July 25, 2014

Sexual assault survey shows improvements needed (AUDIO)

A  survey of 440 public and private colleges and universities shows many of them have poor records of handling campus sexual assault complaints. Senator McCaskill, who had the survey run, says two-thirds of the schools responded, and 49 of the fifty largest campuses returned the surveys. She says that for-profit schools had the worst response record.

McCaskill is not revealing specific responses from specific institutions. She says she had to promise secrecy to get candid responses. But she says the findings should give parents and students plenty of questions to ask of the schools their children are attending or are considering attending.

McCaskill says legislation is being written that will be introduced in late August or early September.

Among the “disturbing” findings McCaskill cites are:

     –more than forty percent of schools have done no investigations of campus sexual assaults for five years.

     –One in five schools do not train faculty and staff on handling incidents and almost one-third of the responding schools provide no training for students.

     –One in ten schools fail to meet a federal requirement that they have a person on staff who coordinates compliance efforts by the institution, including investigation of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

     –Although federal law requires schools to have an adjudication process to determine if there was an assault and, if there was, to make some determinations, one-third of the schools did not train people to adjudicate claims, 43% of the largest public schools allowed students to help adjudicate cases–although the students might know the victims.

     –Twenty-two percent of schools allowed the athletic department to have oversight of cases involving athletes, a situation McCaskill calls “borderline outrageous.”

     –Only sixteen percent of schools survey students to get an idea of the number of sexual assaults or cases of sexual harassment that take place.

     –And coordination of campus police with city police is poor Less than one-third of the institutions provide their law enforcement officers with training on how to respond to reports of sexual violence and almost three-fourths of the responding institutions have no protocols for cooperative work by their campus law enforcement officers and municipal police.

McCaskill is not revealing specific responses from specific institutions. She says she had to promise secrecy to get candid responses. But she says the findings should give parents and students plenty of questions to ask of the schools their children are attending or are considering attending.

McCaskill says legislation is being written that will be introduced in late August or early September.

AUDIO: McCaskill conference call 36:27

Legislative Black Caucus member critical of caucus, Gov. Nixon for transfer bill veto

One member of the Legislative Black Caucus has strong criticism of that group and of Governor Jay Nixon (D), following the veto of legislation to change the state’s student transfer law.

Representative Courtney Curtis (D-Berkeley) says the issue has resulted in a “rift” in the Legislative Black Caucus.

Representative Courtney Curtis (photo courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

Representative Courtney Curtis (photo courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

Nixon on Tuesday made good on his promise to veto that legislation, SB 493. He says it would violate the state’s Constitution by allowing, in specific circumstances, tax dollars to go to private schools. He and other critics said the bill was merely an effort to get school voucher language into state law and did nothing to address the problems created by Missouri’s 1993 transfer law.

Curtis disagrees with that assessment.

“That was a clever marketing strategy, but that’s it,” says Curtis. “If you ask me it only allowed us to continue running in place, given that Normandy’s been unaccredited for the past 20 years, as opposed to taking a step forward towards progress.”

The Normandy district will be replaced July 1 with a new entity called the Normandy Schools Collaborative, that will have no accreditation status whatsoever. The State Board of Education has voted to prohibit new student transfers from that district and deny the transfers of more than 130 students who moved to the district last summer but didn’t attend it in the 2012-13 school year.

Curtis thinks the Board has acted based on the Governor’s announcement that he would veto the legislation, and says the combination of its actions and that veto leave Normandy students and parents trapped.

“It doesn’t leave (those parents and students) in a place where they have hope for progress,” says Curtis. “There will certainly be lawsuits against the Board’s actions. Even with regard to students not being able to continue transferring when they lawfully transferred in the first place, it only creates more uncertainty there.”

Curtis wants to see a plan for fixing the transfer issue from the governor, and has a similar criticism of the Legislative Black Caucus.

“Where is the leadership of the Black Caucus with regard to this issue?” asks Curtis. “It’s only our districts that are effected by the lack of action with regard to this issue”

Some of that caucus’ members and other House Democrats who opposed SB 493 said an alternative was offered, that they referred to as a “clean” transfer fix, but Curtis says it didn’t go far enough to address all the issues related to transfers.

Attempts to reach for an interview Representative Tommie Pierson (D-St. Louis), a Legislative Black Caucus member and critic of the transfer legislation, have been unsuccessful. Pierson joined Nixon at a media conference in St. Louis Tuesday to veto SB 493. He later released a statement saying Nixon is “to be commended for the veto” and called the legislation, “an anti-public education bill masquerading as a fix to the flawed student transfer law that is pushing previously financially stable districts into bankruptcy.”


McCaskill: campus sexual assault bill coming (AUDIO)

Senator McCaskill has wrapped up a series of study sessions with college and law enforcement leaders to find ways to deal with campus assaults.

McCaskill is one of a trio of Senators meeting with campus assault survivors, college administrators, law enforcement officials, and victim advocacy representatives. They’ve gotten a complicated picture of inconsistent policies and services dealings with victims and perpetrators.  

She says the meetings will produce legislation focused on simplifying and streamlining policies and providing more victim support. ”

“We need to have people who are trained to deal with victims in terms of getting them the services they need, making sure they understand the choices they have–On so many of these college campuses, they just don’t have the trained personnel that are available to investigate these issues or provide the victims support necessary,” she says.                                      

The meetings have noted that many sexual assault victims don’t know where to get help. McCaskill says dormitory advisors, rape-crisis centers, campus healthcare facilities, campus police and city police often are not talking to one another. That’s why she says schools need to ask if their campus police are trained in investigation as well as they should be and work with local law enforcement, and if the schools have a process in place to protect victims’ confidentiality and protects them if they want to go forward with a complaint..

AUDIO: McCaskill interview 8:44






Reflections on four decades of education (AUDIO)

One of Missouri’s top education leaders is preparing to step aside. The Missouri School Boards Association’s long-time Executive Director, Carter Ward, will step aside about a year from now after 42 years with the association, 22 of those years as its leader.

He says the increased commitments in accountability are some of the biggest changes he has witnessed, not only in what’s been taught but the intensity of demand by society to improve the overall quality of education. Ward recalls the highest math course high school students could take when he was a math teacher in Camdenton was trigonometry. Today, he says, some students test out of two or more years of college calculus.

While expectations for students have increased, expectations of school board members have increased, too. He says many board members spend many hours a week keeping up on the latest trends in education. But Ward says the political polarization of the nation has hit school boards too. And sometimes that means children get lost.

“Unfortunately we have people running today for school boards who are more interested in tax policy than they are about children,” he says, “And that was obviously never meant to be. The board of education as the name implies is about children and about providing a high quality public education.”

In the end, Ward says, the policy decisions made by local school boards must remain focused on the best service that can be given to the children of the district.

AUDIO: Ward interview 27:33

Patrol finds 85% of school buses safe (AUDIO)

Almost ninety percent of Missouri’s school buses have finished the year without safety concerns after the Highway Patrol’s inspection of almost 12,000 of them.

The annual inspections have found no problems with 10,161 Missouri school buses. But 1,431 have failed inspections for minor things such as a cracked tail light lens. The bus owners can continuing the using the bus because the condition is not considered unsafe. But the problem has to be fixed within ten days.

But Patrol spokesman John Hotz says 405 buses have been taken out of service because of problems that affect bus safety. “They could be exhaust leaks that allow exhaust to come up into the passenger compartment,” he says. Brakes are a frequent issue.  

The patrol won’t allow those buses back on the road until the major repairs have been made and the Patrol has ruled the buses roadworthy again.

On the other side of things is the Total Fleet Excellence recognition. It has gone to 258 school districts that had less than ten percent of their buses placed out of service.      

The buses have to go through a regular vehicle inspection before they can haul students for the next school year.

AUDIO: Hotz interview