What to do when K-12 schools don’t follow Title IX – Adele P. Kimmel

In this excerpt from Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School! Public Justice Senior Attorney Adele P. Kimmel explains schools’ responsibilities to address sexual harassment and assault. Watch the full video at http://bit.ly/2q6dVqt and Part 2 at http://bit.ly/2pvZZs8 Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School! is an empowering video for middle and high school students, K-12 parents, schools, and community organizations. It’s about gender equality in education, students’ protections under Title IX, and much more. As high school students plan for their new gender equality group, we watch them interview nationally recognized education, legal, and LGBTQ experts and learn from counselors, advocates, and students. The video provides practical information on how to address sexual harassment and assault when it impacts a student’s education. Students and experts present powerful yet simple ways to make schools safe and free from sex discrimination. Visit SSAIS.org/video to learn how to bring Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School! to your audience free of charge. Share it widely using the Presentation Guide to start the conversation!


The Nexus of Autism and Title IX

Source: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/02/08/colleges-should-understand-special-issues-related-autism-and-title-ix-opinion

Colleges should understand the special issues related to autism and Title IX (opinion)

The call came from a former colleague who coaches college students on the autism spectrum. “We’ve got someone who’s in trouble, and we could use some advice. It’s one of those Title IX things.” She told me the story. The student loves punk music and wanted to start a band. He put up fliers on the campus, which in itself was an issue because he violated the institutional posting policy.

But even in today’s climate, I thought, that doesn’t usually rise to a Title IX complaint. She continued. “He wrote something in Morse code on the flyer, a message directed to women, because he was trying to recruit some to join the band. It was a little ‘stalky-creepy’ — OK, pretty creepy — but this guy is totally harmless and clueless and just doesn’t know how to meet women.”

My first reaction was to smile. Morse code? How many college students even know what it is? But it didn’t surprise me to learn this about a student with Asperger’s syndrome, the commonly used term for those with high-functioning autism. Indeed, this kind of situation, I have come to realize, exemplifies a disastrous nexus of two trends on college campuses: the increased awareness of Title IX’s expectations for student behavior and institutional response, and the growing number of students with a diagnosis (or simply just characteristics) of autism who are attending college.

I imagined the student had learned Morse code at the age of 5 and was no doubt still fluent in it. In his mind, a wondrous place created by the distinct neural connections common among those with this diagnosis, the use of Morse code to signal his interest in meeting women made perfect sense. To those who know him, it is one of many quirky characteristics — some of them sweet, some of them annoying — that require a bit of translation for him and about him as he moves within the world of higher education.

That’s what these professionals like my friend do, taking the place of parents who have provided this kind of interpretation for years. They, and occasionally I, try to explain to a student that what is being expected of him is a reasonable request from a peer, a faculty member, an administrator. And then we explain to that peer, professor or staff member that the way the student is responding makes sense when viewed through his eyes. Working with students on the autism spectrum is about 75 percent translation services.

The reason for this lies in the very nature of autism, a communication disorder rooted in brain anatomy. In every interaction we have with another human being, our brains are detecting and calculating thousands of bits of information: the expression on the person’s face and their tone of voice, the context of the interaction, the relationship between the two individuals, the reactions of those who might witness the interaction. At lightning speed, the brain takes in all of this information, calculates it at a rate comparable to that of a powerful computer and spits out a suggestion of how to respond. Every interaction, every day. Our brains never get the credit they deserve for this astonishing feat until something doesn’t compute: a comment is misinterpreted, a joke is not understood. We then must hit the pause button and recalculate, using additional information.

The autistic brain is its own curious computer. Most people know about those Rain Man savants who can calculate large numbers, count cards and repeat lengthy passages from books or movies but are unable to interact normally with others or take care of themselves. Most college students with autism, however, are not like the Dustin Hoffman character. They can interact with others, although they may come off as a little odd. (“Quirky” is the common term.) They can care for themselves, for the most part. They can get to classes and turn in assignments and live, with varying degrees of success, in a residence hall. And they want to do such things, which is why they have been motivated enough to overcome the social and communication challenges their autism presents.

What are they not good at? Interpreting the subtle cues of social interactions, seeing the often fine line between wanted and unwanted attention — flirty and creepy, appropriate and inappropriate. And that is what lands these students in a chair in the office of a Title IX investigator.

My advice to my former colleague was to coach her student to begin the conversation this way: “I have autism” (or Asperger’s, which is sometimes what students prefer to say). “It is a learning difference that sometimes makes it difficult for me to understand the implications of things that I say, or that others say to me. I’m sorry if my posters offended anyone, and I won’t do this kind of thing again.” I heard later from my former colleague that this is what he did, and the situation was resolved through the conversation with the investigator, with no further action required.

Acknowledging Communication Deficits

But I found myself returning to this scenario over the next few days, because situations like it seem to be occurring more frequently, if the requests for assistance I’m receiving are any indication. My background as an experienced student affairs professional, combined with my work with students on the autism spectrum, has given me the opportunity to consult with families and lawyers who find themselves assisting a student with autism who has been charged with sexual harassment or sexual assault.

Over the last decade, the U.S. Department of Education has made clear that sexual assault is a violation of Title IX. In addition, they have broadened the definition of sexual assault to include any unwanted physical interaction of a sexual nature. Colleges and universities have invested considerable money and effort into following, as closely as possible, instructions provided by the Department’s Office of Civil Rights. On most campuses, recognition of Title IX violations and responses to accusations of violations have improved considerably, though many people believe a lot of work still needs to be done to sort out the enormous complexities.

It is not my goal here to dive into a battle that many writers and activists have taken on with great skill. What I do want to assert is that at the root of the many controversies involving Title IX is the lack of a common agreement about many of the crucial terms: consent, sexual nature, unwanted, incapacity and standards of evidence. Even the term “evidence” and what constitutes it is the subject of intense debate.

I cite those terms not because I want to engage in semantic battles but because of this fact: students on the autism spectrum often have a very difficult time interpreting social cues and reading social context to determine what kind of response is appropriate in a social setting. They seek clear and precise instructions and structure in order to manage their worlds, which, because of their neural anomalies, often feel distressingly chaotic.

That is where the second trend flows into the first, two rivers combining to create a third that routinely overflows its banks. The number of students with a diagnosis of autism who are arriving on campuses each year is growing [1]. Ponder this confluence for a moment: an institution where there is going to be a swift response to a student behaving in a way that appears to be inappropriate and a growing number of students who, because of the way their brains are wired, often behave in ways that are unexpected (a less judgmental way of saying “inappropriate”).

Among the students whose families have sought my input are those who have had what they believed to be consensual sex, who have been accused of stalking, and one whose behavior appeared to another person to be sexual in nature but who contended he was moaning and rubbing the groin muscle he had just pulled. That particular claim was supported by a staff member who happened along right after the accusing party had observed him; he stopped to ask the student, whom he knew, what was wrong and was told by the accused student that he had just injured himself. Nevertheless, he was the subject of a complaint from the initial observer and went through a humiliating and stressful investigation into his actions (and was ultimately exonerated).

We have all heard about male students who believe they have been wrongly accused of sexual assault and of the growing concern among activist groups and family members that the pendulum of response to sexual assault on campuses may have swung too far in the direction of believing accusers to the exclusion of considering other perspectives. That debate will continue, perhaps indefinitely. Those who are survivors of sexual assault and their defenders want to be believed, a reasonable request. But those who feel they have been unfairly accused are equally determined to uncover what they feel is a rigged system.

What I am suggesting is that among those who have been accused are some with a diagnosis, or characteristics, of autism spectrum disorder. Let me make this clear: such a diagnosis does not excuse behavior, does not mean someone could not have sexually harassed or sexually assaulted another person. It does not mean that if a student is found responsible for such an act, they bear no responsibility. I am speaking here of those students whose communication deficits leave them at a significant disadvantage in their interactions with peers.

As most of us would probably admit, the social landscape of traditional-aged college students is, at best, one of mixed messages, uncertain responses, peer pressure and alcohol-impaired judgment. Asking a student with a communication disorder to interpret subtle, or even not-so-subtle, signals is akin to expecting a student with a visual impairment to read a “No Entry” sign on a door and then faulting the student for walking through it, or holding a hearing-impaired student accountable for not exiting a building during a fire drill that involves only an audible fire alarm.

Sadly, it also leaves those students vulnerable to the bullying or ridicule of their peers, some of whom find great sport in exploiting the apparent social ineptitude of others. Perhaps they encourage a student on the spectrum to pursue a woman he likes, assuring him she shares his interest. For a student on the spectrum, it does not seem logical that someone would lie about such a thing. Lying is one of those enormously complex brain operations that we take for granted until we encounter someone who is unfailingly honest and trusting.

Small-A Accommodations

Student conduct officers have long been familiar with students on the autism spectrum and the particular difficulties they face on a college campus. These students are sometimes disruptive in classrooms because they talk out of turn or say things others believe are inappropriate. They can create residence hall challenges because of their sometimes inflexible commitment to following rules (and expecting others to do the same) or sensory sensitivity. Conduct professionals have been negotiating “stalking” claims for years, trying to help a student with autism understand appropriate boundaries or one who feels “stalked” make clear and unambiguous statements about their lack of interest in the accused student’s attention.

But there is now another minefield for these students and conduct officers to navigate: the increasing willingness of a student to report behavior they believe violates Title IX. Again, there can be great benefit in this willingness. But are Title IX investigators and hearing officers, many of whom have not previously worked in the student conduct arena, aware of the challenges that students with autism bring to campuses and the challenges those students themselves face?

Both of these streams — Title IX-based reporting and the matriculation of students with autism — will continue to grow. Colleges have a duty to the students they’ve admitted, especially students with known disabilities, to assure proper training and response. The Americans With Disabilities Act requires it.

But a student may exhibit autistic characteristics and lack a formal diagnosis. Or they might never have been told they have autism. Or they may know but choose not to disclose. A recent study [2] of over 600 students at one institution showed that while just 10 first-year students disclosed a diagnosis of autism, 148 students reported they had enough autism-related characteristics to warrant a clinical assessment.

One could say that failing to disclose removes from the institution any responsibility to treat the student differently. But if certain characteristics and deficits may lead to a student being suspended or expelled, does it not seem incumbent on institutions to be certain they are fully capable of making such distinctions?

In my work with campus staff, I often differentiate between “capital-A accommodations” and “small-A accommodations.” The former are those that have been determined by the disabilities professionals charged with making these decisions and include things like extended time on tests, a single residence hall room or a distraction-free environment for exams. Small-A accommodations are demonstrated by, for example, an instructor’s patience with a student who blurts out answers in class. A small-A accommodation is the result of understanding that a person’s overreaction to a situation or a person’s inability to fully grasp another’s perspective are not signs of moral weakness but a difference in brain wiring.

A small-A accommodation costs nothing but has tremendous value. It may mean the difference between a passing grade and a failing one, a successful semester in a residence hall and being asked to leave because of chronic disruptions. In Title IX-related situations, the stakes are high. A student found responsible for a charge of harassment or assault may lose their opportunity to continue their education. Lawyers and costly expenses may be involved. A lot of staff time is monopolized by a charge and its fallout. Students with autism are not, of course, incapable of harassing or assaulting others. But often their behavior is misinterpreted in a way that starts those involved down a slippery slope of accusation, denial, frustration and sanction.

It could be different. A knowledgeable Title IX investigator and hearing officer can interpret a situation through this lens and perhaps help all parties reach different conclusions.

The streams of both Title IX awareness and students with autism enrolled in college are rising rapidly. Administrators must do more than stack sandbags. We must more fully understand the nature of autism, the campus experience of students with autism and the confluence of these students’ experience with the expectations students have for one another and their institutions when it comes to sexual assault response. Too many students are being swept downstream when a simple handrail and a warning sign might have kept them from slipping into the water in the first place.

Lee Burdette Williams is the director of higher education training and development for the College Autism Network [3].


The Preventable Problem That Schools Ignore

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/12/the-preventable-problem-that-schools-ignore/547604/

Educators are ill-equipped to help victims of dating violence.

Nearly 1.5 million high-school students in the U.S. are physically abused by dating partners every year. More than one-third of 10th-graders (35 percent) have been physically or verbally abused by dating partners, while a similar percentage are perpetrators of such abuse. Youth from low-income backgrounds, those from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and LGBTQ students are at the greatest risk of experiencing such harm.

The consequences are devastating. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that adolescents who experienced teen dating violence were more likely than those who didn’t to report being bullied on school grounds and missing school due to feeling unsafe. Victims of dating abuse are also more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and to consider suicide, than their non-abused peers.

All of this negatively affects academic achievement. Yet in the face of mounting evidence of harm—and several decades of research and analysis—addressing teen dating violence remains a low priority in public schools, according to a new report published in the peer-reviewed journal Violence and Gender.

For the study, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of high-school principals on their knowledge of teen dating violence—defined in the study as verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse—as well as their schools’ policies, and their beliefs about the role of school personnel in both preventing dating abuse and assisting victims. The four-page questionnaire was sent in the 2015-16 year to 750 randomly selected public-school principals, with a 54 percent response rate.

Although a majority of high-school principals (57 percent) had assisted a teen dating-violence victim in the past two years, more than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) said they lacked formal training, and a majority (62 percent) reported that teachers and staff in their schools hadn’t been recently trained, either. Less than a third (30 percent) posted information on teen dating violence that was easily available and accessible to students—posted in hallways or the cafeteria, for example—and just 35 percent specifically addressed dating abuse in their school’s violence-prevention policies.

Further, when principals were presented with several options and asked to identify the largest barrier to assisting student victims, the second most-common response—following lack of training—was that “dating violence is a minor issue compared with other student health issues we deal with.”

According to Jagdish Khubchandani, the associate professor of health science at Ball State University and the study’s lead author, some school principals are hampered by faculty and staff without sufficient skills and training; others, meanwhile, mistakenly perceive dating violence as a typical, trivial teenage problem.

Principals who overlook or minimize relationship violence, the researcher said, lose sight of the most important consideration: student welfare. “They have some awareness that this is happening in their school, especially if they’re assisting victims periodically,” he said. “If they choose not to take action, for me, they are a bystander.”

The study exposed multiple instances of high-school principals seemingly misinformed or uninformed on teen dating violence. For example, respondents were most likely to assume that counselors and parents are preferable to students’ peers in assisting victims. Ninety-three percent of principals said they referred student victims of dating violence to counselors, while 85 percent said they informed the victim’s parents or guardians. Yet federal data indicate that many public schools, particularly high-poverty campuses, lack counselors. What’s more, some parents have their own misconceptions and myths about dating abuse, such as the belief that partner abuse must be physical by definition.

Only 36 percent of principals included in the study believed that students have a major role in assisting survivors. “I think that’s lack of insight on the principals’ part,” Khubchandani argued, suggesting the principals are unwilling to acknowledge students’ role in helping their peers cope with and prevent dating abuse.

Maria De Leon, a senior at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, teaches her classmates about dating violence. A member of the Domestic Violence Network’s middle- and high-school Youth Network, De Leon plans activities to inform students about unsafe or unhealthy relationships. She’s also a student leader with the “No More Club,” which seeks to end the silence on dating abuse. De Leon, who has seen her peers being physically and emotionally abusive to one another, now recognizes the red flags—and she wants more support for victims from the adults in her school building.

“I think we have to start with the principals at the schools, because they’re the leaders,” she said. “That way we can have trust in them [and] come to them if we’re in that situation.”

Lindsay Stawick, who directs the Domestic Violence Network’s youth programming, said most inquiries for dating-violence-prevention training come from teachers—at De Leon’s high school, for its part, it was a social worker. Stawick said she’s never received a request from a principal to provide training to their students or faculty—a reality she interprets as a hindrance to real progress on the issue.

“My goal in schools and with young people is to change the culture that leads to violence,” Stawick said. “Me coming in to do a three- or four-day program in a classroom is really great, but the entire school environment has to change for real change to happen.” As an expert in the field, she said that requires buy-in from school leaders.

Bob Farrace, the public-affairs director for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said he encourages high-school principals to take an honest and transparent look at their own data, identify the trends in teen dating violence incidents, and address them appropriately.

While he called the study’s findings “deeply troubling,” he said that dating abuse hasn’t been cited specifically by principals as an area of focus for the national organization, alluding to state policies that oversee teen dating violence training and education.

Dozens of states have enacted legislation that addresses teen dating violence, according to research compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. As of July 2014, at least 22 states had passed laws that “allow, urge or require school boards to develop or include curriculum on teen dating violence.”

Still, school leaders are not dependent on state mandates to act. Nikkia Rowe, the principal of Renaissance Academy High School in West Baltimore, teaches a dating-abuse-prevention curriculum to ninth-graders. Violence is a learned behavior, she explained, so she puts the burden on educators in her school—located in an impoverished black neighborhood—to focus on helping students, both victims and perpetrators, navigate trauma and learning their individual stories to shift behaviors and attitudes.

“Schools are the training ground to address the abuse and to create that change of mind [to] change those habits,” Rowe said. “Ultimately, those patterns that we see in schoolhouses continue into adulthood … if they’re not receiving those lessons and those supports at home, we’re obligated to do it.”



Section 504 – Resources & Training

Source: http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/dse/504/


Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (34 C.F.R. Part 104) is a federal civil rights statute that assures individuals will not be discriminated against based on their disability. All school districts that receive federal funding are responsible for the implementation of this law.

Section 504 protects a student with an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, whether the student receives special education services or not.

  • Examples of physical or mental impairments that may be covered under Section 504 include: epilepsy, AIDS, allergies, vision impairment, broken limbs, cancer, diabetes, asthma, temporary condition due to accidents or illness, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, depression, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Examples of major life activities that can be affected by the student’s disability include: learning, thinking, concentrating, reading, speaking, walking, breathing, sleeping, caring for oneself, as well as major bodily functions, including brain function, immune system function, or digestive functions. This is not an exhaustive list.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has no enforcement authority for this law. The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) takes complaints regarding Section 504.

OCR Region Office for Minnesota:
U.S. Department of Education
500 W. Madison Street, Suite 1475
Chicago, IL 60661
Telephone: 312-730-1560
Fax: 312-730-1576

PSEO for 10th Graders with Disabilities to take Career and Technical Education (CTE) Courses
The Minnesota Department of Education has developed a policy entitled, Alternative Eligibility Options Policy for 10th-Grade Students with a Disability Who Wish to Participate in Career and Technical Education Classes through the Postsecondary Enrollment Options Program, effective December 8, 2015. The policy, procedures, and a model modification request form can be found on our Postsecondary Enrollment Options page.

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What’s Lost As Scouting Goes Coed

Source: http://www.weeklystandard.com/whats-lost-as-scouting-goes-coed/article/2010089


What’s Lost As Scouting Goes Coed

Opportunities for single-sex socialization are dwindling, and that’s a problem.

Reasons for an institution like the Boy Scouts of America to go coed fall into roughly two camps. First, there’s the stark reality of dwindling membership: The Scouts are down to a mere third of their 6.5-million-member peak reached in the early 1970s. (Admitting girls, theoretically, doubles their customer base.) And then there’s the purported need to catch up culturally. In the Scouts’ case, these two reasons seem to serve stark cross purposes. Altering a touchstone institution to appease the forcefully open-minded looks counterproductive, given that social liberals are not the most likely candidates to sign up their children for a proto-military league of junior outdoorsmen—and women—with its code of honor and conduct firmly rooted in the century before last.

And experimenting with the formula risks alienating those who do celebrate such tradition. It has already. The Boy Scouts’ already declining enrollment took a blow when BSA decided to admit transgender scouts in January—and not long after, the Church of Latter-day Saints had its nearly 200,000 Boy Scouts hang up the goofy uniform for good. (The BSA rescinded bans on homosexual members in 2014 and leaders in 2015.) THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s Mark Hemingway wrote earlier this year, when LDS pulled its Scouts: “It’s facile to say that groups like the Boy Scouts simply must accommodate the latest cultural imperative. The future of the Boy Scouts, and that of the country, depends on the cultivation of decent and hardworking men—that, too, is a cultural imperative.”

And the ill-considered integration will cause pain elsewhere: Undercutting the Girl Scouts, for one thing. Last week, while the world reacted to the news, the Girls Scouts said in a statement: “The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” blaming BSA’s “deficient programming” for their need to pull scouts from a coed pool. Back in August, when the Girl Scouts caught wind of a “covert campaign” to open the Boy Scouts to girls, their president Kathy Hannan composed a stern letter disapproving of the coming integration on the grounds that it would undermine the proven value of “single gender programming.”

The GSA, arguably, has exposed itself to a degree of encroachment by alienating parents with its own reported leftward slide—but the Girl Scouts have a point about letting boys and girls thrive and learn separately. With a dearth of single-sex academic and extracurricular offerings available to kids today, the loss of such a prominent one stings. Few remain willing to stick up for the rewards of single-sex schooling and socialization. Although public schools continue to experiment with splitting boys and girls for practical and pedagogical reasons, and urban districts turn to single-sex education to heal deep achievement gaps across gender and racial divides—for most, it’s stuffy, sexist, or simply unfamiliar to separate girls from boys. But for the girls and boys in question separation offered something else. Nowadays, as I recently learned, it’s hard to find an education scholar whose work focuses on what children gain when they’re separated by sex. (Recent scholarship, not to mention commentary, focuses moreso on mythbusting gender differences, nailing down a neurological basis for what Judy Butler said about gender being a social construct.)

Fortunately American University professor emeritus David Sadker, retired to Tucson, is happy to talk. He and his late wife studied the dynamics between boys and girls in school, comparing coeducational and single-sex classrooms, for their coauthored book Failing at Fairness. They concluded that in coed environments, boys overshadow girls, receive more attention, and are more willing to interrupt. Girls are more likely to buck the stereotypical aversion to math and science in the right sort of single-sex setting, he says. (In a follow-up effort 14 years later, Sadker chronicled a failure to fix the problem he’d earlier identified.)

Breaking down the barrier between boys and girls—as cutting the B from BSA will do—needn’t dissolve the separation entirely, he points out. Dens will still be single-sex, and particularly when children are young, parents should choose carefully where to place their scout. Still, there’s no doubt a different institution will emerge from the other side of coed integration, Sadker points out: “There’s something that goes on in single-sex environments that is missing in coed.” There’s an unmitigated self-discovery, and a freedom from self-consciousness that’s impossible for most humans, particularly those orbiting adolescence, in the presence of the opposite sex.

But, nodding to what’s lost in co-education, Sadker says he sees “a great opportunity to see how you can do things better.” If orchestrated thoughtfully, for instance, the new BSA may well indoctrinate a new generation of sensitive young men and self-confident young women—conditioned so by their cooperative high-stakes survival drill teamwork. A coed pack presents an opportunity for boys and girls to stretch and break the roles the Sadkers studied in American schoolchildren. “You could have as one purpose of a coed scout troop, to help develop public voices in girls and public ears in boys,” he offers.

The scholar of gender dynamics wonders, “If the Boy Scouts reflects coed classrooms, will males dominate? Will males be interrupting and cutting off females? Will the male environment persist, or are they going to create a new environment that’s more equitable?” The manner of BSA’s big change suggests that no one but the education professor emeritus is asking these questions. “Thoughtful questioning, I fear, is not what’s driving this movement. What’s driving this movement is finances: ‘We need more kids.’” And that’s never been the best reason, he adds, to fix what wasn’t broken.


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