Kern High School District trustees heard but took no action on an item Tuesday night that asked the board to reconsider the district's sexual harassment policies. The item was brought to the attention of the board in response to several students from Ridgeview High sharing allegations of harassment and assault on social media.
“Students feel that inadequate action has been taken on the part of the administration at Ridgeview and the Kern High School District,” Hector Cabrera Jr. told the board in a public comment.
Cabrera, a student at Cal State Bakersfield, graduated from Ridgeview last year, and he noticed a couple of weeks ago that a Ridgeview student posted on social media that she had been sexually assaulted by another student. That opened the floodgates from many other Ridgeview students who shared other allegations of sexual harassment, assault and rape by fellow students, Cabrera said.
“It was like an avalanche,” he said.
Cabrera said it became clear that many of the students who came forward wanted more from school officials. So he and other students reached out to those who shared their stories to come up with a list of items for the board to take action on.
“None of these demands are radical,” Cabrera said.
The list asked for an investigation into sexual harassment claims, an increase in funding of sexual assault prevention for students as well as school security, more communication about victimized students' rights, for "assailants" to be removed from campus or from the victims' classes during investigation and for a shift away from dress codes perceived as "anti-women."
Assistant Superintendent Dean McGee told the board that the district already had a stringent anti-harassment policy and asked students to share their allegations with school officials whether the incidents happened on campus or off. He said Ridgeview and KHSD are taking the claims seriously.
McGee told the board there were two anonymous reports made through its site on Saturday night. On Sunday, the school and the Title IX coordinator began investigating and contacted four students. On Monday, Ridgeview notified the Bakersfield Police Department in all four cases.
"The proposal was not a critique of board policy; it was a proposal to better the existing policies and build on them," Cabrera responded.