A group of high school students on Sunday protested outside the Palo Alto home of a Santa Clara County supervisor over a September decision by the Board of Supervisors to collect more background on a proposed study of sexual assault and harassment policies in schools and colleges.
The group, which organizer Rachel Sun said included a number of high-school-age victims of sexual assault, gathered Sunday at Palo Alto's Duveneck Elementary School and then marched a few blocks to the home of Supervisor Joe Simitian. Sun and other protesters contend Simitian has used "procedural stalling tactics" to allow the imposition of new Title IX regulations for high school and college policies and procedures for handling sexual violence.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 22 to oppose moving ahead with an investigation into the uniformity and enforcement of all of the county's sex- and gender-based discrimination and harassment policies in county schools.
The proposal by Supervisor Dave Cortese would task the county with pulling together what's happening across each level of education.
"The reason that this is being brought forward now … is just because Betsy DeVos at the federal level .. basically more narrowly tailored the criteria for what would constitute Title IX violations," Cortese said at the September meeting.
Simitian, along with Supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Mike Wasserman, voted to delay any investigation for at least 60 days, giving the supervisors and county staff time to gather more information about the possible investigation.
The board requested county staff return on Nov. 17 with a recommended scope of work for the study.
"The Board majority thought that the work should be done thoughtfully and thoroughly. These issues are too important to do otherwise," Simitian said in a statement to this news organization.
On Sunday, protesters, wearing masks and practicing social distancing, demanded Simitian back the measure when it returns to the board of supervisors in November.
In a statement, Sun — a senior at Gunn High School in Palo Alto — said 45 "student survivors" gave two hours of testimony at the board meeting.
According to recent Palo Alto High School graduate Alexa Aalami, a founder of the student group Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment, the study was important because, with the new Title IX regulations, school and college policies and procedures for handling sexual violence have been placed into disarray.
"Survivors are falling though the cracks, and we need the county to step up to the plate and help parents and students to see how their schools are handling sexual violence," Aalami said.
Editor's note: This story incorrectly reported the Sept. 22 action taken by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Mountain View Online regrets the error.