SPHS Parent Concerned She Couldn’t Make Title IX Complaint at SPHS

A South Pasadena High School parent raised concerns that she was unable to obtain information on how to make a formal Title IX complaint. South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz responds to those concerns

PHOTO: Marisa Vasquez | SouthPasadena.com | Back to where they started, the South Pasadena High School students end their National School Walkout at South Pasadena Pasadena High School on March 14, 2018.

Continue to read below the letter for the South Pasadena School Districts Response, and the exclusive Q&A interview we were granted from SPUSD Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz.

Letter to the Editor:

[parents name omitted to protect the identity of the student] SPHS Parent

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“Dear South Pasadena Board and Education and Superintendent,

On 4/30/17, I went to South Pasadena High School to file a formal Title IX complaint on behalf of my daughter. I will not get into specifics here, as the issue is being addressed by the school principal, who assured me it will be handled administratively.

However, the problem I would like to address with you all as educational stakeholders and policymakers is the fact there was no information on how to make a formal Title IX complaint. When I complained to the principal about the incident that took place today, I also asked to file a Title IX complaint since this was an ongoing and pervasive issue that other girls at the school were experiencing. However, to my dismay, there was no visible information in the school about making a Title IX complaint, nor was there any information on how to contact a Title IX coordinator.

The only information I was given was the district’s Uniform Complain Procedure (UCP) that had not been revised since March 1997. I asked if this was all the complaint material the school possessed and was told it was. Furthermore, when I called the district to find information on grievance procedures, they directed me twice to the business office, specifically the accounting office. I explained to the phone operator I needed to speak with a person in charge of Title IX and was told that there was nobody else to speak to (this was before 4 pm). From the brief phone conversation, I don’t feel they even knew what a Title IX coordinator was.

I then searched the South Pasadena District website as well as the High School website to find there was no information, conspicuous or otherwise on who to speak with or how to file a Title IX complaint. I find this very distressing as a parent for several reasons. First, the South Pasadena School District is in violation of California Education Code, 221.61. By denying my daughter as well as other students information on their educational rights, specifically on any recourse against sexual harassment in school is unacceptable.

For young girls to feel empowered to speak up about instances of sexual harassment and abuse, especially in the Me Too era, they must be educated on the policies and procedures in place. Adults who have been sexually harassed or assaulted know it is not easy to come forward due to shame, embarrassment or victim blaming. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for an adolescent to come forward.

Therefore, it is the school’s responsibility to provide the knowledge and guidance on these procedures. Unfortunately, we live in a society where harassing and objectifying women is normalized. Yet public schools are the best conduits for students to access information and create a positive and substantial cultural shift when addressing sexual violence and harassment.

I was told by the principal today that because my daughter did not come the first semester of her freshman year, she “missed” the talk the school has on bullying and harassment. My question to you is that enough? One school meeting freshman year, first semester? I recently read the student-run high school newspaper and was so impressed with the articles covering denim day and sexual harassment. However, reading the articles reminded me how present and widespread sexual harassment and assault are in the lives of our youth today.

Unfortunately, nowhere in the newspaper was information on how to file a complaint when sexually harassed at school. I believe it is the responsibility of the board and superintendent to re-examine school policies on educating students on sexual harassment and abuse. And it cannot be just a veneer of improvement, it must be perpetual and meaningful so that all students are aware of their educational rights and become informed, powerful and confident citizens who are willing use their voice when confronting injustice.

Thank you very much for your consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

[parents name omitted to protect the identity of the student] SPHS Parent”

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In response to this letter to the editor, we attempted to validate the statements made by the parent.  We researched the SPUSD policies in these matters. We directly interviewed Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz regarding this specific complaint.

We asked the superintendent what the specific procedures are, whether there was validity to the complaint and whether or not the process is more ‘red-tape’ for parents and students.

Dr. Yantz says the current reporting and complaint procedures in our school district does it’s very best, within the law, to be discrete and protective of our students and families. See the South Pasadena News interview Q&A with Dr. Yantz below.

In an abundance of concern from our publication for the safety and well-being of the potential student involved, we refrained from direct inquiry to parents, students, SPHS staff.

Response to The South Pasadenan -SouthPasadenan.com News- from SPUSD Superintendent Geoff Yantz:

  1.  SouthPasadenan: Is “Title IX” the correct path for students to utilize in our district when faced with student rights issues? If “Title IX” is not the way to go, then what is the procedure?

Dr. Yantz: “South Pasadena Unified School District follows the state mandated Uniform Complaint Procedure along with the Title IX federal regulations for investigating allegations. Both the Uniform Complaint Procedure and Title IX notifications are shared with parents at the beginning of each school year during the registration process. The Uniform Complaint Procedure is California’s state law for addressing allegations of unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying against any protected group, while Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination, harassment, exclusion, denial, limitation or separation based on sex or gender. If a student or parent needs to report an incident, they should notify school administration or local law enforcement immediately. Students or parents/guardians may also report their verbal or written Title IX complaint to the school administrator or Title IX Coordinator within six months from the date of the alleged incident occurred or first obtained knowledge. Complainants have a right to a timely and informal resolution at the school site. Board Policies, Administrative Regulations and Uniform Complaint Procedures are posted on the District website. The SPHS Tiger Guide for students also contains Title IX notices. For example: A.R. 1312.3 linked below contains further information about the process and timeline.”

https://www.boarddocs.com/ca/spusd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AXY2XH780E74

A.R. 5145.7 linked below contains further information about Title IX.

https://www.boarddocs.com/ca/spusd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AREVRF7B90CD

  1. SouthPasadenan: Even though “sexual harassment” generally a serious issue, is “sexual harassment” a big problem in our district at this time?

Dr. Yantz: “South Pasadena Unified School District receives relatively few complaints, and treats each one seriously with the goal of remediating any incidents of harassment and preventing further incidents from occurring. Student safety is our top priority.”

  1.  SouthPasadenan: How can we as SPUSD parents support the efforts of SPUSD to handle potential “sexual harassment” incidents if/when they seem to occur?

Dr. Yantz: South Pasadena Unified School District addresses all issues that are brought to its attention. Consequently, the greatest support that parents and students can provide to the District is prompt notice of any allegations. We work very closely with the South Pasadena Police Department on matters that require local law enforcement. On occasion a report is made to the Department of Children and Family Services to investigate.”

  1. SouthPasadenan: It appears that an SPHS parent, had trouble obtaining information regarding Title IX when she called the South Pasadena Unified School District. What happened from your perspective?

Dr. Yantz: At approximately 4 p.m. a phone call was received by the District Accountant. For an unknown reason the call was made directly to the Accountant’s extension. The District Receptionist did not receive a call. The caller stated to the Accountant that she wanted to file a Title IX complaint and speak with an administrator. The Accountant placed the caller on hold on two different occasions in attempt to direct her call to an available district administrator. Unfortunately, all district administrators were in meetings at various locations and not absent as inferred by the parent.

  • Executive Director of Student Support Services – meeting with parent
  • Assistant Superintendent of Business – meeting with high school teacher
  • Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Superintendent – meeting with parent
  • Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources – meeting with legal counsel

During the call, the District Accountant attempted to obtain the caller’s name and number, the caller refused. The conversation ended when the caller stated that she found someone to speak with at the high school. Apparently, the caller was making a call to the District office while standing at the front desk of the high school. The school administrator listened to the parent’s complaint, promptly conducted an investigation, and contacted the South Pasadena Police Department.”

  1. Are there any other comments you can add that you would like our local readership/SPUSD parents to know?

Dr. Yantz: At South Pasadena Unified School District, student safety is our number one concern.

We do our best to follow all federal and state regulations to ensure that students and parents have access to and the proper pathways for reporting any instances that may occur. We continuously review and update existing procedures in accordance with state

and federal laws as well conduct periodic training to make sure that all protocols are followed. Schools are also actively involved in providing programs and support services

to students throughout the school year. The high school, in particular, provides numerous types of programs and supports for students and parents including but not limited to:

One on one and small group counseling by psychologists, counselors, and psychology interns from Cal State LA

  • Train Your Brain
  • Annual Denim Day and pledge poster to end sexual violence
  • Health classes that include information on consent, sexual harassment and assault, relationships, Healthy Youth Act, Title IX overview, etc.
  • PTA parent seminar on sexual harassment and consent
  • Student notifications on anonymous bullying/harassment reporting system
  • Safe Space signs on campus
  • Peer Mediation activities throughout year
  • Freshmen life skills lessons in study hall
  • Annual notification for school employees on sexual harassment
  • PTA forum on Peace Over Violence

Approximately 500 employees work every day to provide an educational program that is one of the best in California to nearly 5,000 students, interface with nearly 13,000 parents and guardians, and engage with community organizations and members in a highly competitive, complex, and rapidly changing society. SPUSD staff, teachers, and administrators do all that they can in managing a wide range of responsibilities, from mundane mandated state reports to assisting families and children in very complex personal matters that require and deserve our undivided attention in classrooms, at schools, within the South Pasadena community, greater Los Angeles area, and California.”

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South Pasadena Unified School District may be contacted with comments and concerns. Contact SPUSD directly at: www.spusd.net

Please leave your comments below, or email: Media@SouthPasadenan.com

 

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