Steamboat High School staff work to better educate students on how to report cases of sexual harassment

Staff at Steamboat Springs High School highlight the different options available to report sexual harassment and assault after a handful of students protested last week, saying the district had not done enough to solve the problem.

Principal Rick Elertson told members of the Steamboat Springs Board of Education on Monday evening that he and other staff met two students involved in the protest the morning after learning it would take place.

One of them said, ‘You ask us to come and see a man in the building and relive an experience with you, where there might be a better way, where we don’t have to tell a story that ‘once. “” Elertson called back after asking the student to report.

“Sometimes it’s unreasonable to ask someone to make an appropriate report to someone they don’t know well or don’t know at all,” he added. “Having options is important for students, and then they can choose the path that best suits what they want to see accomplished. “

The Steamboat Springs School District already had the option for a student to report sexual harassment or assault, but Anne-Marie Williams, the district’s director of exceptional student services and Title IX coordinator, said the district was looking to better educate students on the different ways they can report and add another way for them to request help online.

“We have some room for improvement in how we teach our students where to report,” said Williams.

Students can report to any school district employee because they are all required reporters, Williams said. They can also visit Williams at the district office if the students are uncomfortable having a high school reunion.

Williams said students can always turn to law enforcement or seek other resources through Advocates of Routt County or UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. The district also uses Safe2Tell, an anonymous way to send a report to school officials and law enforcement, Williams said.

Depending on the nature of the charge, when a report is made, Elertson said they meet with all parties and create plans to make every student feel safe at school, while law enforcement are investigating. After the investigation, Elertson said security plans are adjusted based on what has been found.

“We start with how the person making this report feels; at what level does it have to go? Said Elertson.

To better communicate reporting options to students, Williams said they will create a video teaching students how to submit a report of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Staff are also in the process of creating a web page that organizes information for students, which would include a Google form that would go directly to Williams.

School leaders believe they also need to better communicate the work that has been done around sexual harassment and sexual assault, such as overhauling the school’s Title IX process in accordance with federal regulations and the working group on sexual assault. the culture and climate of the district, which expands after 20 months. of work.

Elertson said the school is following a few names the two students provided to their classmates that are “verbally inappropriate at school.” He said what has been alleged is “not in terms of a violent attack”.

The day after his meeting with the students, Elertson said he and other district and school board staff attended a parent information meeting, where he said the conversation centered on l ‘Rape Culture’ one of the students who organized the protest that referred to high school in a Steamboat Pilot & Today story last week uses.

Elertson said Graham Hackett, social change program manager for Advocates of Routt County, spoke to parents about the meaning of the term that alarmed many of them.

“(Hackett) stepped in and said rape culture is not meant to take hold of people’s brains – to use his words – children run around penetrating each other in school. That’s not what it means, ”Elertson said. “That’s when the parents stood up and said what does it mean because that’s what it means to me.”

Elertson reported that Hackett sometimes said the term is used to refer to acts like sexual harassment or inappropriate touching to “bring a sense of urgency to a situation”.

“I think providing all the opportunities and mechanisms that we have in our community for students to report what is happening to them is the most important thing we can do in the future,” Elertson said.

After emailing parents late last week, Elertson said he received a few angry responses from parents who wanted him to unequivocally state that such a culture did not exist in high school.

“Frankly, that’s not my goal,” he said. “My goal is to make sure everyone, including the students who wrote this report, are safe and to use language that recognizes what they are feeling. “

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