Garfield High Principal Ted Howard has canceled overnight field trips at his Seattle school until he and his teachers get clearer guidance from downtown about chaperoning, permission forms and other policies.
Howard and other district officials have been criticized for their handling of allegations that a male student raped a female student in November 2012 during a Garfield High trip to an outdoor-education program in Olympic National Park.
The male student was never charged with a crime.
But the parents of the girl, who now live out of state, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, accusing the district of discriminating against their daughter, saying the district failed to do its own investigation promptly or appropriately. They also have alleged that the district failed to protect their daughter from retaliation from other students after she reported the incident.
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Last month Superintendent Larry Nyland announced the district would review sexual-harassment policies and cooperate with a U.S. Department of Education’s investigation. A districtwide task force that includes staff, parents, students and community experts also will advise the superintendent.
So far, Garfield is the only Seattle high school to suspend overnight field trips, but Kirk Wohlers, co-president of the Garfield PTSA, said other principals should follow suit.
Wohlers met with Howard Friday to discuss Howard’s decision, which was announced in a letter to parents on Wednesday.
“We support Ted’s decision and we want to put the pressure on the district to get this right as soon as possible and get these field trips going again,” Wohlers said.
Howard did not return calls seeking comment.
The district already has field-trip policies in place, according a district spokeswoman.
But in his letter, the Garfield principal linked to a list of suggestions, saying he thinks the district’s field-trip paperwork is inconsistent and incomplete.
For example, Howard says the district needs to create a new protocol for making sure students are in their own beds all night, which might include checks every two or three hours until morning.