RICHMOND -- West Contra Costa schools have revised student conduct policies to address the latest forms of sexual harassment and hate-motivated behavior and hired a compliance officer to monitor rules enforcement and address complaints.
The moves come after a directive from the federal Office for Civil Rights to improve the safety and well-being of students, according to Wendell Greer, the district's associate superintendent for K-12 school operations.
The actions are aimed to assure that students are encouraged to report incidents of sexual harassment, bullying and other rights violations, and that complaints are handled in a fair and expeditious manner, Greer told trustees Wednesday evening.
An Office of Civil Rights report last fall found a rampant environment of sexual harassment and assaults in the district, including a 2009 gang rape at Richmond High School. Then in November, a transgender student involved in a fight at Hercules High School said she had previously reported bullying to school administrators, but no action was taken.
The findings in the federal report led to an agreement between the Department of Education and the district with lengthy requirements designed to ensure compliance with Title IX, a 1972 law guaranteeing equal gender treatment, and reduce future instances of harassment or sexual violence.
The district is holding seminars for students on bullying at elementary schools and training sessions for teachers and administrators on recognizing and dealing with harassment. It also is placing posters in classrooms that explain how to report abusive behavior, among other actions, Greer said.
"The aim is to prevent (harassment) events, stop them from happening to create a culture in which every student feels safe," he said.
Earlier in the evening, board members approved the composition of a 37-member parent-advisory committee to help it develop an accountability plan required by the state for its new schools funding formula.
The plan will be designed to assure the state that the money the district receives under the so-called Local Control Funding Formula will be spent according to state guidelines.
The parent representatives will come from community groups, district advisory committees, employee unions and the five high school attendance areas.
One student from each of the district's five high schools and a student member of its Youth Commission will serve as ex officio members.
"We've done a good job of making sure the committee is broad," Superintendent Bruce Harter said. "Nobody can vote on the committee who is not a parent."
The funding formula, proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and passed by the Legislature last year, promises to increase funding dramatically to school districts such as West Contra Costa with high percentages of students from low-income families, students learning English and foster youths.