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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Valley High School Statement Regarding Aug. 21 Des Moines Register Article

Dear Valley High School Families:

The August 21, 2016, Des Moines Register article about former Valley High School students addresses sexual assault among our young adults. We worked with reporter Lee Rood on the article to help shed light on the issue, gain support for victims, and address the need for further guidance and resources for K-12 school districts.

While the incidents reported recently in the news did not occur during school hours or in our building, we must care for our students and respond to their needs.

In the article, we acknowledge that our staff members at the time did the best they could with the guidance, training, and information they had, but we could have done better. We know more today and would respond differently than we did in the past.

Since 2013, the West Des Moines Community Schools administration has received Title IX training in investigating and responding to reports of sexual assault and harassment and supporting students who experience this trauma.

We have also updated our policies, procedures, and handbooks to better address sexual assault/harassment and discipline. In addition, we revised our code of conduct this summer regarding discipline and criminal charges. These are important because they guide our actions and help safeguard our students. We have also added resources for students and parents, which are listed below.

These improvements would not have been possible if not for the courage of the Valley High School graduates identified in the Des Moines Register article. While still at Valley, the students met with administrators to share how our school and district could improve. The student organization they founded—Valley Students Against Sexual Assault—continues today, working with us to raise awareness for support and prevention.

As the article states, Valley is not alone in this issue. Colleges, universities, and school districts across the country are grappling with how to best support and safeguard our students against sexual assault. We know even more can be done in this area and will reach out to experts and the Department of Education to assist us.

With the changes that have been implemented and our continued attention to this issue, I am confident in our ability to effectively deal with this type of unfortunate situation should we ever have to in the future.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact me or our Title IX Coordinator Janelle Green, whose contact information is listed below.

Best regards,

Tim Miller, Principal
Valley High School
Resources for Reporting and Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment

School Board Policy 502.2 Equal Educational Opportunities: Prohibition of Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying Toward Students

Valley High School Student & Family HandbookThe following information is from page 37 of the Valley High School handbook, which all parents/guardians must acknowledge having read prior to registering their students.

  • Sexual Assault Support:  At Valley High School, our goal to have a safe, educational learning environment means empowering students to speak up and inform school personnel if they are the victim of sexual harassment, abuse and/or assault on or off school grounds. All students have the right to attend Valley High School and not have to experience an environment of fear, shame or guilt. In recognizing the first step is sharing their story, students are encouraged to contact a counselor, school administrator, or WDMCSD Title IX Coordinator, Mrs. Janelle Green, Director of Human Resources. If that is not a viable option, please contact: Polk County Crisis & Advocacy Services 2309 Euclid, Polk County River Place, Des Moines, IA 50310 515-286-3600 (main) or 515-286-2027 (direct).  In speaking with a crisis counselor, it does not mean having to talk or report to the police; any discussion you have with the counselor will remain confidential and parents will not be notified unless given permission. These services and counselors are available 24 hours a day to help guide you in understanding the proper steps for you.

Sexual Abuse, Family Violence Resources: Victim Services (child/adult) (sexual/physical assault) – 286-3838. This resource is provided on page 40 in the “Support Services” section of the Valley High School Student & Family Handbook.

Student Activity Conduct CodeThe full code of conduct was updated this summer and may be found on page 15 of the  Valley High School Student & Family Handbook. The conduct code applies to students involved in an extracurricular or cocurricular activity anytime during the year (in-season and offseason and during the academic year as well as summer months; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 12 months a year) and on or off school property. It also applies to conduct violations unrelated to school events.

Preventing Child & Youth Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and AssaultThis brochure is available to families at registration and on the district’s website.

Report an IncidentThe “Bullying/Harassment Complaint Form” is available on the “Student” tab of the district’s website and on page D36 of the district’s section of the  Valley High School Student & Family Handbook.

Title IX Coordinator: The West Des Moines Community Schools Title IX Coordinator is Director of Human Resources Janelle Green, who may be reached at 515-633-5036

Know Your Rights: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities.  All public and private elementary and secondary schools, school districts, colleges, and universities (hereinafter “ schools”) receiving any Federal funds must comply with Title IX. Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. Learn more here