Revisiting Guidelines for Sexual Harassment

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In the light of the #MeToo movement and changing attitudes towards sexual harassment, it is unacceptable that Branham still has no efficient and consistent protocol regarding sexual harassment allegations on campus.

Branham’s current harassment protocol lacks the details and organization to properly protect students, as there are no detailed guidelines on how to handle reports of harassment.  Part of the problem is that the handbook lacks a clear definition of sexual harassment. It defines sexual harassment as “making unsolicited and unwelcome written, verbal, physical, and/or visual contact with sexual overtones.” This definition is vague when compared to the handbook section on bullying, which includes examples and education codes, as well as other districts’ policies.  The handbook goes on to explain different types of bullying differentiating between cyberbullying and other types of bullying along with including examples for both.

The first step administration can take to improve the process is to rewrite the sexual harassment policy to have a clear definition with examples, similar to San Jose Unified’s approach. Their handbook details 15 explicit examples of sexual harassment and states the proper protocol that administration will follow when dealing with a harassment allegation.  It states that “No more than 30 days after receiving the complaint, the principal shall conclude the investigation and prepare a written report of his/her findings,” along with steps to take after said report.

Branham’s policy lacks this depth, filing reports of harassment as bullying or other.

Because of Aries limitations (which require each counselor to look at each student’s file individually to see details of a case of harassment or bullying), students can be placed in the same class as their harassers.  To fix this, purported victims must go to their counselor and request adequate changes be made every time this happens. This puts the responsibility on students who feel unsafe, and can cause them to relive trauma. This is applicable for students who may not wish to be placed with other students for any other reason as well.

To avoid these situations, Branham should adopt a protocol similar to that used by SJUSD or the CSU system. Their guidelines call for an official report to be filed by the person whom the harassment has been reported to within 30 days of when they were notified of the allegation. Following these guidelines would allow for Branham to keep official numbers of incidents, as well as have a more organized way to investigate claims.