Letters: An Inevitable Conversation

Japayuki: A Novel

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault Public Listening Sessions

I will participate in the February 14, 2014, session entitled: Victim Advocates, Rape Crisis Center Staff, Victim Service Providers, including Campus-based and Community Programs.

I have submitted the following comments for consideration:

Institutional policies and protocols that address sexual assault/inappropriate acts with children/students read correct in published district policies and directives; unfortunately, it would appear the lack of enforcement at the campus level by administrators, some of whom participate openly in violations, are the invitations for others to engage in such activity.

Responding to diverse, undeserved or historically marginalized victims is a serious issue. In a case I am now addressing as an advocate, a young female student, know to administrators as a “hall walker,” was ignored, in fact punished when she became a victim of inappropriate, possibly sexual assault at the hands of a male teacher.

Prevention programs are, I believe, built into the system by virtue of a schedule of classes and mandated attendance requirements (state and district). If a strong enforcement environment is in maintained, if students not in class attendance are disciplined swiftly, appropriately, and consistently, the opportunity for sexual assaults on campus would minimize, if not eliminated completely.

Crisis intervention and advocacy services, not associated with the campus, and perhaps even the district, must be available to students who report sexual assault. In the case I am addressing, the district law enforcement officers, assigned to the campus on which the assault occurred, were instrumental in the destruction of evidence, witness intimidation, and coercion.

Complaint and grievance procedures, as with the crisis intervention and advocacy services, especially in highly emotional sexual assault cases, must be detached from the campus on which incident has occurred.  place. I will go further and say, typical complaint and grievance procedures are not qualified to address sexual complaints. A 9-1-1 call is more appropriate with immediate depositions and official police reports.

Responsibility for investigation protocols and procedures regarding any violent crime, especially one as heinous as a sexual assault of a child/student should be immediately fall on the Special Victims Unit of the municipality in which the district is located.

Adjudicatory procedures in all sexual assault cases involving children/students need to be prioritized and highly publicized. Disciplinary sanctions should never enter the process; maximum sentences for any and all child/abusers should always be the goal of the prosecution.

Training and orientation modules for students, staff, and faculty need to be implemented in public venue, with child and parent present, even as a public service presentation on local television stations.

If proper and aggressive preventive measures are in place, the need for evaluating and measuring the success of prevention and response efforts should be minimal.

In the San Antonio area, most districts finding they need to deal with an inappropriate teacher/student situation openly share the information with the public; however, these are those districts which opt to deal with those issues silently.

Making enforcement activities transparent and accessible is a non-negotiable. Both student and staff, all staff, must be aware that the campus is on a constant state of high alert for inappropriate, non-academic activities during academic time, during transition periods, during lunch, while engaged in before and after school activities.

Promoting greater coordination and consistency among federal agencies is a must. In states where governors are weak in educational concerns, district staff must prioritize communication with not only federal agencies, but state and local law enforcement agencies.

Maximizing the Federal Government’s effectiveness in combatting campus rape and sexual assault falls on every employee of every school district. If an employee, at any level, is not satisfied with the results of reporting an incident to a campus/district administration, that individual has the responsibility of reporting the incident to the next higher authority.

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