Berkeley High School students file Title IX complaint against school

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G. Haley Massara/File

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Update 2/4/15: This article has been updated to reflect further information from a member of the school district’s Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee and a Berkeley High student. 

The federal Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation in January to address complaints from Berkeley High School students, who allege that the school district committed a federal offense under Title IX by failing to respond adequately to sexual assault and harassment cases.

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex under any educational programs that receives federal funding. Students may file a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education to initiate an investigation of their school’s policies. The Office for Civil Rights could not immediately be reached for comment.

Heidi Goldstein, a member of the school district’s Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee, filed the Title IX complaint Dec. 1 to the Office for Civil Rights after her daughter, then in the eighth grade, allegedly experienced sexual harassment at school.

Goldstein originally submitted a complaint to the school district but redirected it to the federal office after she felt the district “wasn’t moving fast enough to make changes.”

Berkeley school board president Judy Appel said various counseling programs were available in both the high school and middle schools. In addition, Title IX liaisons have been appointed to Berkeley High School to work with students who have made complaints.

Berkeley High principal Kristin Glenchur sent an email to students’ families Jan. 27 to inform them of the alleged issues of sexual harassment on campus. Attached to the email was a letter from Appel and superintendent Donald Evans and a copy of the high school’s current sexual harassment policies.

About a dozen students gave testimonials at a Dec. 10 school board policy subcommittee meeting about their alleged experiences with sexual assault and harassment on campus, according to Appel.

The school board was set to address a proposal to change sections of the high school’s sexual harassment policy at the end of last year, but the policy subcommittee’s advisory panel on sexual assault requested to delay submitting the proposal in order to review it, according to Appel. The school board will address the proposed policy changes by the end of February.

Susan Craig, director of student services, was appointed interim Title IX coordinator during the course of the investigation, according to the email sent by Appel and Evans. Craig could not be reached for comment.

According to Goldstein, the “ultimate remedy” if the district is found guilty would be to “take away federal funding.” She added, however, that “nobody wants that.”

Liana Thomason, a Berkeley High School senior and member of student activist group BHS Stop Harassing, said that since the incident, school administration has started a “more open dialogue” with parents. She hopes to begin a peer-to-peer educational program with students to foster more knowledge about sexual harassment on campus.

“I’m glad they’re recognizing (these issues),” Thomason said. “It’s a start, but it’s not enough.”

Adrienne Shih is the lead city reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.

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  • Pretty vague details in the article which is leading me to sense a bit of overzealousness on the part of the parent involved. Her understanding of the repercussions that a bad Title IX review would have for the school seems like she is using that aspect to get something that the school’s administration didn’t give her in the first place. Again, without any specifics about the sexual harassment in question that seems to have sparked this process, it is hard to give an educated opinion. From the info and the quotes, it seems like the people involved want immediate action for something that is much more complex. I hope they can figure out an educational solution rather than something reactionary.

    • still trying

      Please read other news sources. The Dailycal suffers from good reporting.

      • KathyHarr

        I would have liked to have seen more quotes from students. The article sounds like a lot of it is based on the Appel letter.
        “About a dozen students gave testimonials at a Dec. 10 school board
        policy subcommittee meeting about their alleged experiences with sexual
        assault and harassment on campus, according to Appel.”
        What did that testimonial say?

        • still trying

          The students stated individual experiences of groping and lewd comments directed at them with school staff present and no intervention initiated. That their repeated complaints were ignored by all in authority, covered up and excuses made about just good old childish fun.
          My comment was; this behavior ignored, has now gotten us to where we are in equal treatment for all sexes and races today. Everyone saying it has gotten better, but it really hasn’t. Just ignored and covered up better..

        • Alice

          This is not the only article written about BHS Stop Harassing’s efforts and motives. If you go to this website (http://www.stopharassing.org), there is a link to a video of the school board meeting with the testimonies of girls in the group, and a link to the testimony of one girl who has been particularly affected by BUSD’s noncompliance with federal law at the Senate Judiciary Committee Informational Hearing on Title IX. There are also many other media pieces about the movement. I encourage you to explore the site and educate yourself further on what the group hopes to accomplish and what exactly its motivations are.

  • Gene Nelson

    Wow — not much diversity in the picture which is strange considering the demographics of BHS.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      How much you wanna bet each one of them has a tumblr?

  • still trying

    I guess Berkeley administrators did learn something while attending Cal.
    How to ignore and cover-up criminal activity.

    • AnOski

      Triggered much? It’s school. When someone calls someone else a name or hits them they get detention, or maybe suspended. When a boy does it to a girl, a title IX complaint gets filed.

      They’re children. If you want to criminalize their interactions, you’re welcome to “keep trying.”

      • still trying

        They are in high school. They are no longer kids. Just because Cal frat boys act immature
        and feel entitled does not mean everyone gets; a get out of jail free card. They are not just hitting. They are grabbing and calling young women derogatory sexual names. That changes everything. AnOski you should change your name. You bring embarrassment to your school.

        • Guest

          I hope you get more cancer.

      • Kneel

        your assumption that “they are children hence anything and everything that they do is harmless” is absurd. sometimes a traumatic event can scar you forever.

        we hope that its something not too serious, but one thing i know is never to take sexual harassment lightly because women have been silenced and ridiculed far too often.