Santa Clara Co. Poised to Study Harassment Policies at All Local Schools, Public and Private | #Education

Stanford University senior Maia Brockbank and two of her fellow anti-sexual assault advocates have been busy condensing eight pages of notes into a two-minute speech.

Brockbank plans to deliver her remarks today urging the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to order a study analyzing sex- and gender-based harassment policies in all South Bay schools. As co-director of the Associated Students of Stanford University Sexual Violence Prevention, Brockbank said the issue hits close to home.

“Time and again the Stanford administration have shown in their policies and action they’re not here to protect survivors, and the survivors who have been a part of the process know it,” she told San Jose Inside on Monday. “We have horrifically low rates of reporting, and I understand why. There’s been a complete lack of institutional trust and extreme betrayal, and there needs to be some major intervention here.”

The referral from Supervisor Dave Cortese would prompt the county Office of Women’s Policy and Office of Gender Based Violence Prevention to study how well local schools—from kindergarten to college—comply with Title IX and related policies and regulations.

A 1972 law, Title IX prohibits sex-and-gender-based discrimination in any education program that relies on federal money. The California Education Code similarly provides protections from sexual-and-gender-based harassment and violence. In 2017, however, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) under President Donald Trump-appointed Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded certain guidelines, making it more difficult for victims of assault and harassment to find recourse.

Cortese said he made his referral to identify gaps between federal anti-harassment laws and their state and local counterparts—as well as to ensure that local schools are doing enough to protect students.

“The moment an academic institution fails to comply with state and federal sex discrimination laws and laws, rules, and regulations addressing sexual and intimate partner violence and stalking—be it through poorly crafted policies or failure to enforce policies, we have failed our learners,” he wrote in his memo recommending the policy analysis. “Students have the right to an education free from harassment and/or violence and academic institutions bear the responsibility of fostering such an environment through comprehensive policies and just enforcement.”

If Cortese’s colleagues OK his referral, county staff would report back to the board on the matter by the middle of November.

Since county staff is spread so thin amid unprecedented demand for social services, the goal is to roll out the analysis in phases. The county would first study universities, including Stanford. Then, it would move on to community colleges, public K-12 schools and finally private K-12 schools, libraries, museums and vocational centers.

Michele Dauber—the Stanford law professor who led a successful effort to recall Judge Aaron Persky over his controversial sentence in the Brock Turner sexual assault case—expects students from around the country to show up on Zoom and voice their opinions.

“We’re hoping they take their two minutes of public comment and let the supervisors know how their schools are handling sexual assault cases, complaints and what are their regulations,” said Dauber, who chairs the Enough is Enough Voter Project, a national political action committee aimed at ousting politicians with a poor track record on issues of violence against women and sexual assault. “Students have the right to an education free from harassment and violence. Academic institutions bear the responsibility of fostering such an environment through comprehensive policies and just enforcement.”

Dauber and victims-rights advocates have expressed equal parts anger and concern over the DOE’s controversial Title IX revisions, which went into effect on Aug. 20.

“The rule has taken away a lot of protections that historically have been provided for victims,” Dauber said in a recent phone call.

Trump and DeVos have been undermining the rights of women and victims since they came into power, Dauber argued. “The bottom line is the Trump administration took away a lot of protections against sexual harassment and violence that happen against students, employees and teachers in our schools and colleges,” she told San Jose Inside.

Proponents of the revised Title IX include self-described men’s rights activists and some defense lawyers, who argue that the revised rules restore due process for the accused.

Brockbank said she believes this county can become a model for others across the country to hold their local schools and colleges accountable in a transparent way.

“It’s very important for the county to find out what is going on so they can determine students are being protected,” Brockbank said. “For example, Stanford would have to provide regular reports to the board on what policies they have in place while listening to feedback from the community. I think if the county board does this right, their ruling will affect hundreds of thousands of survivors across the country.”

Dauber said the fact that the majority of Santa Clara County voters recalled Judge Persky shows that they take sexual violence seriously.

“The people of Santa Clara voted by a 24-point margin to remove Aaron Persky from his office as judge because he exhibited terrible judgment in giving Brock Turner just a few months in jail,” Dauber said. “I think our county is especially motivated and concerned about the issue of sexual assault on college campuses and our schools.”

The Board of Supervisors meets at 9:30am. To read up on the Title IX referral, click here. To peruse the agenda in its entirety, click here. 




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