Judy Neufeld-Fernandez, San Diego Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten
Judy Neufeld-Fernandez Biography
San Diego School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) counselor Hector Escalante is returning to school with the SDUSD HR department’s approval according to an article titled “School Counselor Accused of Sexual Harassment Back on Campus, Claim Alleges” by San Diego Union Tribune “Watchdog” Jeff McDonald.
Escalante was reported by Parent Corinne Peterson to have made inappropriate remarks and invitations to her daughter at school.
SDUSD parents would be alarmed to learn of the gap that exists between the legal definition of prosecutable child abuse and the behaviors toward children that are dangerous. Within that gap are known behaviors that are apparent before abuse. This is where districts must act to protect children in their care.
Every parent wants their child to be protected from immoral and harmful behavior while at school. However, parents MUST NOT assume their children are protected at school.
SDUSD does not seem to be willing to identify and respond to risky behaviors in adults. There remains a dire need to create policy that would enable administrators to enforce consequences toward employees that break boundaries. Instead, parents like Peterson, must act in the best interest of their child without assistance from a recalcitrant school district.
In this case, Peterson has submitted a claim against the district. This is the first step prior to filing a lawsuit. Without effective district protections for students, what else can a parent do when placed in this situation?
Unfortunately many SDUSD families do not have the resources, information and supports to protect their children like Corinne Peterson.
I was present at SDUSD meetings where Superintendent Cindy Marten and former School Police Chief Reuben Littlejohn were provided Student sexual abuse prevention resources and chose not to implement them.
These resources address pre-abuse behaviors intended to act prior to full blown sexual abuse. This is detailed in my previous posts on District Deeds.
Perhaps had these policies been adopted Corinne Peterson’s daughter’s situation would look much different. Instead we have a student being re traumatized by having to face her alleged harasser at school.
There is no safety plan SCPA could implement that would protect the victim in this situation. The district and the school are basically saying to the family, “Deal with it on your own, the employee is being sent back to the school site. “ Peterson’s daughter has already had a negative response to seeing the counselor on campus.
Clearly San Diego Unified and SCPA have made a choice that is not in the best interest of the child.
Parents must ask themselves what they would do in this situation. How would they protect their child when the district clearly refuses to?
Districts, including the SDUSD, are being sued at an alarming rate for failure to respond to inappropriate behaviors demonstrated by employees that later lead to abuse. However, some districts are distinguishing themselves and responding to sexual abuse at their schools.
According to Diane Cranley, a California-based child sexual abuse prevention consultant, “There’s an upswing in California schools who are attempting to tackle this issue of inappropriate seductive behavior that falls short of being illegal. The key is putting a formal boundary policy in place so administrators can take action when these behavioral boundaries are violated instead of waiting until a child is abused.”
Diane details the boundaries that are considered best practices in her book “8 Ways to Create their Fate: Protecting the Sexual Innocence of Children in Youth-Serving Organizations”. In addition to utilizing Diane’s book as a guide to establishing boundaries, school districts, insurance risk pools, and County Departments of Education are partnering with Cranley to create and deliver targeted training for administrators, teachers, and classified staff who are on the front lines with our children every day. “Jurupa Unified School District, San Jacinto Unified School District, Los Angeles County of Education, West San Gabriel Joint Power Authority, Riverside Schools’ Insurance Authority, Riverside Schools Risk Management Authority and CSAC Excess Insurance Authority are just a few of the organizations that have contracted with Cranley to help them implement crucial change that will better protect the kids in their care.
Cranley states, “I’m grateful for these organizational leaders who are creating a brighter safer future for our kids!”
In the absence of such interventions at SCPA and the SDUSD, Peterson finds herself in an impossible situation.
Bravo to Corinne Peterson for taking the only course available to her to protect her child and others. We owe her every support we can give as she fights a battle for basic safety of her child.
Don’t all children within San Diego Unified deserve simple Sexual Abuse protection?
If you have concerns at your school about the issues I have provided, please send us an email at email@example.com or leave a comment below expressing your viewpoint. We must speak up for our kids and demand best practices. Adults must speak up for kids to create the change necessary for child protection.
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Francisca Salcedo said:
As a mom of two current SDUSD students, I applaud Corrine Peterson’s actions to protect her child. In so doing, she will most definitely be helping every other student in the school district.
All stakeholders should have a say in the development and implementation of the district’s sexual abuse and harassment policies. We trust our district with our beloved children, so it’s imperative that parents be part of the ongoing discussion and monitoring of these policies.
Judith Neufeld-Fernandez said:
Thank you for your words of encouragement for Corinne Peterson.
I agree with you regarding the need for stakeholders to be a part of setting this very necessary boundary making policies. Cranley urges districts to create accountability teams to do just that.
In the absence of district action parents can start the discussion themselves and bring it to their site via parent training and discussion forums. Contacting your site administrator and asking what safeholds are in place is a first step. The School Site Safety Plan is required by law to be available in the front office for any citizen asking to peruse it. I encourage parents to inquire and see what exists. Compare it to the boundary suggestions in Diane Cranley’s work.
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