With the new school year underway, the I-Team asked some tough questions about the way New York City’s Department of Education handles sexual misconduct in the classroom. The answers were troubling.
Last year, cases of sexual misconduct in City schools rose 16 percent from the previous year and at least 10 school staffers were arrested for sex crimes including a teacher’s aide who pled not guilty to making child pornography inside a Crown Heights classroom.
Federal law requires public schools designate one employee as a “Title IX Coordinator” to handle student sex complaints. Under the law, the name and contact information for that person are required to be public and something parents and students can easily find, but the I-Team discovered a number of school officials -- when asked -- couldn’t name their Title IX representative or gave the wrong name.
"Every parent in the school is supposed to know who the Title IX Representative is, and we don't," said Mona Davids. She is mother of two and the president of the New York City Parents’ Union.
“I'm certain there are hundreds of schools that don't have Title IX representatives," said Davids, whose parents’ union has blasted the NYC Department of Education for its handling of teacher sex abuse.
When the I-Team asked NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott about Title IX Coordinators, he said, “The press office can get back to you about all schools. I mean, we’re a large school system. We have 1,750 schools.”
Walcott’s press office later sent an email saying their interpretation of the law differs from parents we’ve interviewed and insists that individual schools do not have to designate a Title IX Coordinator because the district has one coordinator who serves all schools.
Her name is Victoria Ajibade.
"I don't think that students in New York City public schools know who their Title IX Coordinator,” said Nefertiti Martin, a Brooklyn community organizer with the group Girls for Gender Equity.
Two years ago she conducted a simple, unscientific survey and found many school administrators did not know, or would not name, their Title IX Coordinator.
"We called about 200 schools,” explained Martin.
Using that model, the I-Team sent an anonymous e-mail to more than 340 City high schools simply asking, “Could you please write back with contact information for the school’s Title IX Coordinator?”
We received some confusing answers including one principal who wrote, “In high schools, there is no Title IX Coordinator.”
Another responded, “There is no such title.”
Others asked for clarification of the I-Team’s request or told us to call 311.
In all, only 24 schools returned our e-mail within a week, and none named Ajibade as their coordinator.
The I-Team spoke to a number of high school students and asked if any could name the person who specifically handles complaints of sexual misconduct at their school.
All explained that they didn’t even know there was such a person.
"If any teacher were to inappropriately touch my daughter, you better believe I would be one of the first parents to sue," said Davids.
While many private businesses hold workshops and mandatory presentations on sexual misconduct, in part to avoid lawsuits, the I-Team has learned the DOE has little or no such training.
Using the Freedom of Information Law, the I-Team requested copies of all training materials used by the DOE pertaining to improper touching of students. After two months the DOE responded with a copy of Chancellor’s Regulation A-830 which forbids improper touching.
The response included no evidence the district holds mandatory workshops, continuing education, instructional videos or presentations to staff about sexual misconduct with students.