Reforming Our School Justice System

Justice RevealedA former student relates her sad experience of how the school justice system failed to protect her, and professor Rowe responds with a future solution

BEVELRY HILLS, CA ( 2020/10/25 – A voter writes:

When I was sexually harassed by teachers, it didn’t occur to me anyone would help me, given how much obstruction I experienced at school by administrators.

I’m very sorry to hear any student was put through that. While I may not be able to change the past, we can put a better school justice system in place for the future.

How would that work?

An online ticket tracking system for students and staff to report incidents. While incident details would be confidential for privacy and legal reasons, statistics on these reports would be automatically collected and published on the school’s website.

Police blotter data is available from cities, including Beverly Hills, but school justice systems have been opaque.

Viewing school justice system statistics, parents and students would understand what problems are being reported and how they are being resolved. We would know the types of incidents reported (e.g., sexual harassment, racism, bullying, shaming, shunning, unfairness…), by how many separate individuals, including how many were reported anonymously, and what type of actions are being taken by the school administration.

It should be remembered that the school justice system is not a criminal justice system. It is not appropriate for school administrators to take on functions of the police and courts. Collecting school justice data may address systemic problems, such as institutional racism, but is mainly to make everyone aware of school situations that need attention, for better training of staff or incidents that may require interventions.

No student or staff should feel unheard, that there is no one who will care. In the race for School Board are a child psychologist and a trail lawyer. Each have offered themselves as the individuals who will listen, to be a personal advocate for those who don’t have a voice. While that sounds charming, appointing a specialist to be a filter can make it worse.

The individual who wrote me noted it was the school counselor she went to, who dismissed her complaints, who discouraged her from ever complaining again. It’s unwise to give one person that kind of power, no matter what the credential or good intentions.

The transparency of an incident tracking system enables the entire community to be involved in brainstorming better school solutions.

Robin S. Rowe is running for BHUSD School Board in the November 2020 election.