Mass. high school changing policies in wake of alleged assaults

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August 8, 2013, 6:01 pm
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(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Framingham, Mass.) - Framingham, Mass. High School says it is changing its policies after a male student was accused of sexually assaulting two female students.

Now the school is taking steps to prevent something like it happening again, but a whistleblower worries old habits die hard.

"They're safer than they were when the school year ended," former social worker Kevin Fox says.

But Fox adds they're not as safe as they should be.

Fox was the whistleblower who quit in protest and filed a complaint against the school district with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. He says administrators failed to properly respond to allegations that a male student at Framingham High School had sexually assaulted two female students last year.

"The students hear from the administration find a trusted adult. Well, these two girls did that, and he was allowed to get away with it," Fox says.

He says after the first student came to him to say she had violently groped by the older male student, he notified school leadership, police and the district attorney's office.

Three weeks later, another female student lodged a similar complaint. Fox describes what he says happened when approached Principal Mike Welch.

"When I questioned why it was that this gentleman was allowed to continue to play football, and asked if he was going to be disciplined in any kind of way, Mike's first response to me was 'How public do you want to make this, Kevin?'"

Though the district attorney declined to file criminal charges, the male student was eventually suspended for the last five days of the school year. The school district asked the DOE to end its investigation if it promised to quickly and fairly respond to future complaints of sexual harassment.

The Department of Education has agreed, with certain conditions.

Among other things, the district must better train its staff to respond to complaints, offer counseling and academic adjustments to alleged victims, and to track complaints and trends and then prove to the Department of Education of that they are properly handling them.

"I don't think you change the stripes on a zebra overnight," Fox says.

In a statement to NECN, the assistant superintendent wrote, "The district's policies and procedures that were in place in 2012 were appropriate; however, there were areas where the district needed additional guidance and training."

Framingham parents say they will keep a close eye on the process.

"No matter what they have to do to implement any type of process, there needs to be protection for all children," one parent says.

Tags: massachusetts, Framingham, Ally Donnelly, Department of Education, Framingham High School, Kevin Fox, Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
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