Administration limited in power when dealing with off-campus sexual misconduct
Find the opinion article on the #MeToo Movement here.
Catherine Gagulashvili staff writer
Evan Minniti staff writer
Vivian Geilim opinion editor
Sexual misconduct is a “hot button” issue at the moment. Politicians, actors, comedians and media giants have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, often from multiple sources. Multiple members of Congress, current President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton have been accused of allegedly committing various degrees of sexual misconduct. In this vein, the #MeToo movement has grown exponentially, with many ordinary people coming forward to confirm that they are victims of sexual misconduct. However, our social elites are not the only ones being accused of sexual assault. It’s happening everywhere and can happen to anyone–including the students at Beverly.
Administrators are attempting to codify a District response to any future allegations of sexual misconduct. Assistant Principal Christopher Regan says that this has nothing to do with high-profile sexual misconduct allegations in the news.
“Our meeting [about sexual misconduct] was well before all of those allegations [about celebrities were made]… These things were planned in advance and independent of what is going on with all the celebrity allegations,” Regan said.
Regan compared the district response to sexual misconduct with its response to bullying.
“I don’t know if we necessarily treat [investigating sexual misconduct] different than [investigating] bullying other than the fact that, if it were sexual battery, we are more likely to get the police involved,” Regan said.
According to Regan, bullying claims are investigated by looking into the perpetrators, witnesses, time and location of the incident. Regan is well aware that this is a touchy topic with a lot of gray areas in terms of what the district can and can’t enforce.
“The only way we could get involved [in sexual assault off campus] would be if there was some connection to here at school. And then, we may not even get involved for the sexual battery or the sexual assault. So if a girl gets grabbed at a park on a Saturday afternoon, and then she comes to school. It’s hard because people may be making fun of her. Is that considered bullying? I don’t know. That is where it is a gray area.” However, House C Assistant Principal Jeanne McCrea laid out what falls in the jurisdiction of a school district, and how the school district would precede if the police had to be involved.
“We are responsible for you on your way to school, while you are at school, and on your way home from school…It is called In Loco Parentis, a latin term that means the adults at school act as your parents,” McCrea explained. “So, even if something happens through social media, or through on the weekend that has no nexus to the school, it can still certainly be reported. You report it and then the administrator, me, counselor or whoever, will typically contact law enforcement.”
This, however, should not inhibit anyone who has undergone a case of sexual assault to come forward. McCrea encourages anyone with information about any cases of sexual misconduct or assault to have the courage to report to administration.
“If you are worried about a friend, or you saw something that you thought was inappropriate, to go to someone. Does it have to be administration? It could be a teacher, a coach, it could be anyone you trust that is an adult,” McCrea said. “We can’t chase a ghost. [Investigations] happen by getting information.”
Vice President of the Board of Education Noah Margo, nearing his seventh year on the Board, has yet to see a case of sexual harassment, assault or battery.
“I have not, personally, had to deal with any matters of sexual assault, sexual harassment. Either they’ve been handled by management or [Human Resources], and they don’t come to the Board or they’ve been handled on [specific school] sites,” Margo said. “It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, it just means that it takes a certain amount for things to come around to the Board. In my job as a board member, we don’t really deal with that. We can inquire from staff if we hear things because this is a community of a lot of hearsay and gossip. If it got to a point of expulsion, that would come by us.”
With allegations against figures of authority, Margo finds that now, more than ever, is time to review policy with staff and students in order have outlets through which people may voice their concerns and to minimize all attempts and infractions of sexual assault and abuse.
“In the current climate of the country, it’s important for us to batten down the hatches and maybe review policy with staff. Perhaps review stuff with at least high school students and maybe middle school students,” Margo said. “We want to make sure there’s an environment that people are comfortable speaking about it. We do have outlets in all the schools: counselors, psychologists, Norman Aid here [at the high school], so people have places to voice issues. I think that it may be time for just a quick refresher and make people aware of what’s going on and keep it away from the schools.”
Catherine Gagulashvili staff writer