Part+Three%3A+%E2%80%9CThey+never+taught+us+how+to+receive+the+help+and+support+that+students+need.%E2%80%9D

Credit: Joanna Barrow

Part Three: “They never taught us how to receive the help and support that students need.”

- Dear Wayland Administrators

Part of the district’s response to the Dear Wayland account was to clarify the formal complaint process. This is because many students do not know how Title IX applies to sexual harassment, what a Title IX coordinator is or the process for reporting sexual harassment.

In a survey of 100 students, 82% of respondents do not know what the role of Title IX is, 90% do not know where to find the coordinator’s contact information and only 6% knew how to file a formal complaint of sexual harassment with the school.

“Personally, we didn’t know who the Title IX coordinator was and we know that many others didn’t know this as well,” Dear Wayland said. “We assume that most students in Wayland think that by reaching out to a teacher/guidance counselor is a formal complaint because we were never informed to go to the Title IX coordinator. At the time that our classmates would have made these complaints, they didn’t know that there was such a thing as a Title IX coordinator.”

To find Whitehead’s contact information on district web pages, students must go to the Wayland Public Schools page and to the “About Us” tab. There, they must select “Staff Directory” and go to “Student Services” and scroll to the bottom of the page, where Whitehead is listed as Director of Student Services. It does not state that he is the District Title IX Coordinator.

According to a summary of new Title IX regulations from the US Department of Education, the employee designated to ensure compliance with Title IX must be referred to as the Title IX Coordinator, and their contact information must be prominently displayed on school websites.

On the high school page specifically, searching “Richard Whitehead” yields no results. Neither does “Sexual Harassment.” Searching “Director of Student Services,” “Title IX” or “Title Nine” yields no relevant results.

Staff are required to familiarize themselves with the school’s harassment and discrimination policies every year. Mizoguchi said that teachers are trained how to respond should a student come to them with an allegation of harassment.

“Title IX training is not a mandated training for teachers,” Richard Whitehead, Director of Student Services, wrote in an email. “They have to be aware that Title IX exists and there is a mechanism for complaints. Teachers are not charged with investigating Title IX complaints. Mandated trainings include those on Bullying, 51A reporting and the use of physical restraint. There was no requirement to train teachers in the summer. The district was required to train school administrators during the summer. This happened in July 2020.”

A link to the mandated training materials can be found here. Within the the slideshow for staff who work in WPS schools is a link for another slideshow to help staff familiarize themselves with the WPS harassment and discrimination policy. The slide that addresses resolving allegations of harassment reads as follows:

“Individual Consultation: confidential, informal support and guidance concerning allegations of harassment (see your building contact)
Informal Complaint Resolution: any action short of formal complaint (e.g., mediation, meeting, communication). Authorized administrative personnel only”

The staff handbook goes more in depth about the process for resolving allegations of harassment in Appendix III: Harassment and the correlating subsection Resolving Complaints of Harassment. In Procedure D, Specific Procedures for Students and Employees, a list of action items is to be completed when providing informal support is given. It also states that “certain persons” in the building are trained to give such support and guidance.

In the student handbook, references to sexual harassment can be found in two places: Appendix XI, where it defines sexual harassment and outlines the process for resolving complaints, and Appendix XV, where it outlines the Title IX grievance procedure, including how to report sexual harassment and the steps in the investigative process.

“All of those policies [about resolving harassment] appear as appendices in the student handbook,” Mizoguchi said. “It always has been in the appendices of the student handbook that, admittedly, is like 90 pages long and we ask our students and families to become familiar with it, and we highlight particular portions of it in advisory every year.”

The process for reporting sexual harassment and Title IX grievances was not part of the selected portions of the handbook to review in the 2019-20 or 2018-19 handbook review form.

While wellness-in-the-classroom curricula at both the middle school and high school dedicate time to identifying unhealthy relationships, harassment and abuse, the process for reporting such behavior formally to the school is not made clear.

“Wellness classes have described what sexual harassment is, yet we can’t recall a time when the school has given us resources to report sexual harassment,” Dear Wayland said. “So we can recognize what it is, but they never taught us how to receive the help and support that students need.”