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Focus groups give student feedback on sexual misconduct policy


By Anna Rhoads ’19

After complaints about the sexual misconduct policy and the need for student feedback, Principal James D’Amico sent an email to all Staples students encouraging them to participate in two focus groups.

These focus groups were designed to give feedback on a proposed new sexual misconduct policy. Students expressed their opinions and gave suggestions to D’Amico.

The focus groups were facilitated by Coordinator of Psychological Services, Dr. Valerie Babich and  Coordinator of School Nursing, Suzanne Levasseur. “ Students provided many helpful suggestions to support students who are coming forward with these issues and making a complaint,” Babich and Levasseur said.

Suggestions included: more trained female title IX coordinators, making the regulations more accessible to students or families and specific recommendations to the wording used in the regulations.

Babich and Levasseur wrote that the suggestions will be shared with Superintendent Colleen Palmer, who will review them with an attorney. “Although some of the suggestions may not end up being reflected in the final regulations, there are recommendations that we can incorporate into our practices to help support students,” Babich and Levasseur wrote.

Principal James D’Amico sent an email addressed to students who signed up for the focus groups that provided a link to the misconduct policy draft. D’Amico wrote in the email, “Thank you for your interest in making sure that the district hears from students on this important set of regulations that foster a positive climate in our school,” along with some information about who would be facilitating the focus groups and when they would be. The draft was provided in the email so that students could read and make comments on it before the groups were held.

This draft included formal definitions of sexual misconduct, the complaint procedure, information regarding the Title IX Coordinator and a complaint form concerning sexual discrimination and harassment.

Although the administration pushed for a more collaborative approach to their reworking of policy, to some, it was not as effective as expected.

According to an anonymous source, “[the focus group conversation] talked mostly about policy and didn’t go into rules and regulations as much as people hoped.”

The focus groups went on throughout the month of March, but according to the facilitators, they are still being conducted. As focus groups continue to be held, the policy will continue to be reworked. According to Levasseur and Babich, changes to the sexual misconduct policy are “ still in progress.”


(Photo contributed by Alex Von Kleydorff from Westport News. The picture was taken in January when students like Avery Landon ’18, went to a Westport Board of Education meeting to request more student involvement in the sexual misconduct policy.)

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