Framingham Public Schools has agreed to respond “promptly and equitably” to future complaints of sexual harassment and is overhauling its policies, following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
Former Framingham High School social worker Kevin Fox filed the federal complaint in March.
"My goal throughout this whole process has been to bring about constructive change at the high school and see to it that federal policy is followed," said Fox. "Policies were not in place and, if they were, as some assert, they were ignored in the interest of keeping the assaults silent. The safety of the students should take precedent over the selfish interest of those seeking future career advancement."
Framingham Patch was the first news outlet to report that two sexual assault took place at Framingham High, by one male athlete. The news became public when one of the teens attacked agreed to go public and stage a public protest the day Framingham High School was hold an assembly for male students on how to treat women.
Fox filed his complaint following the protest and after the sexual assaults became public. The assaults took place in 2012, according to one of the two teens attacked.
Framingham Public Schools agreed to voluntarily make changes to its policies and to train staff in Title IX laws. The Superintendent of Schools hired private consultants and named newly-hired Assistant Superintendent of Schools Mark Price the district's new Title IX Coordinator.
Framingham did not admit that the school district had violated Title IX, according to the agreement. This federal law requires school's have a detailed plan in place to prevent and deal with reports of sexual discrimination, harassment and assaults.
Under the agreement with the federal government, the School District agreed to meet several deadlines this fall and next Spring.
By Oct 1., Framingham School District will provide the Office of Civil Rights with "documentation showing that it has revised its website and its student and employee handbooks to include a section on Title IX coordinators, including their names and contact information, and notice of the district's Office of Civil Right approved grievance procedure, and that it has widely announced and dispersed this information throughout the community."
Also by Oct. 1, Framingham Public Schools agreed to provide documentation of its request via email and at faculty meetings that "high school staff report any concerns that have come to their attention concerning sexual harassment involving current students or staff. The documentation will include a summary of each incident reported, including a description of the incident and those involved, and the District's response to each incident."
Also by Oct. 1, the School District will provide "documentation of the Superintendent's and high school principals' emails to all high school students and parents that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and requesting any such concerns be reported to the District's Title IX Coordinator. The emails will include, at a minimum, a definition of sexual harassment, consequences for engaging in such conduct as well as examples of victim-centered remedies."
Framingham Public Schools also agreed by Nov. 1 to provide training for all staff on Title IX and the procedure on how to file a complaint.
And by Nov. 15, the Framingham Public School District will provide documentation of its revised memorandum of understanding with the Framingham Police Department, which will "include language acknowledging the District's independent obligation to respond to sexual harassment and violence pursuant to Title IX and that law enforcement will not unnecessarily impede with the District's ability to comply with Title Ix."
By Dec 1, 2013, the Framigham Public School District will provide a report to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights "showing it has reviewed prior reports and complaints, both formal and informal, involving current high school students."
Editor's Note: One of the two students who reported being sexually assault and the male athlete accused of the two assaults were members of the Class of 2013.
By June 2014, the district must have a plan in place to track and handle complaints.
In May 2013, when the complaint was filed against the Framingham Public School District Scott said "we want to make sure we are sending out a message that not only is there zero tolerance of any sexual harassment or assault, but also to create an environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable coming forward to report any issues or problems."
Scott signed the agreement on July 22, representing the Framingham Public School District. By signing the agreement, the School District agreed to comply to all terms and deadlines set by the Office of Civil Rights.
If not adhered to the federal government can initiate further enforcement or judicial proceedings.
"Although I am obviously pleased the OCR spent the time crafting a remedial course of action for FHS I remain quite skeptical people will be willing to speak up when the next situation of sexual assault or harassment occurs," said Fox. "The fact remains no change would have been initiated had I not resigned and the students had not protested the administrations willful deliberate indifference and worked very hard to cover up their mishandling of two (and perhaps more) serious sexual assaults. I hope things change for the better for the sake of all current and future students in the school system."