More needs to be done by San Diego Unified School District administrators to prevent sexual assaults from occurring at public schools, says Esther Warkov, cofounder and executive director of Stop Sexual Assaults in Schools.
Warkov, whose teenage daughter was sexually assaulted by a classmate while attending a public school in Washington, released a statement in response to a now-closed federal investigation of San Diego Unified School District over its handling of student-on-student sexual assaults at Green Elementary in 2013.
Those allegations resurfaced, as reported by the Reader, after the district's lead investigator, Michael Gurrieri, filed a lawsuit against San Diego Unified for firing him after he claimed to have found evidence that the San Carlos elementary school's principal had been drinking on the job and failed to properly investigate a number of sexual assault complaints.
According to the lawsuit, the investigation began after parents of a kindergartener complained that a student had forced oral copulation on their son in a bathroom in May of 2013. Gurrieri said he later discovered that Green's former principal, Bruce Ferguson, who has since been transferred to another position, had buried the complaint and others. In January 2016, attorneys for San Diego Unified said the firing was justified and that Gurrieri was unable to fulfill his job requirements.
Around the same time the lawsuit was filed, federal investigators began to look into the matter.
As reported by KPBS affiliate Inewsource in a May 6 article, federal investigators have since closed the investigation after district officials admitted mishandling the complaint. As part of the agreement, the district has implemented new training guidelines to ensure similar lapses do not occur.
News of the federal investigation and allegations from Gurrieri questioning San Diego Unified's handling of sexual assault complaints have drawn the attention of student-rights activists such as Warkov.
"The district's response to the Title IX complaint that warranted a U.S. Department of Education investigation is deeply disturbing," wrote Warkov in a May 7 statement. "...I call on [superintendent Cindy Marten, and San Diego Unified trustees] to implement a campaign to educate students, families, and all stakeholders about gender-based discrimination, unwelcome sexual touching, sexual harassment, and sexual assault."
Warkov requested that the district ensure that all teachers and staff are properly trained to follow federal laws when looking into reports of sexual assault and/or harassment on public school campuses.