Should Principals Tell Staff about Sex Offenders at Schools?

One story the Times did cover was that the state Supreme Court said a 14-year old Bethel High school girl who was raped - off-campus - by another student, who was an older registered sex offender, can sue that district.  The older student had been "acting an an unofficial coach and mentor to younger students."  The school knew his background but did not tell staff. It was a 5-4 decision.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office notified the high school’s principal, but the principal did not inform other faculty and did not develop a safety plan that would have helped Clark avoid students two or more years younger than him as required, according to the suit.

Quoting a ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court, Gonz├ílez noted “the relevant inquiry is to the location of the negligence rather than the location of the injury.”

In the dissent, Madsen noted, too, that students — even registered sex offenders — have a legal right to privacy in their schools.
I would agree that everyone has a right to privacy but you have to wonder if the staff had known this guy's background if he would have been allowed to be a track practice with young girls, interacting with them.

Update: The Everett Herald is reporting that this ruling by the Supreme Court sends it back to a jury to decide on whether the district was negligent towards this student.

Other items on this subject to note from Stop Sexual Assault in
- In July, the Seattle School District's violations that led to the opening of the 2014 TItle IX investigation was featured in a US congressional briefing today. The case was presented by the Neena Chaudhry of the National Women's Law Center alongside other members of the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education such as the AAUW. is launching a free Title IX video for families in the fall.  I'll bring you details when it is available.

- Interview with the head of Stop Sexual Assault in, Ester Warkov in We News.
The Teach Safe Relationships Act, originally introduced as a stand-alone bill co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, directs federal grant money to public schools for instruction and training in age-appropriate "safe relationship behavior."

Currently only 20 states and the District of Columbia require that students learn skills to "avoid coercion" as part of their sex education programs, and only 22 states require that sex education be taught at all, according to a November report by the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based research group. The Teach Safe Relationships Act of the pending ESSA would not necessarily be tied to sex education curriculum.

In October, California became the first state to approve a high school sexual-assault-prevention law based on an "affirmative consent" or a "yes means yes" standard for sex, similar to the state's 2014 college "affirmative consent" sexual assault legislation. California's high school law, which takes effect in January, will require all public high schools to develop curriculum that addresses sexual violence prevention and healthy peer relationships based on the affirmative consent standard.
- Really good article from EdSource:
The findings do not imply that bullying leads to rape, according to a research brief on Espelage’s work published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead, the findings suggest the need for schools to explicitly address and forbid homophobic teasing and sexual harassment, the authors said.
“Unlike flirting or good-natured joking, which are mutual interactions between two people, sexual harassment is unwelcomed and unwanted behavior which may cause the target to feel threatened, afraid, humiliated, angry, or trapped,” according to the National Women’s Law Center’s primer on sexual harassment for students. In the school environment, sexual harassment includes unwanted sexual behavior – such as sending sexual notes, grabbing body parts, spreading sexual rumors or making sexual gestures, jokes, or verbal comments  – that interferes with a student’s opportunity to obtain an education, according to the law center. Sexual harassment may occur electronically or in person.
It is also against the law in federally funded schools under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, as reiterated in a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.  


Charlie Mas said…
The issue in this case appears to center on the principal's failure to develop a safety plan as required and failure to keep the older student away from younger students as required.

The Supreme Court didn't say that the school district was negligent, they only ruled that the case to determine the district's negligence could go forward.
Ms206 said…
The sex offender has a right to privacy, but there must be a balance between the privacy and safety of others. The school absolutely should have had a safety plan in place. If students who are sex offenders are going to have a right to privacy, e.g. not have his/her status as a sex offender be known to the public, then there should be limits on what the student who is a sex offender can access. If the student has a disability and the district fears a lawsuit because the sex offending could be a manifestation of the disability, then the district should provide that student with a 1:1 to supervise him or her.
Anonymous said…
Ah but SPS does not believe in providing 1-1. "They are too restrictive and fail to make the environment a least restrictive environment", so says the district as an excuse. They don't want you to know that 1-1 service never HAS to be restrictive. In fact, 1-1 service is often the only way to make an environment accessible. Any employee can make an environment "restrictive". For example, principals who put kids in closets are creating a "restrictive environment." We never hear about getting rid of all principals because they are "restrictive". But SPS special had a direct mandate to get rid of all 1-1s. Staff was told to write them out of all ieps - and, without any evaluation of need. But in the case of sex offenders, sometimes they relent. It is ironic that the only way to get service in SPS is to be a sex offender. Awesomeness at its best.

sped parent
mirmac1 said…
sped parent,

I can support your assessment; 1:1's are "restrictive" when cost-cutting admin proclaim they are. But the same admin are more than willing to gamble on a sex offender, given the pretense of the perpetrator's "privacy" or whatever fallacious argument of the day.

I'd love to hear the rationale admin provide, along with the federal laws that they use as CYA.

I also want aggrieved families of both the disabled and the sexually-abused to sue the district until they reform their practices. Not until then will they quit sacrificing children to expediency and smokescreens.

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