Community questions sexual assault policy of Lansing School District

Posted: 8:30 AM, Oct 21, 2016
Updated: 2016-10-21 08:30:03-04

A dozen people came to the Lansing Board of Education meeting Thursday night to ask the board how it is treating students who report sexual assault.

"Any time a child wants to disclose sexual trauma, and they don't feel like they're going to be believed because of the way that the administration has handled things in the past, it really prevents them from coming forward," Tashmica Torok, the Executive Director of the Firecracker Foundation, which provides services for child survivors of sexual trauma, said. "Which then really prevents us from being able to address perpetrators who then might be harming more children."

Torok says she wanted to address the Board to make sure students aren't punished for reporting. The Lansing School District's code of conduct used to say students could be disciplined for sexual acts, regardless of consent.

"It needs to start from the top down. They are the ones that are going to be making decisions about policies and procedures that are going to impact the schools that they are managing," Torok said.

Board President Peter Spadafore responded immediately to the public comments and asked the people who expressed concern to meet with Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul.

"It's very important that members of the community feel comfortable coming to speak to us when they feel the policy needs to be adjusted," Spadafore said.

He says policy has been changed, he just does not know exactly how. The new policy is not available online anywhere, but Trustee Myra Ford says it will be eventually, part of the work was sent to a company and she is waiting for the policy to be returned.

"We have really heard some of the complaints that might have been addressed toward the student code of conduct and worked to change the document so that's it's more responsive, more reflective of that input," Spadafore said.

Torok says meeting with the superintendent will be a step in the right direction, and she's looking forward to it.