(NECN: Alysha Palumbo, Framingham, Mass.) - The Framingham School District has come under fire by parents and students for what they call its mishandling of sexual assault allegations against a high school football player, by two different female students.
Now the district is under federal investigation.
First-year Superintendent Dr. Stacy Scott says he welcomes guidance on how to make the district's policies and procedures stronger.
"When you find that you're under performing in a given area, you obviously work aggressively to figure out what's it going to take to make sure that in this case our students are safe, that we're managing our investigations appropriately, and meeting the full requirements of the law," Dr. Scott said.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights launched the investigation in response to a complaint it received alleging that the Framingham School District:
- "did not take appropriate action in response to a complaint of sex discrimination"
- "does not have in place appropriate Title IX grievance procedure for addressing complaints of sex discrimination"
- "and does not have a designee coordinating the district's compliance under Title IX"
Dr. Scott says one of the first things he's done since these issues were raised was to designate a system-wide Title IX coordinator. He's also established a Community/School Response Team to review policies and procedures, and he plans to provide further civil rights training to teachers and staff.
"It appears to me that we are following the appropriate procedures, my goal would be to tighten those procedures up to make sure that in all of our handbooks and our policy manuals that we are clearly stating zero tolerance for sexual harassment, sexual assault ... to make sure that we're giving a clear message to our students and our staff," Dr. Scott said.
Dr. Scott says he wants the community to know he takes this very seriously.
"We strive hard to meet the standards of the law and the regulations," said Dr. Scott, "Title IX would be no exception."
I spoke with the social worker who resigned over the school's handling of the allegations, and he says he's glad this investigation is happening, and hopes as a result the district will implement policies and procedures that will prevent a situation like this one from happening again.
Under Title IX, there are certain policies and procedures school districts have to follow in order to receive federal funding.
One area the U.S. Department of Education looks at when determining compliance is sex discrimination.
In this case, the sexual assault allegations are considered sexual harassment, which falls under the umbrella of sex discrimination, and that is part of what this investigation will examine.
As for any penalties if the district is found non-compliant, the Department of Education says termination of federal funding is a last resort.
It would first work with the district, if necessary, to try to bring everything into compliance.