A Message from President J.D. Childs and Principal Chris Smart, Ed.D.
Dear O’Dowd Students and Parents,
We want to recognize and respond to the important student voices that have been raised on anonymous Instagram forums recently reporting sexual violence and racism involving O’Dowd students. Since these forums were brought to our attention, we have listened to our students’ difficult, very distressing experiences and are concerned for the emotional safety of all community members. And we are eager to partner with our whole community of students, teachers, administrators, and staff – through both existing and new transparent, loving processes – to effect meaningful, lasting change and a safe community for all at O’Dowd.
Facilitating Community Healing and Change We invite interested members of our community – students and adults – to participate in creating plans for community progress and healing, specifically in regard to racism and sexual violence. Below is a process for participating in this essential work in our community.
Students, teachers, and staff members who wish to be facilitators or participants in the processes and plans to develop a stronger, healthier culture at O’Dowd may submit their names on this form by August 14, our first day of school. After the start of school, we will reach out to those volunteers to get started on plans. We want to engage our students, teachers, administrators, and staff in listening to one another deeply, creating change, and ensuring a community of care, trust, and safety. We particularly look forward to our students’ voices and input on the best ways for our community to listen to and learn about students’ experiences and, most importantly, make change.
Reporting Harm Additionally and very significantly, below is important information about processes currently in place for students to report sexual violence and racist incidents so that the school may ethically investigate and take action regarding specific incidents in which students are harmed. The detailed information and processes included below are taken from Chapter 3 of O’Dowd’s Student-Family Handbook. The most important message for students is that we encourage any student who wishes to report racist incidents or sexual violence to speak with a counselor, dean, or any trusted adult on campus.
We know here, like in the rest of the country, there is much work to do. We are a community that is brave in facing and addressing difficult challenges. We appreciate our shared goal of ensuring a safe experience for all of our students. Please know that any incidents reported to us will be investigated with ethical compassion and care for students and that O’Dowd will take meaningful actions to heal our community. We look forward to engaging our students and adult educators in changes ahead.
Sincerely, J.D. Childs President
Chris Smart, Ed.D. Principal
Reporting Sexual Assault We encourage any student who wishes to report sexual assault to speak with a counselor, dean, or any trusted adult on campus, or directly to law enforcement.
We are particularly concerned about anonymous reports of sexual assault individuals posted and want to be especially clear about the definition of and the process for reporting sexual assault.
Sexual assault is defined in Section 3.8 of the Handbook as “an act in which a person sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.”
Students who are assaulted or who are aware of assaulted fellow students should report the concern immediately to a counselor, dean, or any campus educator, or directly to law enforcement. If sexual assault occurs on campus or off-site at a school sponsored activity, the school will pursue its own disciplinary investigation, including notification of law enforcement when appropriate. In that case, the school will cooperate fully with the law enforcement investigation. During the investigation, involved students’ privacy and equitable access to educational programs will be safeguarded as much as possible. Students found to have committed sexual assault will face significant disciplinary measures, up to and including expulsion.
All employees of Bishop O’Dowd High School are mandated reporters, regardless of position. Employees will immediately report any reasonable suspicion of instances of past or present child abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, neglect), which includes instances of sexual assault. Employees should follow our Mandated Reporting Process and Resources in reporting to the appropriate authorities. The Director of Counseling and Director of Health and Wellness support employees in this process.
Reporting Sexual Harassment We encourage any student who wishes to report harassment to speak with a counselor, dean, or any trusted adult on campus.
Sexual harassment is defined as “…unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature, whether directed to persons of the opposite sex or to persons of the same sex. No student, volunteer, faculty or staff member shall in any manner, either explicitly or implicitly, retaliate or threaten reprisal for another individual’s refusal to submit to sexual advances. Similarly, no student, volunteer, faculty or staff member shall promise, imply or grant any preferential treatment in return for another individual engaging in sexual conduct. Sexual harassment also includes unwelcome sexual flirtations, advances or propositions, verbal abuse of a sexual nature, unnecessary touching of an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, a display in the work or school environment of sexually suggestive objects or pictures, sexually explicit or offensive jokes, or physical assault where the conduct has the purpose or may have the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s school or work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive school or work environment.”
Reporting Racist and Other Harmful Slurs, Bullying We encourage any student who wishes to report racist or other harmful slurs or bullying to speak with a counselor, dean, or any trusted adult on campus.
The use of slurs by students, school officials, and other employees is contrary to our Catholic vision and mission which calls us to respect the intrinsic dignity of others. Slurs against any person based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, financial status, disability, or ability is unacceptable behavior. Willful use of slurs of any type will be subject to disciplinary action on the part of school authorities, and may result in suspension or expulsion.