Berkeley Unified School District addresses sexual harassment concerns

Photo of Berkeley High School
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According to an email from Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, spokesperson Trish McDermott, the district has hired a Title IX coordinator and a Title IX investigator. BUSD has also continued training administrators and updated its “Final Rule” regulations.

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Following student-led protests last spring, Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, is working to meet commitments it made to student advocates regarding sexual harassment policies and resources.

In February, Berkeley High School, or BHS, students staged a walkout to call upon BUSD to provide better resources to schools following a negligence lawsuit the month prior. As a result of the protests, BUSD met with student advocates and made commitments to address this issue.

The district hired both a Title IX coordinator and a Title IX investigator, according to BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott. The district has also continued its administrator training, updating it by adding a section on “Final Rule” regulations, which require schools to provide free support for all alleged victims of sexual harassment.

“The District knows it’s important for students to speak out about their personal experiences as survivors of discrimination or sexual harm,” McDermott said in an email. “We continue to offer support to students so they may do so appropriately during distance learning.”

McDermott added that some resources include school counseling, the Title IX office, the Berkeley Police Department school resource officer and referrals to the BHS Health Center.

According to McDermott, BHS recently emailed students about the creation of a BHS Student Sexual Harassment Advisory Committee, or SHAC, that resembles the district’s existing SHAC but is more student-oriented. The purpose of the BHS SHAC is primarily to encourage student input regarding consent education, and the committee will be responsible for selecting a facilitator for a BHS consent education presentation.

McDermott noted in the email that BUSD has jurisdiction over classes conducted on video platforms, which are considered school-sanctioned activities. School districts cannot discipline students regarding events that took place off campus due to Title IX policy, but the district is able to provide students with counseling and other resources.

BUSD has also implemented a reporting system during this time of distance learning, according to McDermott.

“Students are encouraged to reach out immediately to an administrator or contact the BUSD Title IX and Compliance Office,” McDermott said in the email. “Students reporting an incident are contacted within one day. They are offered services and their safety at BHS is a top priority.”

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.