Leadership at Seattle Public Schools understands the value of overnight field trips for our students. We also place a high priority on student safety both at school and on school-sanctioned trips. In light of recent events, the district updated our field trip policies and increased training for staff to help ensure student safety.
This recent work stems from a 2012 overnight field trip during which a Garfield High School student said she was sexually assaulted. Investigations by multiple law enforcement agencies determined there was inconclusive evidence of a crime. However, on Oct. 3, Seattle Public Schools went into mediation with the parents of this former student. The district settled with the female student and her parents for $700,000.
As a part of the mediated settlement, the parents have agreed not to pursue any monetary claims against the district, and to dismiss all of their pending actions in front of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Office of Civil Rights and anywhere else. They have also agreed not to pursue any new actions, or to file further public records requests with the district. They have also agreed not to communicate further with the district regarding this incident or subsequent response action, and to not contact or publicly or complain about the male student accused of the assault.
The settlement must be submitted to the School Board for approval on October 15. The settlement must also be approved by a court-appointed guardian ad litem, who will assure the female student's rights are protected.
While the settlement does not hold the district liable for the incident, district officials do consider this a fair settlement that allows the district to focus its efforts on improving our processes to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment, and provides funds for the student to pursue her education.
Since the incident, the district has focused on improving overnight field trip procedures and working to ensure compliance to the federal Title IX mandates, which cover response to sexual harassment.
Specifically, the district has:
Improved overnight field trip procedures and training
In 2013, the district revised its field trip procedures and chaperone training requirements. School administrators were trained on these revisions during the summer of 2013. The field trip procedures and chaperone training requirements are being further reviewed this fall (2014) to reflect lessons learned.
We are taking the following steps to ensure the safety of our students on overnight field trips. Here’s what parents and staff need to know:
- There must be at least two chaperones on each trip of more than 6 students including at least one chaperone for every 10 students.
- We will not allow parent/teacher chaperones to bring their own younger children on the trip.
- We require 24/7 supervision with bed checks in the middle of the night.
- We require chaperones to maintain proximity to the students.
- Parents and students are required to sign off on the guidelines; including the understanding that violation of the field trip behavior requirements may result in the student being sent home.
- Lead chaperones are required to provide training to each of the chaperones on the trip.
- Emergency procedures for the chaperones to report student or chaperone violations up the chain to security, the principal or the superintendent/designee as appropriate.
Recent Work on Title IX compliance
We have created a new Title IX webpage. The webpage details the districts’ policy, procedure, and other news regarding Title IX as it applies to sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and athletics.
So far, our focus has been on updating compliance with the sexual harassment portion of Title IX. The district has appointed a number of new officials to ensure that our sexual harassment policy (Policy No. 3208) is upheld by all Seattle Public Schools schools, students, employees, and volunteers. These officials include:
- District Compliance Official for Student Matters: Beryl Miller
- District Compliance Official for Adult Matters: Brent Jones
- Title IX Official for Student Matters: Michael Tolley
- Title IX Official for Adult Matters: Brent Jones
- School Compliance Official: Principal or Appointed Designee for each school
- JSCEE Compliance Official: Brent Jones
Additionally, the district is forming a Task Force on Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment comprised of staff, teachers, principals, parents, students and sexual harassment experts. The main responsibility of the Task Force will be establishing a robust and easily accessible program to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual assault, as well as educating both students and adults on how to respond to and provide support for victims of sexual assault.
The district is also revising its Superintendent Procedure 3208 regarding sexual harassment. The procedure includes a complaint form, as well as a notice to complainants of their rights, which is available on the Title IX webpage. The district accepted comments on the draft procedure through Sept. 26, 2014. We also sought input from both OSPI and OCR. Approval of the new procedure is anticipated by Oct. 24.
The district created a general notice concerning sexual harassment, which will be posted at all school administrative offices and on staff and student bulletin boards. This document is available on the Title IX webpage.
Increased training regarding new changes
To update district employees on the changes we have made thus far, a number of new training sessions have been held, including:
- An initial training of the Title IX Officers on their duties was completed on Sept. 11, 2014. Follow-up trainings will be provided once all procedures are in place.
- A training session for Executive Directors of Schools on the duties of Compliance Officers was held on Sept. 19, 2014.
- Training sessions on School Compliance Officer responsibilities were held on Sept. 23 and 25 and Oct. 2, covering all school administrators.
The district is pleased with the progress made toward ensuring complete and comprehensive compliance with Title IX. During the next few weeks, the district will focus on the following activities to continue moving forward:
- Changing Title IX notices on the district’s website pages to reflect new Title IX duties;
- Advertising for a permanent position within Human Resources to perform district Compliance Officer duties;
- Review of student health curriculum to address incidents of sexual harassment;
- Additional training for staff on responding to incidents of sexual harassment
For more information, please visit these web pages: