District Accused of Title IX Violations

[dropcap style=”square”]A[/dropcap]lso potentially in discordance with the law is MVLA’s handling of the alleged sexual assault of a student in September 2015. Currently, the Department of Education is investigating whether the district violated Title IX, a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in all school-related functions, encompassing rape and sexual assault and harassment.

Under the law, every school must have at least one Title IX coordinator responsible for the school’s adherence to Title IX. And, schools must inform all students and staff of the name or position and contact information of the coordinator. When asked who the Title IX representative is, Principal David Grissom and Assistant Principal William Blair both said it is Eric Goddard, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources; Sarraf and Superintendent Jeff Harding said Sarraf functions in the position. Sarraf also said that the position is “widely publicized.”

Sarraf is listed as Title IX coordinator on documents linked to the MVLA website. However, Goddard is listed as coordinator in the 2016-17 Directory of Title IX Coordinators of the Santa Clara County School District. Sarraf said she held the coordinator position from 1993 until last December when she retired from her role as associate superintendent in charge of curriculum.

“I’ve retired from my position, and Title IX coordinator is a function of the person who will be hired to replace me,” Sarraf said. “In the meantime, I think Mr. Goddard may be functioning as the Title IX person, but I’m not even sure of that.”

Goddard said he has never served as Title IX coordinator and is unsure of why he is listed under the position in the Santa Clara County directory.

A  mandate of Title IX, stated by the Department of Education, is that if a school is aware of  “sexual harassment or sexual violence that creates a hostile environment, the school must take immediate action to eliminate the sexual harassment or sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.”

According to Sarraf, only one Title IX complaint arose in her twenty-four years as coordinator. Salim said that throughout the entire process of reporting her sexual assault to LAHS administration, she never interacted with Sarraf, the Title IX coordinator at the time. Salim also said that when she reported her sexual assault, the LAHS principal and a staff member told her it was “not uncommon” and that it was “not the first case like [hers] that they’ve handled.”

Sarraf said that with regards to Title IX, the district has one area for improvement.

“The one thing that we don’t do as well as we should is make sure that all students are aware of the avenues that exist for them to file a complaint,” Sarraf said.

Information about these avenues may be included in future course curriculum, according to Sarraf, along with social media education.

“We’re thinking about possibly incorporating [appropriate use of social media] into freshman curriculum somewhere,” Sarraf said. “We don’t know exactly where yet, and if we did that, we certainly could build the whole notion of harassment–what to do if you’re harassed, how do you resolve it, where do you complain–that could be incorporated in the curriculum as well.”

If this curriculum were to be added, Sarraf said it would probably be taught in a freshman humanities class, but could be included in a freshman transition class that may be offered in the future.

Salim has made personal efforts in offering sexual assault and harassment education at LAHS. Last spring, Salim and her parents met with the principal and a teacher to brainstorm ways for the school to promote awareness. One of the family’s suggestions was showing students “Tea Consent,” a Youtube video that explains consent through an analogy relating consent in sexual interactions and consent in offering one tea. The video was streamed during senior activities at LAHS this past fall.

In addition, Salim worked to set up a sexual assault and harassment awareness week at LAHS featuring workshops led by individuals such as Anea Bogue, a friend of the Salim family and the creator of a self-esteem and leadership program for girls. According to Salim, Bogue will be hosting a few workshops, assemblies for students, a staff meeting, and a parent workshop over the course of several days this coming spring.

Moving forward, Salim said she thinks education is vital to improving local rape culture.

“I think education is the key,” Salim said. “Right now, not many people know that the issue is as big as it is, and everyone likes to believe that it doesn’t happen here, it doesn’t happen close to here, it doesn’t happen at my school, in my house, whatever. But it does happen, everywhere.”

Consent Q&A