Friday, October 15, 2004

Schools see decrease in harassment

Express Staff Writer

The number of investigations of sexual assault incidents within the Blaine County School District decreased considerably over the last five years with the implementation of education programs and the establishment of a Harassment Investigation Team.

The number of investigations in the district follows a downward trend according to Katie Palmer, the human resource director for the school district.

In the 2000-01 school year 10 cases were reported, 2001-02 school year 4 cases, 2002-03 school year 3 cases and 2003-04 school year 2 cases. Thus far, one case has been reported during the 2004-2005 school year.

In 2000, the district established the Harassment Investigation Team shortened to HIT to look into complaints of sexual assault.

?It?s a group of people used to confidential conversations with kids,? Palmer said.

The team consists of counselors and social workers trained to look into complaints. Two staff members investigate each incident. Those looking into a case are called to investigate complaints at schools different from their place of employment.

The district couples the investigation team with a district wide education component for students and staff. The education program is in place for all students, offering information to prevent and identify harassment.

?It is a separate program within the district to make sure everybody gets the information they need,? Palmer explained.

Students from kindergarten through 12th-grade take part in the education program. Palmer explained the education is age appropriate with the elementary information focusing on bullying and progressing in later years to sexual assault awareness.

?Each year it (the education) is more and more thorough,? Palmer stated.

The education program includes information on how to act appropriately, how to identify harassment and how to file a complaint.

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