Sexual Harassment of District Staff Prohibited
Informal Complaint Process:
Anyone may use informal procedures to report and resolve complaints of sexual harassment. Informal reports may be made to any staff member, although staff will always notify complainants of their right to file a formal complaint and the process for same. Staff will also direct potential complainants to an appropriate staff member who can explain the informal and formal complaint processes and what a complainant can expect. Staff will also inform an appropriate supervisor or professional staff member when they receive complaints of sexual harassment, especially when the complaint is beyond their training to resolve or alleges serious misconduct. Informal remedies may include:
- An opportunity for the complainant to explain to the alleged harasser that his or her conduct is unwelcome, offensive or inappropriate, either in writing or face-to-face;
- A statement from a staff member to the alleged harasser that the alleged conduct is not appropriate and could lead to discipline if proven or repeated; or
- A general public statement from an administrator in a building reviewing the district sexual harassment policy without identifying the complainant.
Informal complaints may become formal complaints at the request of the complainant, parent, guardian, or because the district believes the complaint needs to be more thoroughly investigated.
Formal Complaint Process:
Level One – Complaint to District
Anyone may initiate a formal complaint of sexual harassment, even if the informal complaint process is being utilized. Potential complainants who wish to have the district hold their identity confidential will be informed that the district will almost assuredly face due process requirements that will make available to the accused all of the information that the district has related to the complaint. The district will, however, fully implement the anti-retaliation provisions of this policy to protect complainants and witnesses. Student complainants and witnesses may have a trusted adult with them during any district-initiated investigatory activities. The superintendent or designated compliance officer may conclude that the district needs to conduct an investigation based on information in his or her possession, regardless of the complainant's interest in filing a formal complaint. The following process will be followed:
- The compliance officer will receive and investigate all formal, written complaints of sexual harassment, or information in the compliance officer's possession that the officer believes requires further investigation. Upon receipt of a complaint, the compliance officer will provide the complainant a copy of this procedure.
- All formal complaints will be in writing and will set forth the specific acts, conditions or circumstances alleged to have occurred and to constitute sexual harassment. The compliance officer may draft the complaint based on the report of the complainant for the complainant to review and approve.
- The time period for filing a complaint is one year from the date of the occurrence that is the subject matter of the complaint. However, a complaint filing deadline may not be imposed if the complainant was prevented from filing due to: 1) Specific misrepresentations by the district that it had resolved the problem forming the basis of the complaint; or 2) Withholding of information that the district was required to provide under WAC 392-190-065 or WAC 392-190-005.
- Complaints may be submitted by mail, fax, e-mail or hand-delivery to any district, school or to the district compliance officer responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints. Any district employee who receives a complaint that meets these criteria will promptly notify the compliance officer.
- The district is prohibited by law from intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with their right to file a complaint under this policy and procedure and from retaliating against an individual for filing such a complaint. The school district and complainant may agree to resolve the complaint in lieu of an investigation. However, the compliance officer will investigate the allegations within thirty (30) calendar days.
- When the investigation is completed the compliance officer will compile a full written report of the complaint and the results of the investigation. If the matter has not been resolved to the complainant's satisfaction, the superintendent will take further action on the report.
- The superintendent will respond in writing to the complainant and the accused within thirty (30) calendar days of receipt of the complaint, unless otherwise agreed to by the complainant or if exceptional circumstances related to the complaint require an extension of the time limit. In the event an extension is needed, the district will notify the complainant in writing of the reason for the extension and the anticipated response date. At the time the district responds to the complainant, the district must send a copy of the response to the office of the superintendent of public instruction.
- The response of the superintendent or designee will include: 1) a summary of the investigation results; 2) a statement as to whether the district has failed to comply with sexual harassment laws; 3) if non-compliance is found, corrective measures the district deems necessary to correct it; and 4) notice of the complainant’s right to appeal to the school board and the necessary filing information. The superintendent’s or designee’s response will be provided in a language the complainant can understand and may require language assistance for complainants with limited English proficiency in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Any corrective measures deemed necessary will be instituted as quickly as possible, but no more than thirty (30) days after the superintendent's mailing of a written response, unless the accused is appealing the imposition of discipline and the district is barred by due process considerations or a lawful order from imposing the discipline until the appeal process is concluded. Staff may also pursue complaints through the appropriate collective bargaining agreement process or anti-discrimination policy.
Level Two -Appeal to Board of Directors
If a complainant disagrees with the superintendent’s or designee’s written decision, the complainant may appeal the decision to the district board of directors, by filing a written notice of appeal with the secretary of the board within ten (10) calendar days following the date upon which the complainant received the response.
The board will schedule a hearing to commence by the twentieth (20th) calendar day following the filing of the written notice of appeal, unless otherwise agreed to by the complainant and the superintendent or for good cause. Both parties will be allowed to present such witnesses and testimony as the board deems relevant and material. Unless otherwise agreed to by the complainant, the board will render a written decision within thirty (30) calendar days following the filing of the notice of appeal and provide the complainant with a copy of the decision. The decision will be provided in alanguage that the complainant can understand which may require language assistance for complainants with limited English proficiency in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The decision will include notice of the complainant’s right to appeal to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and will identify where and to whom the appeal must be filed. The district will send a copy of the appeal decision to the OSPI.
Level Three - Complaint to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
If a complainant disagrees with the decision of the board of directors, or if the district fails to comply with this procedure, the complainant may file a complaint with OSPI.
- A complaint must be received by OSPI on or before the twentieth (20) calendar day following the date upon which the complainant received written notice of the board of directors’ decision, unless OPSI grants an extension for good cause. Complaints may be submitted by mail, fax, electronic mail or hand delivery.
- A complaint must be in writing and include: 1) A description of the specific acts, conditions or circumstances alleged to violate applicable anti-sexual harassment laws; 2) The name and contact information, including address, of the complainant; 3) The name and address of the district subject to the complaint; 4) A copy of the district’s complaint and appeal decision, if any; and 5) A proposed resolution of the complaint or relief requested. If the allegations regard a specific student, the complaint must also include the name and address of the student, or in the case of a homeless child or youth, contact information.
- Upon receipt of a complaint, the OSPI may initiate an investigation, which may include conducting an independent on-site review. OSPI may also investigate additional issues related to the complaint that were not included in the initial complaint or appeal to the superintendent or board. Following the investigation, OSPI will make an independent determination as to whether the district has failed to comply with RCW 28A.642.010 or Chapter 392-190, WAC and will issue a written decision to the complainant and the district that addresses each allegation in the complaint and any other noncompliance issues it has identified. The written decision will include corrective actions deemed necessary to correct noncompliance and documentation the district must provide to demonstrate that corrective action has been completed.
All corrective actions must be completed within the timelines established by OSPI in the written decision unless OSPI grants an extension. If timely compliance is not achieved, OSPI may take action including but not limited to referring the district to appropriate state or federal agencies empowered to order compliance.
A complaint may be resolved at any time when, before the completion of the investigation, the district voluntarily agrees to resolve the complaint. OSPI may provide technical assistance and dispute resolution methods to resolve a complaint.
Level Four - Administrative Hearing
A complainant or school district that desires to appeal the written decision of OSPI may file a written notice of appeal with OSPI within thirty (30) calendar days following the date of receipt of that office’s written decision. OSPI will conduct a formal administrative hearing in conformance with the Administrative Procedures Act, Chapter 34.05, RCW.
At any time during the complaint procedure set forth in WAC 392-190-065 through 392-190-075, a district may, at its own expense, offer mediation. The complainant and the district may agree to extend the complaint process deadlines in order to pursue mediation.
The purpose of mediation is to provide both the complainant and the district an opportunity to resolve disputes and reach a mutually acceptable agreement through the use of an impartial mediator. Mediation must be voluntary and requires the mutual agreement of both parties. It may be terminated by either party at any time during the mediation process. It may not be sued to deny or delay a complainant’s right to utilize the complaint procedures.
Mediation must be conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who may not:
- Be an employee of any school district, public charter school, or other public or private agency that is providing education related services to a student who is the subject of the complaint being mediated; or
- Have a personal or professional conflict of interest. A mediator is not considered an employee of the district or charter school or other public or private agency solely because he or she serves as a mediator.
If the parties reach agreement through mediation, they may execute a legally binding agreement that sets forth the resolution and states that all discussions that occurred during the course of mediation will remain confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent complaint, due process hearing or civil proceeding. The agreement must be signed by the complainant and a district representative who has authority to bind the district.
Training and Orientation
A fixed component of all district orientation sessions for staff, students and regular volunteers will introduce the elements of this policy. Staff will be provided information on recognizing and preventing sexual harassment. Staff will be fully informed of the formal and informal complaint processes and their roles and responsibilities under the policy and procedure. Certificated staff will be reminded of their legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse, and how that responsibility may be implicated by some allegations of sexual harassment. Regular volunteers will get the portions of this component of orientation relevant to their rights and responsibilities.
A copy of the district’s sexual harassment policy must be included in any publication of the district or of a school that sets forth the rules, regulations, procedures, and standards of conduct for the school or school district. The policy must also be conspicuously posted in each school district, and provided to each employee, volunteer, and student.
As part of the information on the recognition and prevention of sexual harassment staff, volunteers, students and parents will be informed that sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to:
- Demands for sexual favors in exchange for preferential treatment or something of value;
- Stating or implying that a person will lose something if he or she does not submit to a sexual request;
- Penalizing a person for refusing to submit to a sexual advance, or providing a benefit to someone who does;
- Making unwelcome, offensive or inappropriate sexually suggestive remarks comments, gestures, or jokes; or remarks of a sexual nature about a person's appearance, gender or conduct;
- Using derogatory sexual terms for a person;
- Standing too close, inappropriately touching, cornering or stalking a person; or
- Displaying offensive or inappropriate sexual illustrations on school property.
Annually the superintendent or designee will convene an ad hoc committee composed of representatives of certificated and classified staff, volunteers, students and parents to review the use and efficacy of this policy and procedure. The compliance officer will be included in the committee. Based on the review of the committee, the superintendent will prepare a report to the board including, if necessary, any recommended policy changes. The superintendent will consider adopting changes to this procedure if recommended by the committee.
Former Procedure: 5013-P1
Revised: 05.11.04; 10.12.05; 02.20.13; 02.03.16