BVH responds to sexual assault and harrassment allegations against students

On+Aug.+12+BVH+responded+to+the+discussions+regarding+sexual+assault+and+harassment+allegations+within+BVH+on+both+Twitter+and+Instagram.+The+posts+direct+students+to+reach+out+to+administration+when+concerned+about+student+safety.+

Provided by the BVH Barons Twitter

On Aug. 12 BVH responded to the discussions regarding sexual assault and harassment allegations within BVH on both Twitter and Instagram. The posts direct students to reach out to administration when concerned about student safety.

On Friday, Aug. 7, a Bonita Vista High student was accused of sexual assault by a fellow student through a public Instagram post that has amassed over 11,000 likes as of Aug. 19. Following this post, several other BVH students have posted allegations of sexual assault and harrassment against the same student and others, leading BVH to respond through social media platforms. 

Administration initially responded to the social media posts and an email petition to expel one accused student, with the following statement on the official Associated Student Body (ASB) Instagram and BVH school Twitter accounts: “With recent posts from the BVH community, a reminder that if you need to report a concern about a staff member or student, please reach out directly to your Principal and Assistant Principals. Our emails are on the BVH website. Student safety is always our top priority.” 

That statement was posted on Wednesday, Aug. 12. The following day, the ASB officers released another notice on their Instagram account updating the public on BVH’s response to the allegations. 

“We would like to inform you that our administrative team is dealing with everything, the Chula Vista Police Department and school resource officers have been involved. Due to the severity of the issue, these legal matters are being managed by the appropriate personnel and is out of the hands of the ASB. Updates will be posted when new information arises,” the ASB officers wrote in the post.

They also stated that they are “only allowed to post objective information before any allegations are proven true,” and “are not concealing [their] support rather taking the time to gather the right information and abide by the rules of [the BVH] administration before posting anything on this platform.”

BVH’s process for responding to sexual harassment allegations is outlined in the Administrative Regulation (AR) 5145.7, which outlines that “Prohibited sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature made by someone from or in the educational setting.”

Part of the process the administration conducts when allegations involving sexual harassment are made, includes interviewing the alleged victim, the alleged perpetrator, parents or guardians of students involved, any witnesses and anyone else with relevant information, according to AR 5145.7. Additionally, administration files a Child Protective Services (CPS) report and provides protection for the student who made allegations so that an effective investigation can be conducted. 

“There’s a wide array of tools that we have in our toolbox that help during these types of situations. What we do, pending investigations, in order to make sure everyones out of harm’s way is [as follows]. In addition to filing the CPS report and letting the authorities know, with students, we often put the student [who is accused] on short term independent study so that student doesn’t have access to the campus and in some cases the person who made the complaint might feel more safe that that person’s not on campus,” BVH principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D, said.

In the case of the original allegations posted on Instagram, a change.org petition was also created to expel the alleged perpetrator from BVH. Now, the URL leads viewers to this message on the change.org website: “This petition isn’t available. Either the URL is incorrect, it violated our Community Guidelines, or the starter removed it.” Amid the numerous allegations made against BVH students, some detail alleged incidents that occurred off campus while others describe alleged harassment on campus. 

Del Rosario clarified that in order for administration to take action on the results of an investigation, there has to be a clear nexus — or connection — between the incident and the school.

“There’s a wide array of legal issues that our families face — students and parents. I think that it’s a protection that we have to take serious[ly] that what happens out in people’s lives stops at the doors of schools. And there has to be that nexus here at school,” Del Rosario said. “So even if you hear about some egregious offense, we operate under clear guidelines and it doesn’t automatically mean that this person is being investigated for a crime that happened off campus, it doesn’t mean they automatically lose that right [to come to school].”

If an incident of sexual harassment or assault did occur on campus, however, then “that’s a clear nexus to school and that’s a whole different situation,” Del Rosario said. 

Within their post, the ASB also explained that their focus on objective information does not mean they are “against those who spoke out about their experiences.” As of Aug. 13, no information regarding the allegations has been posted on the BVH website or sent through JupiterEd messages. However, according to the ASB’s post, resources are to be provided to students in the future. 

“I’m working with the ASB students and the BVTV to come up with a series of telecasts, even though we’re in the pandemic, to really talk about some of these issues. There’s been a lot of work to really unearth what these patterns [in sexual assault predators] are and I think it’s important that adults not only be aware of them, but that the students be aware of them,” Del Rosario said. “[The] idea with the BVTV is to get counselors, administrators, law enforcement, even people that are survivors of sexual assault to tell their story, I think it can really shine a light on how to be proactive and recognize when you might be in trouble, or when someone you know might be in trouble.”

In addition to resources BVH will be providing this year, Del Rosario stated he believes the most effective prevention of sexual harassment and assault incidents involves creating a sense of trust between students and staff. 

“I’ve always found that the most powerful weapon against this kind of thing happening is having a culture and climate where students trust the adults. And that happens when adults listen. And when students feel empowered that they’re not being ignored and that’s a lot of work,” Del Rosario said. 

In the meantime, Assistant Principals Jennifer Barker-Heinz and Esther Wise are leading the investigation regarding the recent allegations, but are working with Sweetwater Union High School District Chief Compliance Officer, Vernon Moore. The conclusion reached by the Assistant Principals will guide BVH administration’s further actions.

Additionally, the ASB is taking steps to provide resources such as the P3 Tips program, peer mediation groups and other resources for awareness and communication in response to this instance.

“Our ASB truly does have the best intentions for everyone around BVHS and does not want anyone to feel as if they are silenced. We plan on providing resources for students when more information gets confirmed. Until then, please voice your concerns by direct messaging us (@bvhs_asb) to make this as professional as possible,” the ASB post read. “We are open to discussion about any concerns or solutions you have regarding what we can do as students. Now more than ever, we need to work together to make a positive impact on these serious issues and help those who have been affected the most.”