Title IX Update

Title IX Update Update!! New web pages added!! Scroll to the end of the post.

As you may know, Seattle Public Schools wasn't quite up to snuff on Title IX compliance. The person responsible for Title IX compliance didn't know his responsibilities and, consequently, failed to perform his required duties. When this dreadful situation came to light (with tragic consequences), the District... well, the District didn't do anything for two years. But when this dreadful situation triggered a federal investigation... the District still didn't do anything about it. But when word leaked out and it appeared in the press and people started to hound the Board over it, then we saw some action. In just a couple months the District has finally pretended to take the quick action it should have pretended to take two years earlier and is now promising to talk about planning to address a long-standing deficiency.

Here's the news:

  • There is now a Title IX Compliance web page. On this page we learn that "The Seattle Public School District is currently conducting a general review of its Title IX Compliance program." I guess that's the polite way to describe a federal investigation.
  • There's a link to the Board policy on sexual harassment. It's a charming work of Utopian fiction. It does not reflect the actual practices of the District in any way. According to the web page, "The District is currently updating Policy No. 3208, and we hope to post the new draft soon." Hmmm. No mention of the fact that the OSPI Comprehensive Program Review required that action, or that the District promised to have it done by now. Also, still have yet to get the first of the annual reports required by this policy.
  • There's no link to the Superintendent's Procedure on sexual harassment, which is also tagged for action in the OSPI CPR. Here's a link for those who enjoy reading fantasy fiction. You'll particularly enjoy the part about an annual ad hoc committee to review the effectiveness of the policy and procedure and recommend changes. Here's a recommended change: follow the policy and procedure.
  • There are links to the state and federal laws related to sexual harassment. Read these so you can determine exactly what laws the District is breaking and how.
  • There's a link to another page with the names of the Title IX Officers. I'll spare you the suspense. The Title IX Coordinator is Pegi McEvoy and the Title IX Official for student matters is Michael Tolley. There are brief descriptions of their duties and responsibilities. As Title IX Coordinator Pegi McEvoy "is responsible for monitoring all trainings, providing notices, annual reporting, tracking the District’s response to complaints, and identifying and addressing District-wide patterns/systemic problems." As Title IX Official for students, it is Michael Tolley's duty to "assure prompt, comprehensive, and equitable investigations of any formal complaints communicated to the District, ensure proper training, and identify and implement appropriate remedies."
  • Here's something interesting. The web page also mentions School Compliance Officers. According to this web page, The school compliance officers "will be responsible for providing a school-level response to complaints, overseeing informal investigations, and identifying and addressing patterns/systemic problems within their school. Each of these Officers will receive training in the prevention response and remedies for incidents of sexual harassment." That's interesting because, if you read the policy and procedure for sexual harassment, you'll find that there are no informal investigations.
  • Back on the main Title IX web page there is a section heading for training, but it only says "Coming soon." That's interesting because the District claims that they have conducted training already. Or did they? Don't ask because even they aren't sure. Seriously. They aren't sure if they did the training. I guess the new Title IX officers who are supposed to track training weren't announced back then, so no one tracked whether the training was done or not.
  • The section titled Notices has some blather about how the district policy requires notices about sexual harassment and the complaint procedures. Actually it's the law that requires them and, as we all know, there are no such things. This web page says that they are coming soon also.
  • There's a link (that works if you delete the extra close parentheses at the end) to the Office of Civil Rights so you can make an effective complaint after your original complaint falls on deaf ears at Seattle Public Schools.
  • At the bottom there are links to Title IX compliance reports, but they're only about athletics. You'll note that they are in the athletics section. There are no compliance reports about sexual harassment or discrimination. That's easy to explain: no compliance, no compliance reports, amiright?
New pages have been added!

2012 Nature Bridge Field Trip Incident. This web page, a complete embarrassment, manages to completely ignore all of the Title IX issues and focus exclusively on CYA for the District. Not one thing written here is relevant to Title IX. Beyond that, a lot of it is simply false.
The District narrative includes a long list of statements, such as the fact that the feds didn't prosecute. Consider each of these statements and ask yourself: What does that have to do with Title IX? Most of the time you will conclude that the District's narrative is full of a lot of stuff that doesn't matter at all.

Changes to District Procedures on Field Trips... This web page purports to describe the actions that the District has taken. But notice that this web page doesn't actually tell you anything.

In 2013 the District revised its chaperoning procedures for field trips, to improve clarity and direction to staff and volunteer chaperones. Really? Where are those revised procedures? The web page doesn't provide a link. Here is the Field Trip Policy, 2320, But where are the chaperone procedures? I was able to find this news item, this Friday Memo item, this volunteer application form, and this volunteer web page. But I was not able to find the procedures that are referenced in these other documents. There is no field trip procedure or chaperone procedure or even volunteer procedure among the Superintendent procedures. I'm pretty good with the district web site, but I couldn't find these procedures anywhere. Nice clarity. Why no link to this new procedure that they're so proud of?

According to this web page, "The District has also developed a Critical Incident Response Plan to respond to extraordinary situations at schools," I've read the Critical Incident Response Plan. It's a PR Plan, not a student safety plan. It's all about how to manage potentially bad press. You'll notice that no link to the plan is provided. They don't want you to read it because they are confident that you will imagine and presume something better.

Title IX
A team including the Deputy Superintendent, three Assistant Superintendents and the General Counsel has been established to conduct a review all District procedures, standard notices, and investigation and training practices and reporting requirements relating to sexual harassment.
Ah, once again the District has leapt into action - just two years after the event. And what action. They have announced a team to discuss a review. For the next six months they will use the announcement of this team to stiffarm any hard questions about Title IX issues. If the public outcry dies down before then the team never even has to meet. If not, then they will meet and the District will have another six months to claim "The Team is developing a plan." They expect the outcry will trickle down by then for sure. If not the Team will announce and distribute their plan, which will be nothing more than a list of the documents they promise to review. Of course we already have that list: District procedures, standard notices, and investigation and training practices and reporting requirements. They can then go another year in the hope that this will all just go away before anyone can expect them to actually deliver the product of their review. If everything goes according to plan they will all have different jobs before any actual work product is expected.

The District has added the really inadequate and insulting letters from Dr. Nyland and Director Peaslee to the Title IX web pages as well. There's no point in bothering with them. They will only make you angry.

As noted, the District has a link to the Sexual Harassment policy, but does not provide a link to the Sexual Harassment superintendent procedure. A reading of the procedure is what will give you the best understanding of the district's failings in the NatureBridge case. Here it is.


Just amazing. But, wait for it - I have the Board comments from tonight's (very short - good for them) Board meeting and every single person had something to say.

As usual, President Peaslee had a LOT to say.
mirmac1 said…
That is because she is getting a lot of flack (rightfully so) for her insensitive comments.
AnotherNEmom said…

No, Peaslee's comments were actually MORE insensitive than they were last meeting. More victim-blaming, more obfuscation of the real issues. Absolutely shameful.
Anonymous said…
When Peaslee harps on the failure to prosecute the assailant she continues to paint the DIstrict's failure to understand TItle IX. It's not about whether or not an assailant was prosecuted.

Does Peaslee really believe that if she repeats her "facts" enough, people will come to accept them as true?

Is there an opportunity to protest at her Sept 6 community meeting?

Your efforts will go towards educating the entire country. We appreciate your help as we Stop Sexual Assault in High School (our FB name)

Karen said…
I should not be laughing so hard at a post detailing how hard the district is dropping the ball when it comes to protecting students. But I am. Thank you, Charlie, for putting all of this information together in one place and for writing with such hilarious snark.

(Forgive me if this is well-known publicly -- I have been away from Seattle for a while.) I had heard rumors that district leadership was aware that Paul Apostle was not trained in his Title IX duties, and that leadership had repeatedly granted him a waiver for that when he was still not trained at various points in his career as Title IX officer at SPS. Can anyone confirm that?
Karen, this was an Audit finding and Sherry Carr was responsible for getting it resolved. She kicked the can down the road 3 times, last time the deadline was past Apostle's retirement date. The result, to trained officer at a critical time of need.
Anonymous said…
I have to shake my head at the School Board. Are all School Boards like this? They hired a suit as an interim and they may as well have left the post vacant because he is only dressing up the status quo. What's the point? Everybody continues to go their own way.

Reasonable person
Lynn said…

Here's something I noticed the other day. OSPI's website instructs anyone with a concern about sex discrimination or sexual harassment to contact their Title IX Officer. They publish a helpful list of School District Compliance Coordinators, including the name of the Title IX Officer for each district. Apparently the district hasn't told OSPI that Paul Apostle no longer holds this position.
Victim's mother, you could probably protest outside the library but not inside. However, you could have people come in and do something silently.

Karen, yes, one of the issues was that Apostle, despite being named as the Title IX officer, wasn't trained. And it appears some Board members knew it.
Lynn said…
The district's response to this incident is horrifying. It's evil. The needs of a traumatized child were ignored in order to protect the careers of Rachel Finley, Heather Snookal, Brad Westering, Ted Howard, Nancy Coogan, Paul Apostle, Ron English and Jose Banda.

What the hell is going through Sharon Peaslee's head when she's saying these things? If she thinks she can convince the public the district is trustworthy she is delusional. This board cannot effectively lead the district.
Charlie Mas said…
I can't believe that anyone still doesn't get this, but I'll repeat it as often as necessary.

The community isn't demanding that the district hold the boy accountable. There is a criminal justice process for that and, imperfect as it is, it isn't the school district's jurisdiction.

The community is demanding that the district hold their own staff accountable for their failings in this case.

They failed to follow policy and practice regarding chaperones.

The chaperones were negligent in the commission of their duties. Negligence includes sleeping in cabins hundreds of feet away from the students cablins, sleeping with ear plugs, allowing chaos on the second night after the chaos of the first night, etc.

They failed to follow the superintendent procedure for sexual harassment complaints.

They failed to follow the board policy on sexual harassment.

They failed to comply with state law on sexual harassment.

They failed to comply with federal law on sexual harassment.

They failed to keep the victim's family informed. They lied to the victim's family. They gave the victim's family contradictory information.

The list of failures is legion. Then, to make matters worse, not only was no one held accountable for these failures, no only was no one disciplined for these failures, but these failures were condoned. In fact, these failures were defended.

No one is asking the district or the board to hold the boy accountable. We are asking the district and the board to hold the staff accountable. If Director Peaslee hasn't heard that, then she just isn't listening.

Take a copy of the superintendent's procedure with you to her meeting. Walk through it with her step by step and ask her "Was this done?" The answers will all be "no". The district's actions in this case are indefensible.
mirmac1 said…
AARGH! I missed the meeting so will wait to hear Peaslee's pearls of wisdom.
Puffin said…
"In just a couple months the District has finally pretended to take the quick action it should have pretended to take two years earlier."


Now that the District is under public scrutiny for its Title IX failures, it goes through the motions of Title IX compliance, no doubt hoping to impress OCR while the District is under investigation.

But why do the District administration and Board of Directors (Peaslee) continue to repeat the "no charges were filed" mantra when OCR guidance clearly states that "conduct may constitute unlawful sexual harassment under Title IX even if the police do not have sufficient evidence of a criminal violation?" Do they imagine that statement will also impress OCR?
Anonymous said…
Like the "shiny new web pages" touted by the Advanced Learning department, SPS seems to think that throwing up some new web pages around Title IX will show that it's serious about compliance. What a laugh.

Double laugh - that they gave McEvoy Title IX responsibilities. You know things are a real )@*$# show when they through the job to McEvoy. Each year she is shoveled the )@#* that no one else downtown can deal with (capacity anyone?) That McEvoy has the duties is an inside signal that they are up )@*#&$ creek without a paddle.

I cannot wait to see the results of the family's civil suit against the district. That and only that will keep a similar incident from happening again.

Anonymous said…
SCHOOL BOARD Meeting 9/3 with pointed remarks by Kelly Kajumulo http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=6564
beginning @ 3:00 minutes

Charlie Mas said…
Here's something else that I will repeat as often as necessary. Part of the reason that prosecutors do not bring charges in rape cases isn't because they don't have enough evidence doesn't support a conviction; it's because juries don't understand consent.
Juries are, of course, composed of ordinary American citizens, and ordinary American citizens, of course, don't really understand consent. As evidence, I offer the boneheaded comments about this case offered by members of the public on newspaper web sites.
"She went to his room" - is that a license to rape?
"She sat on his bed" - is that a license to rape?
"She was okay with some things they did" - is that a license to rape?
I think prosecutors are under-estimating the American public, and I think it has dangerous consequences. The prosecutor has the opportunity to educate the jury about consent and the resulting convictions would, in turn, educate the public. I think the decision not to prosecute based on American confusion about consent is really bad public policy.
Charlie Mas said…
Hey. When is the board going to convene that sexual harassment/assault task force that they all agreed was a good idea at the August 20 meeting?
Anonymous said…
Charles Mas,

Thank for validating our complaint after thoroughly scrutinizing the documentation. We'll try to disseminate your succinct summary of the injustices suffered. I believe it would be appropriate to demonstrate outside the library at the 9/6 Peaslee meeting. KOMO news was at the 9/3 meeting, so perhaps they would follow up if someone would speak with Lindsay Cohen Negligence, easily preventable rape, and anti-title IX rhetoric are important messages, among others for the public. Constant pressure from all sectors is necessary to stop the District's deplorable behavior.

Victim's mom
Reader47 said…
I happened to tune in to the Board meeting just as Director Peaslee was speaking on this topic - wow - she clearly clearly has missed the point - again, yet still. Charlie is exactly right - the uproar isn't about prosecutable issues - its about a systemic failure to know the law, do what the law says and fix the system that allowed such situations to occur.

I don't know what President Peaslee thinks she's doing but it's not the right thing, that's for sure - but then she has a lot of company in this situation...
Rufus X said…
Board President Peaslee's comments:

“On the Garfield incident, I’m going to just read an update…The information on this is constantly changing and there’s a lot of misinformation. So just to start with, to ensure that we’re clear and current in our efforts to protect students’ safety:
• The Superintendent has asked the senior management working group to review all processes related to the requirements of Title IX on sexual harassment, to improve our notices, training, investigation practices, compliance actions, and remedies for victims of sexual harassment;
• Additionally we’ve established a critical incident response plan and trained administrators in how to respond to issues such as this;
• We’re reviewed and improved our training, field trip & chaperoning practices
• We’ve trained administrators in appropriate responses to critical incidents such as this.

As background on the Garfield field trip, um, this has shaken the entire district and, uh, we are, we have been, uh, there was an immediate response at the school level. As soon as the situation came to the attention of district administrators, action was taken. We know that there are gaps in our process, and we’ve been looking at those gaps and addressing them from a number of different angles so that there is much more rapid and effective response, so that process of our own internal investigation has been going on for over a year and continues to go on. We cannot undo that unfortunate event, but we can learn from it and we’ll continue to take steps to increase the safety of all of our students.

The facts are that the FBI and the National Park Service investigated, but the U.S. Attorney did not file any charges. And I reiterate the point I made last time: No criminal charges were filed. No one was charged with rape. And it is unjust to accuse someone of a felony offense that they were not charged with. So I would appreciate it if people would think very seriously about the language that they use in describing the events of this particular situation. The district also investigated and found the facts to be inconclusive. The parents have appealed the school board’s decision to the State office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction; a hearing is scheduled for November. The parents also filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. A briefing paper is available which provides more information about the incident and the steps we’ve taken to improve our processes. The parents have submitted a formal claim for financial compensation, which is the first step towards litigation. Our outside lawyers are working with the parent attorneys to resolve the matter, and we will not comment further while the claim is pending. So that’s the update on that…..”
I think if anyone should think seriously about the language they are using it is Director Peaslee. She has either completely lost the plot or is desperately trying to deflect blame from those that should be held accountable.
Chris said…
Thank you for the transcription of Peaslee's comments, Rufus!
Reader47 said…
@Charlie - weirdly, I think this is what they mean by "updating chaperone procedures" - this news item dated 1/27/2014 Seattle Public Schools to increase screening of volunteers for overnight fieldtrip chaperones

Or perhaps this Friday Memo from Oct 2013? Field Trip Procedure Revisions
disgusted said…
From one of the links Charlie posted - "Garfield staff will receive field trip training on August 28, 2014 ."

Wow, they finally get around to doing this training almost 2 years after the event and only after public pressure (e.g., after the Aug 20 board meeting and various media coverage). Disgraceful.
StringCheese said…
I have a friend who is a new Garfield parent and he was telling me that school staff basically stated that actually complying with field trip procedures would effectively mean no overnight field trips could happen – ever. Unfortunately, my friend was buying it and his immediate reaction was that he would rather have staff fudge on compliance than have his kid miss out on a science trip to Hawaii...

My friend is a smart, educated, dedicated parent but his reaction only served to highlight how messed up these issues can be. I spent a great deal of time arguing that it is, in no way, impossible for a teacher and principal to follow procedure and get a field trip off of the ground. It simply means that a greater amount of planning time is needed and that parents will need to step up to ensure that the teacher is on top of the timeline and that appropriate chaperones step up rather than assuming someone else will do it.

I'm not sure whether I got through to him or not. I am disheartened by the idea that doing what is easy (read: what can I get away with) is more important than doing what is right to ensure safety. Especially with the 2012 incident daylighted. Perhaps if his new Garfield student was his daughter and not his son...?

In the end it is going to come down to parents making sure that procedure is being followed. Let's hope most parents don't buy into the "boo-hoo" attitude of some staff and instead focus energy on insisting that these trips continue to take place AND have procedures followed. It is not an either/or.
Charlie Mas said…
Contrast this from StringCheese:

" school staff basically stated that actually complying with field trip procedures would effectively mean no overnight field trips could happen – ever."

With this from the August 29 Friday Memo:

"Garfield Staff: Stephan Blanford, Michael Tolley, Sarah Pritchett, John Cerqui and Richard
Staudt were at Garfield on Thursday for their staff day before the first day of school. We shared
our support for Ted Howard’s continued leadership of the school, reviewed a summary of the
field trip incident, and spent time talking about proactive steps going forward. The staff were
also trained in chaperoning procedures and we received kudos from staff on those procedures.
Anonymous said…
A National major award-winning journalist asked me today why the Garfield case is getting so much attention. I told him it’s because people get out to show the media their disgust, because this case is symbolic of a festering malaise.

Please come with a sign to counteract Seattle School Board President's misinformation campaign at her community meeting. Her discriminatory rhetoric is antithetical to students' rights /Title IX and has caused outrage in the media.

Northgate Library 10548 5th Ave NE 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM TOO ANGRY TO SPEAK? Then BRING SIGNS! Bring signs anyway! Send us photos for national media on the east coast.

Peaslee continues to be falsely fixated on the failure to prosecute as justification for the District's failure to act on the report of rape. Remember the District's strategy: if there was no rape, then the deplorable chaperoning was not an issue. No liability.

Peaslee again (below) distorts the information she has had for over a year:

Subject: re: update
Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2013 07:30:00 -0700
From: Smith, Colin

As I've said before, the US Attorney has not determined that no sexual assault occured [sic], but that we do not have a case that can be successfully prosecuted in court.

Colin Smith
Chief Ranger
Olympic National Park
360 565-3110

Local attorney who may be at the rally:
From: Theresa Schrempp [mailto:theresas@lawyerseattle.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2014 11:17 AM
To: 'SchoolBoard@seattleschools.org'
Subject: Peaslee Should Resign

For the welfare of Seattle students, Sharon Peaslee (and probably others) should resign. She has demonstrated what could be charitably called irresponsible leadership regarding the rape which occurred during a Garfield High School trip. The fact that no prosecution was pursued is irrelevant. The perpetrator was not exonerated. The entire event was covered up, and would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the courage of the child’s parents and a handful of others. Does Ms. Peaslee care nothing about the safety of her students? Apparently not.

Theresa Schrempp
Sonkin & Schrempp PLLC

Victim's family
Anonymous said…
There are numerous factual errors in the District's web page recounting of events related to the Garfield rape. Moreover, the District omits certain information to make it "look good" when in fact they failed. One example for now: the District provided a school transfer, they write. Correct. And the basis of the transfer, as indicated on the transfer application was the field trip rape. (Remember they say no sexual harassment occurred but granted a school transfer with rape as the basis--this document is available in the parent's Oct. 18, 2013 report posted on SPS LEAKS.

The student didn't attend the new school, the District correctly writes. Why? Because the 504 coordinator withdrew the signed 504 plan and refused to communicate with the family about accommodations that a rape victim with debilitating PTSD would need in a new school. These documents are available on SPS LEAKS.

Parents will write an accounting of events alongside the District's. We already challenged the District to publish them and let the public decide who is believable. IF THEY HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE. . . . .


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