Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools seek to address sexual harassment

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — Officials in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District further outlined their “on the ground” approach to addressing ongoing sexual harassment issues.

Findings from a ‘root cause analysis’ undertaken in the wake of a Dec. 10 walkout by students at Heights High showed a ‘longstanding culture of harassment’, with officials noting that the initial study was completed about a month before a second class outing on March 8.

As for the allegations, Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby said at the start of the almost two hour meeting on April 19 that “this is something that we neither condone nor condone and really want to work to mitigate. This issue has been brought to our attention as a concern by our students and I would like to thank them for making their voices heard. They were extremely informative and helpful.

Due to confidentiality and confidentiality issues, details of any charges have not been discussed publicly, Kirby added.

“The committee was not tasked with resolving staff or student discipline issues because there are other avenues for that,” Kirby said. “They were tasked with looking at what was really behind some of the students’ concerns.”

Some students and parents, through a community coalition called “CH-UH – Enough is Enough!” which collected more than 500 signatures in a online petitionalso called for changes to the school district’s dress code, an issue that could be considered later.

One of the stakeholder committee’s first recommendations calls for training — by the start of the next school year — for all federal government staff Title IX program a policy on sexual harassment through the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Although best known as the federal program that puts varsity women’s athletics on an equal footing with their male counterparts, Title Nine also defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct so serious, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies equal access to education.”

Other Recommendations the stakeholder committee, made up of CH-UH facilitator and director of student services Karen Liddell-Anderson, a student, parents, a principal, a teacher, a counsellor, Security Officer and District Title IX Coordinators Paul Rusinko and Toia Robinson-Snowden, include:

— Hire more school district security guards to monitor unauthorized and unsupervised areas where students cutting classes may hide — such as unoccupied bedrooms, storage areas and other isolated and remote spaces

— Establish a school community of staff, students and parents to maintain an open dialogue on the continuum of sexual harassment (mild, moderate and severe)

— Set up a “safe place” where students can go to address their concerns and questions

— Consultation with local universities regarding their policies and procedures

— Implement “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)” to resolve any unclear or inconsistent expectations

— Can coordinate all proposed solutions on a K-12 basis.

“Initially, as a committee, we were looking at Heights High, where all of our work was focused,” Liddell-Anderson told the school board. “But when we started looking for solutions, I saw no reason why we couldn’t recommend that these solutions go from K-12, as long as they’re tailored in a way that’s appropriate for the child.” age and grade level.”

Root causes

Liddell-Anderson also emphasized that root cause analysis provides a foundation for continuous improvement and is not a “one-and-done” process.

“The walkout in December was not the problem – it alerted us to the bigger issue,” she told the board. “And there may be several root causes. We have all recognized as a committee that this is a complex issue.

In fact, the stakeholder committee identified up to 76 contributing issues and underlying causes.

As Title IX coordinator, Robinson-Snowden said there are instances where staff follow up with both parties to “review allegations, if any.”

An “Impact vs. Occurrence” chart in the presentation showed that there have been 25 documented Title IX complaints — so far — recorded in the CH-UH district over the past five school years.

One Title IX case reported in the 2017-18 school year was followed by 11 complaints in the 2018-19 school year, followed by six the following year (2019-20), when Kirby started as superintendent.

This was followed by one registered case in 2020-21, and then six more Title IX complaints this school year, at least as of February 3.

Dress code

A school district dress code adjustment proposal that the CH-UH School Board requested in the summer of 2021 is still in development, with student feedback and suggestions shared over the winter.

The online petition argues that a more modern and revised ‘gender neutral and anti-racist’ dress code is needed, along with a consistent dress code in all buildings.

“Existing dress codes invalidate self-expression, resulting in many conflicts between students and administrators,” the petition states, adding that current CH-UH dress codes “vary by building, are outdated, use a binary language and promote the objectification of the student body when applied.

Discussions are ongoing and this remains a goal to be implemented in time for the 2022-23 school year, district officials noted.

Some of the issues under consideration were also discussed at an April 6 joint meeting of the CH-UH School Board, the respective mayors and councils of the two cities, and the Heights Libraries Board and Trustees.

Besides the dress code, the preliminary plans also call for help thanks to the district’s partnership with the MetroHealth hospital system.

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