The fixes CPS says it has made to its student conduct code to protect students from sexual harassment have more to do with process than with protection, a check of the changes shows.
The changes to the Student Code of Conduct manual for the current school year feature minimal changes to its discipline process for reporting sexual harassment issues.
The Chicago Board of Education purportedly strengthened its sexual harassment policy after a sexual assault case at Simeon Career Academy in 2006. A Chicago Tribune article this week on dating violence in Illinois schools quoted CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond saying the Board of Education fixed the methods for victims to file sexual harassment complaints.
Yet the newest version of the Student Code of Conduct, a guideline of rules and regulations for CPS students includes sparse new information for victims of sexual harassment and their families in how to deal with issues of bullying and violence. The newest addition to the guide, which was implemented on Sept. 17, notes the new method for students, parents and guardians to appeal sexual harassment decisions. Under the revised policy, if students or families disagree with a harassment decision, they can appeal straight to the Board’s Equal Opportunity Compliance Office.
Though the changes to the code highlight the victim’s ability to file a sexual harassment case, the new policy does not include any information on how victims of harassment can hope to overcome their issues in school.
“There’s nothing for a student to say, ‘Well what do I get out of this aside from counseling,’” Wendy Pollack said. Pollack is a member of the Ensuring Success in School Task Force, a coalition created to address safety and violence issues in Illinois schools.
“We want schools to have a policy in place that’s written that really makes it so that students will come forward,” Pollack said. “The problem with the CPS policy is that it’s really just bare bones, and there’s nothing in there for me to see what will make a student come forward.” Pollack directs the Women’s Law and Policy Project at the Shriver Center in Chicago, an advocacy on poverty.
She said the Ensuring Success in School Task Force is working on a report for the Illinois General Assembly that details their findings on violence and harassment in schools statewide. The report, expected soon, will include recommendations for safety protocols to be implemented in Illinois schools.