By Brianna McAdoo, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
On Nov. 26, a unanimous decision was made by the Committee on Education to pass Councilman David Grosso’s (D- At Large) legislation which aims to address all forms of abuse and sexual assault in an effort to create a safer D.C. school environment for students and staff alike.
The School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 is the legislation that was introduced by Grosso, chair of the Committee on Education. The bill would require District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) to enact policies that would prevent and improve responses to sexual assault and abuse in the school environment by adults against children as well as amongst the student body itself.
This bill would mandate schools to give students access to information on healthy relationships, consent, respecting personal boundaries and creating healthy relationships. Additionally the bill applies more pressure on DCPS to be thorough when investigating whether a potential employee has had a record of sexual misconduct.
On December 4 the entire council will vote on the School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018.
The Associated Press reported that nationwide there were approximately 17,000 sexual assault cases filed in K-12 institutions between 2011-2015.
In the District, this bill is being introduced at a time where a local principal was placed on administrative leave after being caught mocking a student’s sexual assault claims in September of this year and a teacher at Duke Ellington School of the Arts was placed on leave in October after an email circulated alleging sexual misconduct in 2013.
Through this bill Grosso seeks not only to make policy changes but to shift the culture of victim blaming and instead hold people accountable for their wrongdoing. “It was upsetting enough to learn of these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate. Cases were mishandled. Victims, rather than the perpetrators, were punished. Claims were mocked,” Grosso said according to a release from his office.
Grosso also noted that the current White House administration’s negligence on issues pertaining to sexual violence contributed to the urgency of this bill. “As the Trump administration is rolling back protections for student victims of sexual assault, and amid a national conversation about sexual misconduct, the time for the Council to create safer school environments for our students is now,” he said. While the nation has understandably been focused on the tragic and all too frequent occurrence of school shootings, the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse in our schools has not received the attention that it deserves.”