Student safety is district's first priority
Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our children in CH-UH schools. Sexual harassment in schools has been a topic of much concern and conversation recently, both here in the Heights and across the nation. As a mother and as president of our CH-UH Board of Education (BOE), I take this matter extremely seriously. I know that our community members, staff, and board members do, too.
I want to share a few of the steps we are taking in order to create the safest school environment possible for our students:
- Education is a key to preventing sexual misconduct. The district is currently investigating a comprehensive, age-appropriate sex-education curriculum.
- We are exploring changes to our dress code to make it forward-thinking and appropriate for 2022, utilizing best-practice examples from school districts that have successfully instituted such changes.
- Superintendent Kirby and Heights High building leadership have been listening carefully to our students’ concerns and have taken action alongside them to create positive change. Initiatives over the last several months at Heights High include ongoing dialogue with student groups, identifying a trusted adult for each and every student, student informational assemblies, healthy-relationship workshops, and sharing resources.
Our student leaders are focused on developing solutions and we will continue to collaborate with them. [In a March letter to Heights High staff, students and families] Superintendent Kirby documented just some of the ongoing efforts designed to support our students.
- We will continue to enhance staff training on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations and how to effectively implement students’ safety plans. We will expand this training to even more adults working in our building[s], increase the frequency of such training, and build upon our current professional development curriculum.
- Education around Title IX and sexual harrasment is ongoing. During the second semester student assemblies, our school social workers and district Title IX officers shared presentations about Title IX and sexual harrassment, as well as information from the Cleveland Heights Police Department.
- In January, Superintendent Kirby convened a committee of stakeholders to work on a root-cause analysis of the district’s needs in this area. The committee is composed of students, parents and staff across multiple roles in CH-UH. The committee leaders will share its findings and district recommendations at the April 19 BOE work session.
We will continue to communicate with our students, teachers, and community about our ongoing efforts in these areas. Sexual misconduct will not be tolerated in our schools. We appreciate the courage and strength it takes to report these highly sensitive matters, and we urge any student who has been the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault to promptly report that information to the district’s Title IX coordinators or to another trusted member of our staff. Our commitment is steadfast in responding promptly, effectively and equitably to all reports of sexual misconduct, and we are determined to make our school the safe, welcoming facility we all want and deserve.
Malia Lewis is president of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education, parent of two Heights High graduates (2019), and a small-business owner.