PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — A group of high school students on Sunday protested outside the house of a Santa Clara County supervisor, angry that he recently voted against proceeding with a study of sexual assault and harassment policies in schools and colleges the students contend would help improve student safety in Santa Clara County.

The group, which organizer Rachel Sun said included a number of high-school-age victims of sexual assault, gathered Sunday at Palo Alto’s Duveneck Elementary School and then marched a few blocks to the home of Supervisor Joe Simitian. Sun and other protesters contend Simitian has used “procedural stalling tactics” to allow imposition of new Title IX regulations for high school and college policies and procedures for handling sexual violence.

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These procedures have been supported by Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of education, and critics say these procedures penalize victims of assault.

Protesters, with masks and social distancing, demanded Simitian back the measure when it returns to the Board of Supervisors in November.

In a statement, Sun – a senior at Gunn High School in Palo Alto – said 45 “student survivors” gave two hours of testimony at a recent board meeting. Why would Simitian listen to Betsy DeVos but not us, the students in his own district?” she said.

According to recent Palo Alto High School graduate Alexa Aalami, a founder of the student group Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment, the study Simitian voted against was important because, with the new Title IX regulations, school and college policies and procedures for handling sexual violence have been placed into disarray.

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“Survivors are falling through the cracks, and we need the county to step up to the plate and help parents and students to see how their schools are handling sexual violence,” Aalami said.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 22 to oppose moving ahead with an investigation into the uniformity and enforcement of all of the county’s sex- and gender-based discrimination and harassment policies in county schools. Simitian, along with Susan Ellenberg and Mike Wasserman, voted to delay any investigation for at least 60 days, giving the supervisors and county staff time to gather more information about the possible investigation.

It is scheduled to come before the supervisors on Nov. 17.


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