Addressing the Sexual Assault Reports at Coho Dance

Trigger warning: description of sexual assault

Photo+taken+by+Cody+Kennedy

Photo taken by Cody Kennedy

Ava Paulsen, Editor in Chief

Castaic High School held its first dance on November 5th from 7-10 pm. According to two anonymous sources, at around 9 p.m. at the Coming Home Dance, at least five girls were inappropriately touched by an unidentified male student. Reports of a male student allegedly taking pictures under girls’ dresses also circulated. Another source stated that there may have been more than one perpetrator, and no one has yet been caught. 

One of the victims, who prefers to remain anonymous, conveyed her story about what happened on the night of the dance to The Daily Howl. 

“I was closer to the inside of the big crowds of the other kids, and I was fine with that. I didn’t really think much of it,” she said. “It was a school event, so I thought I shouldn’t have been scared or worried.”

It was a school event, so I thought I shouldn’t have been scared or worried.”

“I felt someone’s hand on my leg, and I thought it was one of my friends who had accidentally touched me while we were jumping around…but I felt it keep going further up my dress and to the point of my shorts,” she said. “At that point, I was trying to move away, and as I did, I felt their hand try to move quicker up my dress.”

“I couldn’t see who it was because they were behind me.  They had touched my butt, and I felt super sick,” she said. “I didn’t feel safe anymore…I always wonder why the administration never [publicly] said anything [about it].” 

The Castaic High School administration has not publicly addressed the student body about the incident. However, Principal Melanie Hagman did confirm that a police report was filed and that she has been in communication with the victims who made reports to the administration and their families. All administrators, teachers, and classified employees of California public schools are legally required to report incidents of sexual abuse, including those perpetrated by other students.

“We run down every lead and every tip and every bit of evidence to ensure that our students are safe,” said Principal Hagman when discussing the Text-a-Tip line in an interview conducted by The Daily Howl. “Ultimately, our purpose is to protect and support our students.” 

The ASB Executive Board met with the school administration yesterday to discuss how future dances will be made safer for students. In tandem with the administration, ASB is looking into adding additional security to ensure that future dances can be held safely. 

“ASB is actively working to make sure the next dance is a safe environment for students,” said ASB President Grace Kelley. 

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that protects students against discrimination and requires schools to eliminate and prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence. The William S. Hart District Board Policy Manual outlines specific instructions and information regarding the district’s policies for handling sexual harassment in Hart District schools. When cases of school-site sexual harassment or violence are reported to school administrators or teachers, Title IX requires that the school site investigate the allegations. 

“‘Sexual harassment’ means 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 work or educational setting,” states the California Education Code 212.5. Additionally, California Penal Code 243.4 is the California law that defines criminal sexual assault and the penalties for violation.

Many students are reluctant to report campus harassment or assault because “they worry about the psychological toll of reporting, the possibility they won’t be taken seriously, and the chance they may face retaliation,” states the American Association of University of Women  (AAU) which is a non-profit organization that supports equity for women and girls. “In addition, official reports of sexual harassment vastly understate its occurrence on campus,” according to AAU.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization,  1 out of every 6 American women have experienced sexual violence, and more than 2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported. 

If you are a victim of sexual harassment or violence or have information related to such a crime, you are encouraged to report it to a trusted teacher or the school administration. If you wish to make an anonymous tip, the Text-a-Tip line is [email protected].

Principal Hagman identified the process of reporting sexual assault and harassment (and any other disciplinary issues) to the administration as follows:

  1. Student reports incident to the administration
  2. Administration begins investigation
  3. Students will complete the incident report form
  4. Administration will alert parents about the investigation and keep them updated on findings that pertain to their child
  5. Administration contacts law enforcement and files a report if required 
  6. Administration works with students, parents, and law enforcement to resolve the situation

If you or someone you know prefers not to reach out to school administrators, you can contact the Hart District Title IX coordinator  Marianne Doyle at 661-259-0033 ext 316 or 417 or by email at [email protected] or the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station at 661- 260-4000.

AAU provides a helpful insight for victims: “Take care of yourself first. You don’t need to deal with harassment or violence alone. Whether or not you decide to make a formal complaint, seek support from your friends, family, and from counselors. If you are struggling, there are people who can help. Your school may have additional resources available, such as confidential services or counseling, and you can always contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area, or you can also visit rainn.org/online.”