The Pleasanton School Board recently received an update on how the district implemented its new sexual harassment procedures by increasing communication and changing the overall culture of accountability on campuses.
“I think the first step to fixing the culture that exists, at least at the high school level, is to recognize that sexual harassment…isn’t just something the monster under the bed does; it’s something the people around you, people you see in the hallways do it,” student adviser Annabelle Kim said at the Sept. 22 meeting.
“I think the sooner we realize this, the sooner we can fix it and the sooner we can fix it,” Kim added.
Over the summer, administrators approved a new board policy to seek ways to communicate to students that sexual harassment on campus will not be tolerated and that all complaints will be thoroughly investigated. .
In addition to updated materials to match student and staff feedback that were added to the new policy, the district also created an 11-inch by 17-inch poster with information about sexual harassment and steps on what to do. to do if someone saw something. . This poster will be hung in bathrooms and general school areas.
Schools also increased their communication efforts when administrators facilitated classroom presentations on sexual harassment for students in grades 6 through 12.
During the pandemic, Leslie Heller, director of student services and principal of Village High School, said many students pointed out how the presentation on sexual harassment did not feel effective in getting the message across.
“They didn’t feel like the students really took them seriously or paid as much attention that we felt this topic was ensuing,” Heller said.
So this year, principals like Jonathan Fey of Amador Valley High School took a more hands-on approach by visiting classrooms.
“I think one of the things that we pushed really hard and pushed on with our students was this idea of commentary and that it doesn’t matter if you know your audience, you don’t know who’s listening to you,” said Fey said. .
On increased communication between students and administrators, Foothill Secondary School principal Sebastian Bull said Foothill would push for its student advisory group to meet more frequently so students can continue to share their concerns.
But apart from communication, the policy also focuses on changing the culture around accountability.
“One of the most important things as well, in terms of accountability, is what’s the follow-up?” said Ed Diolazo, assistant superintendent of student support services. “What’s the follow-up to the complainant or the victim, and then what’s the follow-up to the alleged abuser in this whole process? Again, that’s really important for us – to get back to the students so they know what we have done as an administration based on this complaint.”
The complaints process falls under the bylaws and not under the new council policy, which means little has changed in the procedures or repercussions when someone files a complaint.
All complaints must go through the Title IX office and will be investigated alongside School Resource Officers to ensure the complaint relates to sexual harassment and not something more physically serious like abuse or assault and battery, which falls under a different council policy which involves police involvement.
However, if a student is found guilty of sexual harassment, according to school board policy, they can get anything from parent and police intervention to suspension or expulsion, depending on the seriousness of the the situation.
“With student discipline, it can be very gray. So there are a lot of possible consequences,” Heller said. “It depends on each situation, but we just wanted to be very clear that we have consequences when a student is found to have violated our education code which is considered sexual harassment.”
One of the big questions Kim asked was about this complaint process, and specifically how the district plans to build deeper trust with students so they feel comfortable speaking up in the first place.
“A lot of students don’t want to report this in the first place if they don’t have concrete video evidence, which is not the case in many sexual harassment cases,” Kim said.
Heller said one of the things that has changed in the reporting process is that administrators and those investigating the claim will verify the person who filed the report after the entire process is complete. Although they don’t necessarily find anyone at fault after the due process investigation, district staff said they want to continue supporting the complainant after the investigation is complete to build better relationships with the parties. students so that they are more comfortable asking for help in the future.
“We still wouldn’t be able to share with them the type of discipline that occurred, however, we would be able to document their report, and we would be able to document the parties involved, so that we, at the less as a school site, would have more information about what we see,” Heller said.
“It could also create a relationship of trust between a student and a site administrator,” Heller added. “While the outcome may not necessarily be a discipline outcome, it would at least be an educational opportunity and an opportunity for students to find a trusted adult on campus that they feel comfortable with. ‘coming.”
Administrator Mary Jo Carreon also said she wanted to see more data, but with what current students think of the new sexual harassment policies and whether or not it makes a difference.
She also wanted to see more presentations showing students what to do in those situations where students see sexual harassment happening to others.
This sense of wanting to show students how to help those in need rather than being a bystander was also shared with administrator Joan Laursen.
“Those of us of a certain age have experienced a lot of sexual harassment in our lives, and that’s not something new,” Laursen said. “It’s a cultural thing, it’s a norm, it’s peer pressure and if you, as a peer, or you as a teacher, or a staff member, tolerate and let it go, nothing exchange.”
PUSD begins teaching fourth and fifth graders about sexual harassment to prevent future problems. But even with the implementation of these new policies and practices, staff and administrators continued to double down on support for all students and said the best way for them to help is for students to continue to ask them to ugly.
“A lot of times they may not want to come into the office, which I know is a scary thing in general, but there are a lot of trusted adults out there,” Bull said. “So whether it’s a teacher or a counselor, they can talk to you, and then that teacher counselor will pass information to us and then we can follow up from there.”