PETITION: “Schools Should Not Get One Free Rape!”

Shatter the Silence, a grassroots organization devoted to combating sexual harassment and violence in Fairfax County Public Schools, is looking for signatures on its online petition. “Fairfax County Public Schools has a problem with mishandling sexual harassment and assault,” the petition reads. “All students have the right to a safe and equal education free of discrimination, harassment, and violence. That’s all we ultimately ask.”

The petition details a series of incidents that have occurred in Fairfax County’s government-run schools — as well as the failure of school administrators to appropriately respond:

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to gut Title IX, one of the most important civil rights laws that protects students from sexual harassment and assault.

If FCPS wins, schools across America will get what one appeals judge has called “one free rape” before they have to investigate sexual assault at school. It will also allow school districts across the country to “bury their heads in the sand” rather than investigate reported sexual assaults.

We ask you to sign this petition, and demand that FCPS drop its appeal to the Supreme Court in Jane Doe v. FCSB.

We also demand that FCPS take sexual assault, and civil rights in schools, seriously. If FCPS continues to fail at this basic task, we call on the Attorney General of Virginia or the US Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights investigation into FCPS.

Fairfax County Public Schools has a problem with mishandling sexual harassment and assault in the school. In 2014, FCPS entered into a sweeping settlement with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The resolution required the school to totally revamp its policies and training around sexual assault after a 12-year-old was raped by multiple assailants at Rachel Carson Middle School.

Despite this, FCPS has entered into 13 subsequent civil rights settlements (!) with the Department of Education, including multiple regarding sexual harassment and assault. There are currently 3 additional open civil rights investigations into the district’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault and harassment.

That’s not all. In just the past two years, at least six school officials, including two principals, have been arrested for either abusing students or failing to report suspected child abuse. In recent years, the local media caught FCPS failing to revoke the teaching licenses of educators credibly accused of abusing students. This led to additional children getting molested. There are even several pages on social media where current students describe the current, toxic school environments where administrators overlook sexual violence against students.   

Perhaps most horrifyingly, FCPS admits, in a resolution, that sex traffickers have victimized students at every high school, and many middle and elementary schools. Yet this too, goes largely unaddressed. One survivor claimed she reported her abuse to a guidance counselor 22 times, but received no help

The numbers alone tell the story of just how bad the problem is. In its own flawed student-survey, FCPS students report no less than 3400 incidents of sexual harassment in school each year. At least 871, likely more, say that they have reported sexual harassment and assault to school officials. Yet FCPS reported less than 50 incidences of sexual harassment and assault to the Virginia Department of Education last, and only formally charged 20 students in an administrative hearing with sexual misconduct.  This low report rate, and even lower discipline rate is indicative of systemic problems.

READ MORE AND SIGN THE PETITION HERE

Shatter the Silence is a nonpartisan, nonprofit charity focused on defending the rights of students enrolled in Fairfax County’s government-run schools, with a particular focus on the prevention of sexual harassment and violence. To learn more, visit ShatterTheSilenceFCPS.org or follow them on Twitter (@shatterFCPS).

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