Stop Sexual Assault in Oakland Unified School District
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We, the signatories of this petition demand that Oakland Unified School District implements a Title IX coordinator for each school whose sole job is to enforce the district’s compliance with Title IX, as required by federal law. Currently, OUSD is neglecting its duty to provide its students with Title IX coordinators for each school, and instead has one to represent all complaints of over 48,000 students, thus creating an unsafe and unjust environment for all students, especially those who are female and/or apart of the LGBTQ+ community. Briefly stated, Title IX is a federal civil rights law which prohibits sex discrimination and sexual harassment/violence in schools. It declares that “All public and private elementary and secondary schools, school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any Federal funds must comply with Title IX.” The law clearly states that each school and each school district must comply with Title IX meaning that every school is federally required to have a Title IX coordinator who is easily contacted by all students or staff. The responsibilities the Title IX coordinator holds is as followed,”Overseeing all complaints of sex discrimination and identifying and addressing any patterns or systemic problems that arise during the review of such complaints”. OUSD receives said funds and does not provide a Title IX coordinator for each school. This has created and will continue to create an intense amount of harm on the students and the environment they learn in, if no action is taken.
The issue of sexual harassment in schools is in dire need of attention. It is reported that over one third of middle and high school students may be victim to sexual harassment. Meanwhile around 70% of LGBTQ+ students have reported to have been sexually harassed. It is an issue concerning all of the student body since it affects so many of us. Sexual harassment and assault in our schools is not something to be taken lightly as it can cause irreparable mental damage on the victims. Most commonly, victims of sexual assault can suffer from PTSD(post traumatic stress disorder), depression, and dissociation but truly, experiencing a traumatic event such as being sexually assaulted can have any number of tolls on the mind and body. For example, one OUSD student said,”I can no longer go to school because I was sexually assaulted. I don’t feel safe walking alone and always feel as if someone is behind me. It exacerbated my generalized anxiety disorder and I now have acute stress disorder because of the incident.” Another OUSD student said that they felt completely uncomfortable just being at school since every time they walk the hallways, they subject themselves to being sexually harassed once again. It is deeply saddening that within our schools, we are ignoring the fact that people think it’s acceptable to harass and objectify one based upon their gender and/or sexuality. By allowing such behavior to continue in our school system without regulation, we are enforcing systemic sexism in our society. We are allowing for perpetrators of sexual assault to go unpunished, thus spreading the message that the behavior of treating people,more particularly women as objects is acceptable. This ignorance toward the objectification of people based on their sex should no longer be tolerated. Sexual harassment and assault within this school district is quite evidently an issue which must be addressed properly.
Right now, Oakland Unified’s administration is failing to do so. By not having a Title IX coordinator or a publicly known way to file a sexual harassment complaint within each school, students and staff alike are left not knowing how to go about reporting an incident. This leaves much of the incidents unreported whatsoever and those that do get reported are dealt with by people who do not hold the requirements of a Title IX coordinator. The staff are left to deal with student reports of sexual harassment are not trained in dealing with such instances and have been previously poor at providing timely responses, which is often necessary with these cases. One account of a student who has been filing a report states that,”They(The school administration) haven’t dealt with my case at all. They have stopped communicating with us and have not been taking it seriously. I felt they were disrespectful and useless to my case at least within my own school. We sent them multiple forms of complaints and they didn’t respond until after our third contact, a week since the incident occurred. They didn’t even locate the boy(who assaulted me) until a week after the incident and are still not holding him accountable” This account is just one of many students who have had to deal with people who are unconcerned and unqualified with sex discrimination reports. This can be highly dangerous when tending to such urgent and delicate matters. If someone is on the brink of suicide or self harm due to a severe sexual assault incident, their case should absolutely not go unanswered for weeks at a time. You must understand how such situations must be dealt with haste and care. Two qualities the current administration has proved to be seriously lacking. Oakland Unified claims to be an environment in which “every student thrives”, yet it fails to provide the resources for any student who may be subject to sexual harassment or discrimination, to thrive.
Through implementing a qualified Title IX Coordinator to take charge of the each school’s sexual harassment complaints and work towards educating the students and staff on sex discrimination, OUSD would be working transformatively toward an environment in which every student truly could thrive. A Title IX coordinator would provide students filing a sexual harassment case with necessary timeliness, care, and expertise which is lacking in the current system. It is vital for a victim of sexual harassment/assault to be treated as such since incompetence of the staff addressing their case can only exacerbate the victim’s anxieties and stress. Additionally the coordinator would provide a) a clear way of contacting them to the students and staff, thus eliminating the many unreported incidents of sexual harassment going on in our schools, b) clear distribution of the district’s policy against sex discrimination to diffuse current confusion on policies, c) ensurance of less sex discrimination in our schools, and d) an increased education on sex discrimination in order to end the continuation of sexual harassment in schools. Our opposition may state that OUSD does not have the budget to hire such employees, but the Federal government has actually been providing the district with the funds specifically set for compliance with this law since 1972. Implementing a Title IX coordinator in each of our district’s schools who is completely committed to improvement in sex discrimination can only benefit OUSD and the student body’s overall health and safety.
As you have said,”High-quality public education is the civil rights issue of our century”. And so we beg that you, as our Superintendent, honor that by giving us an education in an environment where everyone can feel safe knowing their sex discrimination rights as students are protected.
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