The White House is putting the pressure on K-12 schools across the country to focus on their responses to sexual harassment. New documents released by the administration earlier this week aim to remind schools of their Title IX obligations. Escambia County School Administrators and a School Resource Officer explained more about the policies they have in place here locally.
Documents issued by the White House on Monday encourage K-12 schools to push hard when it comes to Title IX compliance, and how to respond to sexual harassment allegations. They suggest having a school district sexual misconduct policy. In Escambia County, school administrators say they’ve had a stronger policy in place for years.
“We have been ahead of the curve for quite some time,” said Norm Ross, Deputy Superintendent of Schools. “I understand the President’s need to come out and make the declaration, but we have in place so many different avenues for those kinds of serious breaches.”
All of those avenues are detailed by policies every parent signs for in Escambia County.
“Rights and Responsibilities… Which is a handbook that’s issued to every student in our district,” Ross said about the almost 50-page booklet. “We have parents who sign for the book for their student. So they have a reasonable knowledge of having that document for reference, quick reference. Or, it’s on our website.”
We obtained a copy of the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. If you flip to page 30 of the book, details about the punishment within the school are clear for any student involved in a sex-related crime. The School Board feels since every single parent and student in the district has a copy of the book, the rules are pretty clear.
“Really, there’s no difference in reporting it at a school or someone calling an officer to their home,” said Lt. Ken Simmons, who is in charge of the School Resource Officers in Escambia County.
Student Resource Officers are also in place at every middle and high school, another way Escambia County is already meeting the marks the administration is pushing.
“Anything that’s reported to us, whether it be a sex crime or any kind of crime, we take it very seriously, again, whether it’s on campus activity or off campus,” Lt. Simmons said.
So far this year, Ross says no instances of sexual harassment have been reported in Escambia County Schools.
To read the full copy of the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, you can click here.