5145.511 - Exploitation; Sexual Harassment

Policy 5145.511

Students

Exploitation; Sexual Harassment

Sexual Abuse Prevention and Education Program 

Definitions


Sexual abuse refers to coerced or forced sexual contact or activity that may be ongoing or occurs over time, often within a trusting relationship. Most victims know their perpetrators. Perpetrators are usually older than their victims and may trick or force them into gradually doing the sexual behavior. The sexual behavior may not be violent and may even be pleasurable to the child, who doesn’t necessarily know it is wrong. Perpetrators of ongoing sexual abuse control the child/youth through secrecy, shame, or threats. Children cannot consent to sexual contact with adults or older youth, and sexual contact is considered abuse, regardless of whether it includes touching or not.

Sexual assault usually refers to forced or unwanted sexual contact or activity that occurs as a single incident, as opposed to ongoing sexual abuse that may continue over time. It may also involve verbal or visual behaviors, or any type of pressure designed to coerce or force someone to join in the unwanted sexual contact or activity. The assault may involve a similar range of behaviors that are attempted or perpetrated against a victim’s will or when a victim cannot consent because of age, disability, or the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sexual assault may involve actual or threatened physical force, use of weapons, coercion, intimidation or pressure.  The offender usually takes advantage of the victim’s vulnerability. Anyone can perpetrate this type of abuse – a trusted friend or family member, a stranger, a casual acquaintance, or an intimate partner.

Program

The Newtown Public Schools shall implement the Sexual Abuse and Assault Awareness and Prevention Program identified or developed, in compliance with P.A. 14-196, by the Department of Children and Families, in collaboration with the Department of Education and other assisting entities, with the goal of informing students and staff about child sexual abuse and assault awareness and available resources. 

1.    Providing mandatory training to all District staff to ensure they are fully informed on:
a.    The warning signs of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct involving a child, including recognizing and reporting child sexual abuse,
b.    Mandatory reporting requirements,
c.    School District policies pertaining to sexual abuse and sexual misconduct,
d.    Establishing and maintaining professional relationships with students,
e.    Available resources for children affected by sexual abuse or misconduct, and
f.    Appropriate follow-up and care for abused students as they return to the classroom setting.

2.    Implementing a child sexual abuse curriculum to provide age-appropriate information to teach students the difference between appropriate and inappropriate conduct in situations where child sexual abuse or sexual assault could occur, and to identify actions a child may take to prevent and report sexual abuse or sexual assault. Students will be:
a.    Provided with resources and referrals to handle these potentially dangerous situations.
b.    Provided access to available counseling and educational support.

The Board of Education directs the Superintendent develop administrative regulations to address the issues of students obtaining assistance, intervention and counseling options, access to educational resources and procedures for reporting instances of child sexual abuse and assault.

A student shall be excused from participating in the sexual abuse, assault awareness and prevention program offered within the school, in its entirety or any part thereof, upon receipt by the Principal or his/her designee, of a written request from the student’s parent/guardian.

Any student exempted from the sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention program shall be provided, during the period of time in which the student would otherwise be participating in such program, an opportunity for other study or academic work.

Reporting Child Sexual Abuse and Assault

Students shall be encouraged to disclose abuse to a trusted adult member of the staff, including, but not limited to, teachers, administrators, nurses, coaches, and counselors. Child abuse reporting procedures will be followed for all acts of violence and sexual abuse against children.

Connecticut General Statutes §17a-101, as amended, requires all school employees including the Superintendent of Schools, school teachers, substitute teachers, administrators, school guidance counselors, school paraprofessionals, licensed nurses, physicians, psychologists, social workers, coaches of intramural or interscholastic athletics, or any other person, who in the performance of his/her duties, has regular contact with students and who provides services to District students, who have reasonable cause to suspect or believe that a child has been abused, neglected, or placed in imminent risk of serious harm to report such abuse and/or neglect in compliance with applicable state statutes.

An oral report by telephone or in person shall be made as soon as possible but no later than 12 hours to the Commissioner of Children and Families and to the Superintendent of Schools or his/her designee followed within 48 hours by a written report to the Department of Children and Families.

Legal Reference:    Connecticut General Statutes
17a-101q Statewide sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention program (as amended by Section 415 of the June 2015 Special Session Public Act 15-5)
 
Policy adopted:  October 4, 2016                    
NEWTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Newtown, Connecticut    

Prevention Strategy

Schools will design and build their capacity to implement comprehensive prevention strategies that engage students, parents/guardians/caregivers and school personnel. By engaging each of these populations, schools can reduce and prevent abusive sexual behaviors and sexual assault from occurring and create a climate that promotes positive peer relationships.

Students

1.    Strengthen students’ knowledge, attitudes and skills for healthy relationships by implementation of the DCF/SDE sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention program.
2.    Strengthen students’ skills for modeling pro-social behavior and intervening as proactive bystander for the prevention and intervention of abusive behavior and/or sexual assault on campus.
3.    Increase awareness among students of students’ rights under District policy including how to report and seek help for students who may have experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault.

Parents/Caregivers and School Personnel

1.    Strengthen parents/guardians/caregivers’ knowledge, attitudes and skills for promoting healthy relationships including positive bystander behavior through workshops, school newsletter, and other events.
2.    Strengthen school personnel’s (administrators, teachers, coaches, and others) knowledge, attitudes and skills for promoting healthy relationships including modeling pro-social behavior or positive bystander behavior through professional development, utilizing the DCF/SDE developed instructional modules.
3.    Increase awareness among parents of students’ rights under District policy including how to report and seek help for students who may have experienced sexual abuse or assault.
4.    Increase awareness among school personnel of District policy including their responsibility to report incidents and concerns regarding sexual abuse and sexual assault.
5.    Increase awareness among parents/caregivers and school personnel of school and community-based resources for students and families.

School Climate

1.    Strengthen positive school climate by engaging students in age-appropriate activities to promote healthy relationships and positive bystander behavior.
2.    Reduce risk for sexual abuse and sexual assault by educating school personnel on how to support healthy relationships, implement prevention curricula, and respond effectively to incidents and disclosures.

Reporting Procedure

Students should be encouraged to disclose if they have been sexually abused to any member of the staff whom they trust. The Principal of each school shall establish and prominently publicize to students, staff, volunteers, and parents/guardians, how a report of sexual abuse and assault may be filed either in-person or anonymously and how this report will be acted upon. The victim of sexual abuse and assault or anyone who witnessed an act of sexual abuse or assault, and anyone who has reasonable suspicion that an act of sexual abuse or assault has taken place may file a report.

In addition, members of the staff, as a result of training, should be aware of the signs of child sexual abuse in students which can include, but are not limited to, expressions of shame, guilt/self-blame, difficulty trusting others, low self-esteem, cognitive deficits, depression, mental health problems, poor school performance, unhealthy relationships, self-harm, substance abuse and thoughts or expressions of suicide.

A report must be made when any mandated reporter of the Board of Education, in his/her professional capacity, has reasonable cause to suspect or to believe that a child under the age of eighteen (Mandated reporters include all school employees, the Superintendent, administrators, teachers, substitute teachers, guidance counselors, school paraprofessionals, coaches of intramural and interscholastic athletics, as well as licensed nurses, physicians, psychologists and social workers either employed by the Board or working in one of the District schools, or any other person who, in the performance of his or her duties, has regular contact with students and who provides services to or on behalf of students enrolled in District schools) is in danger of being or has been sexually abused or assaulted.

Any written or oral reporting of an act of sexual abuse or assault shall be considered an official means of reporting such act(s).

The following procedures apply only to statutory mandated reporters, as defined above.

When an employee of the Board of Education suspects or believes that a child has been sexually abused or sexually assaulted, the following steps shall be taken:
1.    The employee shall immediately, upon having reasonable cause to suspect or believe that a child has been abused, and in no case later than twelve (12) hours after having such a suspicion or belief, make an oral report by telephone or in person to the Commissioner of Children and Families or the local law enforcement agency.  The Department of Children and Families has established a 24 hour Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-842-2288 for the purpose of making such oral reports.
2.    The employee shall also immediately make an oral report to the Building Principal or his/her designee and/or the Superintendent or his/her designee.
3.    If a report concerns suspected abuse by a school employee, the Superintendent or his/her designee, shall immediately notify the child’s parent or guardian that such a report has been made.
4.    Not later than 48 hours of making an oral report, the employee shall submit a written report to the Commissioner of Children and Families, or his/her representative, containing all of the required information.
5.    The employee shall immediately, submit a copy of the written report to the Principal and/or Superintendent or the Superintendent’s designee.
6.    If a report concerns suspected sexual abuse by a school employee who possesses a certificate, permit or authorization issued by the State Board of Education, the Superintendent shall submit a copy of the written report to the Commissioner of Education, or his/her representative.

Contents of Report

Any report made pursuant to this policy shall contain the following information, if known:

1.    The names and addresses of the child and his/her parents or other persons responsible for his/her care;
2.    The age of the child;
3.    The gender of the child;
4.    The nature and the extent of the child’s sexual abuse or assault;
5.    The approximate date and time the sexual abuse or assault occurred;
6.    Information concerning any previous injury or injuries to, or maltreatment or neglect of, the child or his/her siblings;
7.    The circumstances in which sexual abuse or assault came to be known to the reporter;
8.    The name of the person or persons suspected to be responsible for causing the sexual abuse or assault;
9.    The reasons such person or persons are suspected of causing such sexual abuse;
10.    Any information concerning any prior cases in which such person or persons have been suspected of causing an injury, maltreatment or neglect of a child; and
11.    Whatever action, if any, was taken to treat, provide shelter or otherwise assist, the child.

Investigation of the Report

If the suspected abuser is a school employee, the Superintendent or his/her designee shall thoroughly investigate the report, provided that such investigation does not interfere with or impede the investigation by the Department of Children and Families or by a law enforcement agency. To the extent feasible, this investigation shall be coordinated with the Commissioner of Children and Families and/or the police in order to minimize the number of interviews of any child and to share information with other persons authorized to conduct an investigation of child abuse and neglect. When investigating a report, the Superintendent or his/her designee shall endeavor to obtain, when possible, the consent of parents or guardians or other persons responsible for the care of the child, to interview the child, except in those cases in which there is reason to believe that the parents or guardians or other persons responsible for the care of such child are the perpetrators or the alleged abusers.

The investigation shall include an opportunity for the suspected abuser to be heard with respect to the allegations contained within the report. During the course of an investigation of suspected abuse by a school employee, the Superintendent will suspend the employee with pay or may place the employee on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

A person reporting child sexual abuse shall provide any person authorized to conduct an investigation into such claim with all information related to the investigation that is in the possession or control of the person reporting child sexual abuse except as expressly prohibited by state or federal law.

Evidence of Abuse by Certain School Employees

After an investigation has been completed, if the Commissioner of Children and Families, based upon the results of such investigation, has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been sexually abused or assaulted by an employee who has been entrusted with the care of a child or has recommended that such employee be placed on the Department of Children and Families Abuse and Neglect Registry, the Commissioner shall notify within five (5) working days after the completion of the investigation into child abuse or neglect by a school employee, the Superintendent and the Commissioner of Education of such finding and shall provide records, whether or not created by the Department of Children and Families, concerning such investigation to the Superintendent and the Commissioner of Education. The Superintendent shall suspend the employee, if not previously suspended, with pay and without diminution or termination of benefits if DCF has reasonable cause that the employee sexually abused a child and recommends the employee be placed on the DCF Child Abuse and Neglect Registry. Not later than 72 hours after such suspension, the Superintendent shall notify the Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education, or his/her representative, of the reasons for the conditions of suspension.  The Superintendent shall disclose records received from the Department of Children and Families to the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Education, or its attorney, for the purposes of review of employment status, certification, permit or authorization. Any decision of the Superintendent concerning such suspension shall remain in effect until the Board of Education Acts, pursuant to the provisions of Connecticut General Statutes. The Commissioner of Education shall also be notified if such certified person resigns from his/her employment in the District. Regardless of the outcome of any investigation by DCF and/or the police, the Superintendent and/or the Board, as appropriate, may take disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment in accordance with the provisions of any applicable statute, if the Superintendent’s investigation produces evidence that a child has been sexually abused by a certified, permit or authorized school staff member.

If the contract of employment of a certified school employee holding a certificate, permit or authorization issued by the State Board of Education is terminated as a result of an investigation into reports of child sexual abuse, the Superintendent shall notify the Commissioner of Education, or his/her representative, within 72 hours of such termination.

Evidence of Abuse by Other School Staff

If the investigation by the Superintendent and/or Commissioner of Children and Families did produce evidence that a child has been sexually abused by a non-certified school staff member the Superintendent and/or the Board, as appropriate, will take disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

The District shall maintain records of allegations, investigations and reports that a child has been sexually abused or assaulted by a school employee. Such records will be maintained in the District’s Central Office. The records shall include any reports made to the Department of Children and Families. The State Department of Education is to have access to all such records.

The Board shall provide to the Commissioner of Children and Families, upon request for the purposes of an investigation by the Commissioner of Children and Families of suspected child sexual abuse by a teacher employed by the Board, any records maintained or kept in District files. Such records shall include, but not be limited to, supervisory records, reports of competence, personal character and efficiency maintained in such teacher’s personnel file with reference to evaluation of performance as a professional employee of such Board of Education, and records of the personal misconduct of such teacher. (“Teacher” includes each certified professional employee below the rank of Superintendent employed by a Board of Education in a position requiring a certificate issued by the State Board of Education.)

The Board of Education shall permit and give priority to any investigation conducted by the Commissioner of Children and Families or the appropriate local law enforcement agency that a child has been sexually abused or assaulted. The Board shall conduct its own investigation and take any disciplinary action, in accordance with the provisions of section 17a-101i of the general statutes, as amended, upon notice from the Commissioner or the appropriate local law enforcement agency that the Board’s investigation will not interfere with the investigation of the Commissioner or such local law enforcement agency.

The Department of Children and Families will review, at least annually, with the State Department of Education all records and information relating to reports and investigations that a child has been sexually abused by a school employee, in the Department of Children and Families’ possession to ensure that records and information are being shared properly.

The Superintendent may appoint a designee for the purposes of receiving and making reports, notifying and receiving notification, or investigating reports pursuant to this policy.

Disciplinary Action for Failure to Follow Policy

Any employee who fails to comply with the requirements of this policy and these regulations shall be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.

Response to Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault

Schools will develop and implement an effective and consistent response to sexual abuse or sexual assault that takes place on school grounds, while traveling to and from school or a school-sponsored activity, whether on or off campus, as well as abusive behavior expressed through technology using District or school-provided computers, email addresses, or servers.

Students and parents/guardians are to be informed of the District’s policy regarding sexual abuse and sexual assault.

Students are to be encouraged to contact the Principal or his/her designee or other school personnel if they or another student has been sexually abused or sexually assaulted. Students will also be encouraged to report to school authorities if they are aware that another student or adult individual has committed sexual abuse or sexual assault.

Support Services

The Principal or designee will first take steps to increase safety and well-being of the student experiencing sexual abuse and/or sexual assault. This might include offering individual or support group counseling for the student experiencing abuse and/or sexual assault at school or by referring the student to a local victim service organization.

Protection Against Retaliation

No retaliation will be taken by the District or by any of its employees or students against any complainant or any participant in the complaint process, including witnesses, and will take steps to ensure there is no retaliation against any involved party, and will respond appropriately to any incident of retaliation. Any person found to have retaliated against another individual for reporting an incident of sexual abuse, harassment or assault will be subjected to the same disciplinary action created in accordance with this policy. Those persons who assist or participate in an investigation of abusive behavior are also protected from retaliation under this policy.

Confidentiality

Any investigation that takes place pursuant to this policy and administrative regulation will, to the maximum extent possible, be conducted in a manner that protects the privacy of the student experiencing sexual abuse and/or sexual assault, complainant, and accused. However, if it is suspected that child abuse has occurred or any law has been violated, such abuse will be reported to the proper authorities. When possible students will be notified and reminded of limits of confidentiality and be made aware of possible reports to outside officials. Notification of the outcome of the investigation will be made in accordance with relevant state and federal law.

Preclusion

This policy should not be interpreted as preventing a student experiencing sexual abuse and/or sexual assault from seeking redress under any other available law, either civil or criminal.

The District will keep and maintain a confidential written record, including but not limited to, witness statements, investigative reports, and correspondence, from the date any allegation of abusive sexual behavior or sexual assault is reported to District personnel. The information in the written record will include the action taken by the District in response to each allegation.

Roles and Responsibilities

The District will:


1.    Ensure that the Superintendent or his/her designee is the individual responsible for implementation of the policy and these procedures and for the provision of technical assistance and training for school personnel on the development and implementation of the steps for a comprehensive prevention strategy and effective and consistent intervention and response to incidents of sexual abuse and sexual assault.

2.    Assure students of their rights to be free from sexual abuse and sexual assault including cyber-harassment;

3.    Ensure that students know that sexual abuse and sexual assault violate District policy; that abusive behavior should be reported; and that violators will be subject to disciplinary and/or legal action;

4.    Expect all personnel to intervene directly or to contact police when necessary, whenever they witness or become aware of an incident of sexual abuse or sexual assault. There is a duty to report to the Principal or his/her designee when any staff member knows or reasonably should have known of an incident of sexual abuse or sexual assault. Any staff member who permits or fails to report an incident of sexual abuse or sexual assault may be subject to disciplinary action.

The School will:

1.    Staffing and Notification


a.    The Principal or his/her designee is responsible for implementation of the policy, administrative regulations, the provision of technical assistance and training for school personnel on sexual abuse and sexual assault and effective and consistent intervention and response to incidents of such behavior;
b.    Review policy and procedures on sexual abuse and sexual assault annually with all staff and provide recommendations and/or revisions to the policy and regulations;
c.    Ensure that all staff, students, and parents/caregivers receive the name and contact information at the school and District level, a summary of prohibited behaviors and a summary of this policy at the beginning of the school year, as part of the student handbook and/or information packet, as part of the new student orientation, and as part of the school system’s notification to parents;
d.    Create easy public access to the full text of this policy via the school website(s), staff and student handbooks with complaint forms, District policy manuals, contact information etc.; and
e.    Review policy and procedures on sexual abuse and sexual assault annually with all staff and provide recommendations and/or revisions to the policy.

2.    Prevention

a.    Engage students, as developmentally appropriate, and school personnel and, if possible, community-based organizations to collaborate on the development and implementation of comprehensive prevention strategies;
b.    Strengthen students’ knowledge, attitudes and skills for healthy relationships, social and emotional learning, and pro-social behavior, such as positive bystander behavior through evidence-based or evidence-informed curricula, lesson plans, or other classroom or school-wide activities;
c.    Strengthen parents/caregivers’ knowledge, attitudes and skills for promoting healthy relationships, social and emotional learning, such as positive bystander behavior through workshops, school newsletter, and other events;
d.    Strengthen school personnel knowledge, attitudes and skills for promoting healthy relationships and social and emotional learning, such as positive bystander behavior through professional development;
e.    Strengthen positive school climate through positive social norm youth-developed campaigns or activities to promote healthy relationships, social and emotional learning, and/or positive bystander behavior; and
f.    Assure students of their rights to be free from sexual abuse and sexual assault including cyber-harassment and that students know that sexual abuse and sexual assault violate District policy and law; that abusive behavior should be reported; and that violators will be subject to disciplinary action and/or legal action.

3.    Intervention and Response

a.    All school personnel are expected to utilize the reporting procedure previously described in this regulation or to contact police directly, when necessary, whenever they witness or become aware of an incident of sexual abuse or sexual assault. There is a duty to report to the Principal or Principal’s designee when any staff member knows or reasonably should have known of an incident of sexual abuse or sexual assault.
b.    Staff members must intervene or make a report when they witness, become aware of, or reasonably should have known of an incident of sexual abuse or sexual assault on the campus; while traveling to and from school or a school-sponsored activity; whether on or off campus; or perpetrated using school-owned property such as email addresses and servers.
c.    Each incident reported will be promptly investigated in a manner prescribed by statute that protects the student experiencing abuse and/or sexual assault.
d.    The school will make all efforts to keep a report of sexual abuse or sexual assault and the results of any investigation confidential to the extent permitted by law, except that the abused child and the accused will be notified of the outcome of an investigation consistent with federal and state laws.
e.    Increase students’ safety and well-being by assisting student experiencing sexual abuse and/or sexual assaults in accessing legal protection.
f.    Support a student experiencing abuse and/or sexual assaults by offering individual counseling, support groups, and/or referrals to local victim service providers who serve minors. Establish a relationship with a local domestic or sexual violence program and/or health care providers experienced with sexual abuse and/or sexual assault for access to resources and training;

Providing Instruction

The instructional staff of District schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the Board of Education, shall teach all statutorily required comprehensive health components including a health education curriculum for students in grades K through 12 in the area of sexual abuse or assault. This instruction shall include teen dating violence, a sexual abuse and assault component that includes, but is not limited to, the definition of dating violence, sexual abuse, sexual assault, the warning signs of abusive behavior, the characteristics of healthy relationships, measures to prevent and stop dating violence, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and community resources available to victims of dating violence, sexual abuse and assault.

Regulation approved:  November 9, 2016                
NEWTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Newtown Connecticut