The Departments of Justice and Education reached a settlement today with the Tehachapi Unified School District in Tehachapi, Calif. that emphasizes policies and measures to prevent bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
The agreement comes after 13-year-old Jacobsen Middle School student Seth Walsh committed suicide last September. The departments conducted an investigation surrounding the circumstances of Walsh's death following complaints that he was victim to bullying and harassment for being gay.
The investigation found that Walsh was harassed verbally, physically and sexually -- and the school district did not investigate or respond appropriately or adequately to complaints.
According to the resolution agreement determined today by the Departments of Justice and Education, the Tehachapi Unified School District must work to prevent sexual and gender-based harassment across its schools by:
- Responding appropriately to harassment that occurs and to eliminate the hostile environment resulting from harassment
- Revising its policies and regulations related to sexual and gender-based harassment
- Retaining a consultant to provide mandatory trainings on sexual and gender-based harassment for all students, administrators, teachers, counselors and staff who interact with students
- Assessing the presence of sexual and gender-based harassment in its schools through school climate surveys
- Adopting appropriate actions to address issues identified by those surveys
- Forming an advisory committee of administrators, students and parents to advise the district on school climate issues related to sex-based harassment
"We know that if students aren't safe, then students aren't learning," Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali said in a statement Friday. "Bullying, sexual harassment and gender stereotyping—of any student, including LBGT students—have no place in our nation's schools. We must work to stop those abusive behaviors when they take place, repair their harmful effects, and prevent them from happening in the future. Today's announcement is an important step in that direction."