Report: District knew of student’s sexual harassment allegations, but didn’t tell Seattle high school
An independent report confirms that Garfield High School’s choir teacher and parents were drinking and lax on enforcing rules on a field trip to New Orleans in March.
Choir Director Carol Burton is at risk of losing her job for violating those policies after two female students were groped by a 17-year-old classmate.
However, the district appears to have violated its own policies as well.
According to the report, the 17-year-old had been expelled from a private school just the year before for sexual harassment stemming from an incident on another field trip to New Orleans. The report says the teen and his mother were candid about his past problems, and even notified the district when the student transferred to Garfield High School in the fall of 2014.
District enrollment specialist Helen Lozan was responsible for following up with the teen, and together with Beryl Miller, who serves as the Seattle Public School’s Behavioral and Emotional Support Team Supervisor, they contacted the private school, as well as the student’s doctor and psychologist. Because the doctor claimed the teen’s previous behavior was an isolated incident and that he had not been taking necessary medication, Miller decided to admit the student without any restrictions on his extra-curricular activities.
Garfield High School Administrators were never notified. And when a background check using district software was conducted, nothing came up to suggest the teen should not be allowed to participate.
Garfield Principal Ted Howard, along with assistant principals, told investigators they should have been notified of the previous sexual harassment allegations. They said if they had known, the student either would not have been allowed on the trip or would have been monitored much more closely.
On the trip, two female students accused the 17-year-old of groping them repeatedly in public, on a bus to events, and in their hotel rooms.
The district is holding Burton responsible for the incidents because she admitted violating policies by drinking alcohol on the trip with parent chaperones and because investigators say she looked the other way while male and female students visited each other in their hotel rooms.
Students in the choir, as well as their parents and other teachers, have said Burton should not be held accountable because of the 17-year-old’s past.
The district recently strengthened its policies for overnight field trips after a female student was raped during a trip to the Olympic National Park in 2012.