed & enforced. Lights out & bed checks have been done regularly. However, I have heard of other groups who did have these problems on field trips.

One issue is that experienced chaperones often train newbies & set the culture. So if transgressions happen with a group, they are likely to continue on the next trip. Teachers are suppose to train chaperones before the trip but setting that up when every person can come to a meeting at the same time is practically impossible, even if the teacher is up to snuff on the training. I think that it leaves too much to chance. The district should provide chaperone training regularly at different high schools. Chaperones should have to do the training again each year.

-HS Parent

ChoirMom said...

Charlie, always pivoting.

Note above that the concern was not the groping but the failure to inform the school about a student's discipline history.

Yes, failing to inform the school, which led to…the groping. All the groping -- the incidents that happened throughout the school year in the school building, the incidents that happened on the field trip in public and semi-public spaces, and the incidents that happened in the hotel room. How does one assume that a focus on preventing sexual assault is somehow not showing concern for the victims of sexual assault? Have you considered that the girls perhaps don't want to be the center of the discussion, and that by not making the violations of their bodies the main topic of discussion, they are protected from being further victimized by lurid public speculation? Do you assume also that because few have expressed concern for the boy that no one is concerned about him? Because I've heard plenty of concern for him, even if it isn't being expressed here. You know who has shown the most concern for all of the students, including victims and alleged perpetrator? Carol Burton.

Does anyone who has read the report think, given the history and pattern of sexual assaults alleged, that socializing in a public space or even in a room with a chaperone would have deterred this boy? Those wondering why the parent would let the boy go on the trip or not make triple-sure he had all his meds for the trip -- did you read in the report that this was an ongoing pattern of behavior long before the trip, when he was presumably taking his meds? (What kind of meds keep people from committing sexual assault, anyway? Really curious about that one.) Was the parent vigilant about making sure he was taking his meds every day? He was wait-listed for Roosevelt -- Roosevelt parents, how would you feel about the district's actions if this boy had been enrolled at your school with no notice given to the administration of his past pattern of alleged behavior?

Policy 5006 is a zero tolerance policy. Drink on the job and you're in trouble deep. Ms Burton has admitted that she did exactly that. She also admitted that she consciously chose not to enforce the room visitation rule, which is equally rigid. A careful or clever person could have found a way around both of these rules without much trouble. There would have been no trouble if the drinking were kept in moderation and were done after curfew so the students never knew about it. There would have been no trouble if the field trip included some space for mixed gender socializing.

Huh? You think they should have just been more clever about getting around the rules? I must be reading this wrong, you can't possibly be advocating that teachers and chaperones should just be more careful when they break rules.

Again, rules were broken, most people expect consequences for that, regardless of whether they agree with the rules. And again, trouble happened in spaces where mixed-sex socializing was not only within the rules, it was an unavoidable feature of being on a field trip. So to say that nothing would have happened if the room visitation rule had been enforced 100% is to ignore all the other incidents of sexual assault that happened, which doesn't show much concern for the victims vs. pedantic concern about rules for rules' sake.

ChoirMom said...

Melissa, I guess it's curious that an investigator tasked with figuring out where the failures were looked at the form and found that the word "expelled" on the transcript from another school was easy to miss. Do you doubt his conclusion? So you are right, technically Garfield had the info that he had been expelled, but then again, every person who has iTunes technically has the info in the terms of service agreement. Technically, every person agrees to every last word in their mortgage documents, but how many even read all of it much less understand it before signing? I know loan officers have always been amused at my insistence on at least skimming every page because no one does that.

Charlie, yes, I still support changing the rules about students being allowed to socialize in hotel rooms. I'm not going to bat over the alcohol rules in this forum, it's a debate that can be had but isn't really germane to what the existing rules are/were and the breaking of those rules. I've already said repeatedly I think discipline is warranted for all the rule breaking.

Alum parent, good point. One of the students whose name is redacted throughout the report can easily be discovered due to disclosing her parent's name. It should have been redacted as an identifier. FERPA violation? Potential lawsuit?

Speaking of lawsuits, why is anyone surprised that someone would have a lawyer? Having a lawyer is not an admission of any kind of guilt, it's an incredibly smart thing to do especially considering how the district loves to deflect blame onto anyone they can. It's really ignorant to criticize someone for seeking legal counsel.

Lynn, I know for a fact that other field trips have had very similar incidents. It's not limited to choir, not limited to Carol Burton, not limited to Garfield, nor to SPS. Thanks for pointing that out.

ChoirMom said...

Wow, Charlie, you do know how to pivot! Are you a politician? Do you ever stick to one point, or do you always move on to another one when you have no answer to criticism?

Up until recently all of the concern was over the threat to Ms Burton's job. Doesn't anyone care about that anymore? Now instead of protecting Ms Burton, everyone seems to be sharpening their knives for Ms Miller. Quite a reversal. What about her employment history and all of her long years of dedicated service? No nuance or mercy for her? Funny how we ration that stuff.

But now the threat to Ms Burton's job is merely "a very secondary issue" and no longer worthy of discussion. I guess I'm just stuck in the past. You have newer, hotter pots to boil.


I'm calling total BS on this one. Go back and pull out the quotes here that support your claim that "everyone seems to be sharpening their knives for Ms. Miller." I won't hold my breath. I think you're actually the first person here to mention her name or suggest that she has long years of dedicated service that are being ignored. You're also the only one bringing up the idea of rationing nuance or mercy for her. Strange. How long has she been with SPS, Charlie? What has her employment history been like? I'd like to advocate for her too if it looks like she's being railroaded.

I think anyone who read through all these responses will note that the vast majority of the posts and comments here are about the alcohol and room visitation rule violations, which are the things that Ms. Burton's job is in jeopardy over. It's the primary topic of discussion here since the report came out, even among those who haven't read the report. Even those of us emphasizing the district's share of the blame for the sexual assault have talked about the rules violations. Of course it's a topic worthy of discussion, but it's not the only topic worthy of discussion, wouldn't you agree? Or do you think everyone should have to stay on the topic you think is the most important? Do you even still pay taxes here?

Don't worry, I'm not actually expecting a retraction for your ridiculous claim, I see another pivot in the future.

HP, on your point #2 above, it was not the mixed-gender socializing in rooms that caused the sexual assaults. The hotel room was merely one location for something that was happening continually. Given that the boy self-identified as gay and allegedly sexually assaulted other boys in the past, maintaining the rules could well have resulted in a victim of a different gender being assaulted instead. My kid roomed with the boy. Is it any wonder I'm not getting hung up on outdated socializing rules when all they do is give the illusion of safety in a situation like this? No one of any gender should have been at increased risk of being sexually assaulted because the school district failed to notify the school of a student's prior discipline record.

Parents of boys, do you think following the rules on socializing in rooms to the letter in this situation would have provided protection from sexual assault for your sons? Parents of girls, what if the alleged perpetrator had been a girl with a history of assaulting both boys and girls. Would you think your daughters were safe rooming with or spending time in a hotel room with such a student? Is sexual assault of a girl by a boy somehow different than sexual assault of a boy by a girl, a boy by a boy, or a girl by a girl?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Choir Mom, please. The girls are part of the story, I'm sorry. And again, I sure wish that when this boy was being so annoying (not just to them but other girls according to the investigation) that someone had said something. It might have been enough to start Ms. Burton to ask questions.

As well, one chaperone asked one of the girls in question during the trip how it was going. The girl said fine.

I don't know what would have deterred this boy but yes, I think the presence of a chaperone or, I don't know, telling the kids that boys and girls could not be together at night (and enforcing it) surely would have helped. No one is saying "nothing"could have happened because you can enforce all the rules and things still happen.

The idea is prevention. And that did not happen on this trip.

Since I don't have access to the transcript from Blanchet, I have no idea how small the type is so I'll have to take the investigator's words for it. But again, in the series of things that I wish might have happened, maybe someone at Garfield might have caught it. I don't blame them.

Yes, I have a hard time thinking about writing up the actual details because naming names would be tough for adults. (And there's the issue that there were several parents of students in the choir on the trip.)



Anonymous said...

Reading the report, I'm struck by how student 1 discredits Burton. Is it safe to say #1 has reason to lay more blame at her feet than their own? That, and the parents who decided to party. I serve alcohol to friends, colleagues, my kids are present, it's not an issue, even at a work function, but not on the road with other people's kids. Perhaps in another culture setting, no worries. In our culture, in this particular setting, this creates the opportunity for exactly what happened and again, not to slander #1, but it sounds like they are the ultimate opportunist. It's more than having drinks on a vacation/field trip. The young women didn't feel they could even say anything until the trip was almost over.

Westside

Charlie Mas said...

The young women couldn't say anything until the trip was over because they didn't want to get Ms Burton into trouble. They were keeping silent to protect her.

Were Ms Burton not in need of protection from investigation, there would be no need for the girls to keep silent.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Charlie and in fact they did not go to Ms Burton. The girls confided to a fellow student who was a section leader. He did the right thing and notified Ms Burton. Had the adults followed the rules to the letter, Ms Burton would not be facing a disciplinary action. I remain a bit puzzled why the two students did not report what had already happened at school but that is a separate issue.

Alum parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

STudent #1 is the male student, not one of the girls.

The girls never DID say anything. They told a student leader who then took it upon his/herself to tell Burton. I am baffled at the girls unwillingness to say anything to any adult.

Band Parent said...

Melissa, I'm baffled that you're baffled, honestly. As Mirmac and others have said, adults who are assaulted sometimes have difficulty reporting it, let alone kids. Maybe they were confused about how illegal the instances were. Maybe they were scared no one would believe them. Maybe they were afraid of getting in trouble themselves, since one of the girls flashed her chest on the balcony. Maybe they were afraid there would be no field trips ever again and the other kids would blame them. Our culture is still very much in the blame the victim mentality with regards to sexual assault. I wish you'd stop harping on the fact they didn't tell an adult. You are usually more sensitive than that.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I am harping on it because this behavior had been happening well before this trip. To those girls and others. I will continue to be baffled that not one girl said to any adult, "this jerk is bugging me." It's not about shame or illegality - it's about asking for help.

And yes, that one of the girls (and you said what she did, not me) did something inappropriate with this boy in the room also baffles me.

I do not sense that the girls were particularly afraid of him.

I am not blaming them; he is to blame. I am just asking the question of why - if there were multiple instances - no girl spoke up at school or on the trip.

Matchbox said...

C'mon. For public relations purposes somebody has to be a fall guy here. And in the Seattle School District, that means it has to be the teacher. We can't ask high school students to be responsible for their behavior. And we really can't ask parents to teach their little angels accountability. So we're done here. Let's get that fire started and get to burning the sacrificial teacher at the stake. Flame on!

Anonymous said...

"The other HUGE chink in the system...'

Oh so now we're going to get racist?!!!

For shame!!!

Anonymous said...

Melissa said: " I will continue to be baffled that not one girl said to any adult, "this jerk is bugging me." It's not about shame or illegality - it's about asking for help."

I don't know any of the girls and so of course cannot speak for them -- but in their shoes, I would have told no one either. "This jerk is bugging me" does not necessarily mean that I (as a girl) would have wanted to see the boy suspended, expelled, banished from the SSD, arrested for assault (and presumably convicted and labelled as a sex offender), barred from all field trips for the rest of his life, etc. etc. etc. -- all of which (except maybe the conviction/sex offender stuff) have been suggested by one or more commenters -- not necessarily you, Melissa -- so please don't think I am trying to put all those things in your column. I am not. But there have been plenty of other axes out for the boy who is involved in this situation.

In my case, if I am the girl, I am seeing a person who clearly has a number of issues. Maybe it is someone who is a friend of some sort -- or at least someone I wish well to -- whether I am a friend or not -- and see as having plenty on his plate already in terms of getting there. Why would I want to bring down the District and its investigatory, cya mechanisms on the boy, my school, the teacher (on the trip), the chaperones (on the trip), the choir program, etc. etc. And not just the school district's investigatory folks, but the police as well.

From my view, (in the shoes of a girl who is a peer of this kid -- and trying to think like I thought when I was in high school) none of this has a prayer of getting handled with any sensitivity to (or thought for) anyone's present or future (other than maybe some district administrator and/or prosecutor who know that they can't be blamed for being tough, but could well be blamed for anything less). I can't get inside this girl's head now, but if it were me, I would be wishing that I had never told the student leader. (I don't blame him or her -- because once he/she was told, there was a legal obligation to report, I expect). And I don't blame the girl -- because she is on the other end of the assault/groping/whatever behavior. It is totally her right to tell -- and she has no responsibility for what the adults then do or don't do with the information. I am just saying that if were the girl, knowing what I know about how the adults are likely to respond, I would have chosen never to tell anyone. No. Wait. If I had thought about it, and had had the courage -- maybe I would have told the boy's mother. Because I cannot believe that the mother, had she known her son was still struggling with (and failing to control) the issues that got him expelled from one school, would have put her kid in this situation. But she is the ONLY one I would have trusted enough to tell.

Jan

Lynn said...

For shame,

Don't be ridiculous.

chink
CHiNGk/
noun
a narrow opening or crack, typically one that admits light.
"a chink in the curtains"
synonyms: opening, gap, space, hole, aperture, crack, fissure, crevice, cranny, cleft, split, slit, slot
"a chink in the curtains"
a patch of light admitted by a narrow opening or crack.
"I noticed a chink of light under the door"

ChoirMom said...

Melissa, it's an important question. Maybe this will help explain: Normalizing Sexual Violence

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, that phrase has been widely used for a very long time. Thank you, Lynn.

As for the girls and their motivations, we don't really know. All we do know is that this boy was touching them at school before the trip. Maybe their silence then emboldened him on the trip. And, when he saw the chaperones didn't seem to care who was where and the chaperones were drinking, he probably thought he could get away with it.

I wish the girls had told him he could not come into their room. That he got inin makes me wonder what kind of force/coercion he used on them.

mirmac1 said...

My child has matured much this year. Nevertheless even if others are in the wrong, she feels that, rightly or wrongly, she'll get in trouble.

There's little room for nuance at this age. Even though my child tells me more than many others, she never said anything until 1 month later.

Sexual predators are often great manipulators. We must do our best to prepare potential victims

Anonymous said...

I would suspect that the breast flashing had to do with the fact that they were in New Orleans though not on Bourbon Street where women flash their breasts during Mardi Gras for beads. It is one of those things that teens do without thinking about the consequences, like sexting or sharing intimate photos.

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

HP, I get that. I don't get doing it while the guy who has been making her comfortable is in the room. That's my puzzlement.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think until we hear anything new, this will be the end of this thread.