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Bullying, Sexual Harassment Addressed at WCCUSD Meeting

By Bay City News Service
   
Administrators at the West Contra Costa County Unified School District agreed to overhaul the district's policies on bullying and sexual harassment at a special meeting prompted by a recent fight at Hercules High School involving a transgender student.

The agreement, which will include the hiring of an administrator who deals solely with the issue of bullying and harassment, came during the Monday night school board meeting in Richmond.

A slew of new policies meant to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and bullying were reviewed at Monday night's meeting and will come back to the board for final approval on Jan. 29.

Administrators called the special meeting to respond to concerns from parents and district officials in the wake of the fight that ended in the suspension of four students from Hercules High on Nov. 15.

The fight, which was caught on a cellphone camera, shows the transgender student fighting with and running from two other students On Monday night, the transgender teen involved in the fight addressed the school board and told them that repeated bullying led her to lash out at another student, according to board member Charles Ramsey.

The student also said she had reported the bullying to school officials before the fight but did not find the support she was hoping for. Ramsey said the student's statement was important for the board to hear, and that its policies on sexual harassment, which date back to 2008, aren't only outdated but were never actually applied in many schools.

The district's hiring of an administrator to deal with sexual harassment and bullying is required as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights stemming from a high-profile 2009 gang rape at Richmond High School.

Since that time, the district has installed surveillance cameras at the Richmond High campus and other schools and has beefed up school security staff in an attempt to prevent student-on-student violence.

The district has also been under close watch by the Department of Education, which reported last month that sexual harassment and sexual violence are still prevalent at the district's schools, without sufficient resources to address the problem.

District officials say that violence, vandalism and other crimes among its students have decreased significantly over the past five years. Still, Ramsey said, much more needs to be done to address an environment where harassment, bullying and violence continue to occur. "We know (bullying) is going to happen, but we want kids who are being bullied to know they are being supported," he said.
Giorgio C. December 05, 2013 at 11:59 AM
The words of Jewlyes Gutierrez, a 16-year-old sophomore at Hercules High, and recent victim of bullying says "When you report something, it should be investigated and something should be done," Gutierrez said. "Putting them back in class doesn't really do anything."

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