Parents Upset Over School Policy on Sexual Harassment

A seven-year-old accused of inappropriately touching his classmates has withdrawn from the School of Arts and Sciences in Tallahassee. The school says they gave that child's parents information on affordable counseling.

But other parents say they're still not happy with the way the school has handled the situation. Enraged parents went before the School of Arts and Sciences board on Wednesday night, angry at what they say is a flaw in the school's policy on sexual harassment.

Dewain Rester, a parent, says, “Our policy has no backbone whatsoever and we need to change it."

Because the school is a charter school, it writes its own policies. Parents say it wasn't strong enough. They want a better policy in place after learning a seven-year-old student either inappropriately touched their child or exposed himself to other students in the classroom.

The child was suspended and eventually withdrew, but never expelled like some parents say should've happened.

Jennifer Johnson, whose child was victimized by another student, says, "I would like to see corrective action taken by the principal, as well as the teacher. I would like to see therapy and training for the students as well as training for the staff."

Johnson says another parent helped bring in a counselor on Monday. The school says it currently does not have a full-time guidance counselor, but is working to get one.

Johnson says when the counselor was made aware of the incidents, he reported it to the child abuse hotline on behalf of the school, but parents say that should've happened sooner and the school should've reported the incidents to the hotline when they happened.

Principal Debo Powers says, "These are the kinds of serious issues that face people in schools all the time, and people that work with children have to keep in mind the health and safety of the children involved, and that's what we do here. That's what our school is all about.

Powers says an age appropriate sexual harassment training program for students starts next month. For example, "good touch, bad touch" for younger students. School staff will also undergo training.

The school says it is also changing the policy this week to work in line with the Leon County school policies and eventually will be adjusted to fit the needs of the school.

It was confirmed by Department of Children and Families that if a teacher or school official is aware of any type of abuse or if they suspect abuse, it must be reported to the child abuse hotline, even if it's a child against a child.

If anything, parents and the school hope that what's happened here will make parents aware of the fact that they must teach their children about what's appropriate and what's not and that it's ok to tell a trusted adult.

Parents say the school is a good school and they want to get this issue resolved so they and their children can move on.


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