Friday, February 18, 2000
School's Title IX officer issues report on 1984 complaint
In a page-and-a-half Title IX report on the investigation of a complaint that a student was sexually harassed by middle school teacher Steve Bober in 1984, Carlisle School Title IX officer Dr. Linda Stapp found that the "behaviors described do not constitute sexual harassment." The Carlisle School Committee heard the report on February 8. In a telephone interview, Stapp clarified that this "current investigation" was a response to a formal complaint she had received in December 1999. The report, signed and dated February 4, is as follows:
Title IX investigation report - January 2000
"The current investigation included an allegation of sexual harassment made by a young woman who claimed she was harassed in 1984 by her teacher, Mr. Bober. Previous allegations that had been reported to OCR [Office of Civil Rights], after review within the school, were included as information for added perspective regarding the allegation that a 'pattern of inappropriate behavior' has been tolerated at the school.
"Based upon a review of written documents (including letters written by as many as nine former students or their parents), interviews or phone conversations with the young lady from 1984, parents of the young ladies who had come to the school committee in December, Mr. Bober and Mr. Bober's former supervisors, and my own observations of Mr. Bober, I make the determination that the behaviors described do not constitute sexual harassment. Facts were reviewed and evaluated using the 'reasonable female student's perspective' when making the determination.
"Any action recommended to Mr. Bober is an internal, personnel matter and will not be released to the public.
"For the school community, I recommend continued training opportunities for students, staff and parents. Students need to learn what constitutes sexual harassment and what they must do if they suspect sexual harassment has occurred within their school. The adults throughout the school need to continue to build their awareness of sexual harassment so they can intervene when they see evidence of it among students, be aware of their own behavior, and know their responsibilities when they question whether or not sexual harassment has occurred within the school. Parents need to be aware of what we are teaching their children, be involved in discussions with their children, and work as partners with the school in creating a safe and secure learning environment, free of any form of sexual harassment.
"I would further recommend that the recently revised Sexual Harassment Policy be reviewed during the 2000-2001 school year, with input from the community. A great deal of awareness has been raised throughout the community around this issue over the last several months. We are in the process of 'testing' the policy and we should use our hard-won lessons to create an even more effective policy. Parents and concerned citizens have been encouraged to put their thoughts and suggestions in writing and submit them to the school. I have already received two such letters and they will be carefully considered. I hope that parents will continue to submit their views in writing so that their views can also be considered.
"As a result of the discussions and accusations raised over the last several months, I feel that we need a more formal way of documenting some of the critical issues that confront our students. I recommend that the guidance counselors, in conjunction with administration, develop a confidential reporting system to record any reports of a target behavior (possible drugs or alcohol use, allegation of sexual harassment, eating disorders, school phobia/anxiety disorders, etc.) This information could then be tracked and monitored more carefully, with any possible trends or patterns more easily identified. This confidential information could also be reported in some form to the community to help build awareness and sensitivity to the many issues confronting Carlisle students. This system for documentation would not be in place of reporting allegations of sexual harassment to the Title IX officer, but would be an additional method for gathering information about the needs and concerns of students."
Parent Sandy Savage asked Stapp whether she had included the stories of the four high school girls, including her daughter, in the January 2000 Title IX investigation of the incident in 1984. Stapp replied that the cases of the four girls were beyond this particular incident and that their information had been reported in another setting. "Their information was not new information." In a telephone interview, Stapp said that while she did not investigate those complaints, she took into consideration the letters which were written by three former female students (including Savage's daughter) to the Mosquito (December 3, 1999) about their complaints regarding the teacher's behavior. However, she also considered letters of support from students.
When Savage asked whether the school had recently been involved in any more complaints, Stapp replied, "I am not aware of any. I have not received any formal complaints." In a telephone interview, Stapp clarified that the 1984 complaint is the only formal complaint against Mr. Bober which she has received. Asked about one other letter from the parent of a former student, Stapp replied that the letter had not been received prior to this investigation and information about how to file a formal complaint was forwarded.
At the meeting, Savage commented, "I am trying to understand what information the community has access to." She then asked about the location of the school committee minutes which are supposed to be made available to the public. Secretary to the superintendent Peg Lynch said, "I send copies of the minutes to Gleason Library. I do not know how they file them or how they are keeping them. The minutes are also posted in the school." The CSC minutes through January 18 are on file at Gleason Library and will be on file from now on at the Town Hall.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito