San Diego’s Solution to Sexual Assault in Schools

Recently, the San Diego Unified School District Board recently directed the District Superintendent to create a task force in order to recommend new protocol for handling and preventing the sexual harassment of students. 

The task included details such as “identifying best practices among child-serving institutions locally, nationally and internationally, which have developed comprehensive inter-agency protocols and practices designed to protect children from sexual harassment and abuse” and “recommending to the board necessary actions to create a comprehensive multi-agency cooperation protocol for the district regarding the reporting, response, and prevention of sexual harassment and abuse of district students.”

This initiative has been taken due to increased sexual assault cases within the School District. District Attorney Summer Stephan said in an interview that she has seen schools countywide mishandle complaints of abuse. “We noticed some misunderstandings and some kinds of gaps in the way the mandated reporting laws were being applied,” Stephan said. 

The task force will have prefatory findings and proposals by January. Employees will often report allegations to the wrong person or agency, like school police or security. Reports of abuse can often be delayed or lost when they are bounced around different agencies.

Agencies like Child Protective Services may receive reports from schools, however, they only process cases of home abuse. This results in victims sometimes not hearing back once they do come forward. Stephan went on to explain that “the law says such complaints must be reported to outside law enforcement, because school police or security officers may have a conflict of interest.”

An additional flaw in the current system is the confusion of mandated reporters or those who are required by law to notify officials in case of sexual assault within a school. Last year, Stephan launched a campaign to distribute 40,000 brochures and cards to school districts to teach school faculty about their mandated reporting duties.

The district attorney’s task force will refer reports of presumed abuse to appropriate law enforcing agencies and may even investigate complaints itself.


Photo by Matt Ragland