Town Hall on Title IX Protections for K-12 Students on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

On Sunday October 7, 2018 Indivisible Winchester and the Winchester Young Democrats hosted a town hall to discuss what protections exist at the K-12 level to protect students against sexual harassment and sexual assault under Title IX. The town hall format provides a public forum to hear from experts and concerned citizens and foster a dialogue that can shift public policy. Though the town hall turn out was less than hoped for, we did get a great article written in the Winchester Star by and TV coverage by NOVA News’ reporter Bria Lloyd.

Panelists:  (left to right) Danielle Bostick, a Handley High School Latin teacher; Lyda Costello Kiser, Director of Grants and Title IX coordinator for Lord Fairfax Community College; and Ainsley Rucker, President of the Winchester Young Democrats.

Findings: 

  • K-12 schools are falling short of the standards set by colleges to protect students under Title IX against sexual assault and sexual harassment.
  • Title IX coordinators in K-12 schools should be required to get adequate training on Title IX.
  • Teachers should also be able to access quality continuing education on Title IX and how to deal with issues of sexual harassment in the schools
  • We need to review the state sex education curriculum and include education on sexual consent.

TITLE IX: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Video note: there are just a few minutes missing among these clips due to technical difficulties with running out of storage on the phone used to record the event!

Further Reading

Know Your IX.org. Great Resource! Founded in 2013, Know Your IX is a survivor- and youth-led project of Advocates for Youth that aims to empower students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools.

Winchester Star October 8, 2018(Requires Subscription)

http://www.winchesterstar.com/winchester_star/school-sex-assault-harassment-policies-criticized-at-forum/article_6194664b-95c4-52ce-bbd8-89a7367c4f0d.html

Excepts from the Star article:

Speakers at a Sunday forum said enforcement of and education about the federal Title IX law against sexual assault and harassment is virtually nonexistent in K-12 schools.

The event was organized by Winchester Young Democrats and Indivisible Winchester, a grassroots activist group.

Unlike colleges and universities, K-12 schools aren’t required to document sexual assault and harassment and report it to the U.S. Department of Education, although 32 states do in some form. An Associated Press analysis of the reporting found it to be haphazard. It said there were 17,000 sexual assault complaints at K-12 schools in the 32 states that report them between 2011-15, including 4,549 in Virginia. The Associated Press said Virginia doesn’t name the schools. There are about 98,000 public schools in the U.S. and 56 million students, according to the department….

…The lack of complete and uniform reporting drastically reduces transparency, said Danielle Bostick, a Handley High School Latin teacher whose 15-year-old daughter Francesca was sexually assaulted by a male Handley student in a city park last year. The student pleaded no contest to the assault in local Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court….

Ainsley Rucker, a 17-year-old Sherando High School senior, echoed Francesca’s complaints about unresponsive school administrators and teachers. She said sexual harassment, such as vulgar, sexually-related comments, and assaults, such as improper touching, are common at Sherando. She said Sherando and Frederick County Public Schools have failed to educate students about their rights or define consent.

Steve Edwards, Frederick County Public Schools spokesman, said in an email that the district strives to prevent assaults and harassment, and its policies “are very prescriptive with how complaints are investigated and addressed.” He said lawyers annually brief administrators and school board members on school law including discussions of sexual harassment and Title IX.

But Ainsley, president of Winchester Young Democrats, said lack of education and enforcement has normalized bad behavior. She partially blamed the district’s abstinence-based sex education, which she said is “incredibly ineffective.”

Ainsley said her group is pushing for comprehensive sex education to reduce assaults and harassment. That would include defining sexual consent beginning in sixth grade and better understanding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues.

Ainsley said many young sexual assault victims don’t understand they’re being abused and are afraid or ashamed to seek help. She said teachers are embarrassed to talk to students about sex.

“That awkwardness rubs off on us,” she said. “As soon as we take that away and start an open discussion from a young age, students will be ready to talk about it.”

Title IX Defined

Passed in 1972, Title IX is a federal anti-discrimination law for any K-12 schools and colleges and universities that receive federal taxpayer money. The law covers a variety of areas including equitable admissions, equal funding for men’s and women athletics and student financial assistance, and protection against sexual assaults and harassment. Complaints can be filed with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. In theory, the office can strip a school of federal funding for non-compliance, but that has never occurred. Instead, the office seeks to gain compliance through written agreements and monitoring.

Sources: American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. Department of Education

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