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Nashua board agrees on school district sexual harassment policies

Union Leader Correspondent

April 16. 2014 9:25PM

NASHUA — The Board of Education’s Policy Committee approved final revisions to the district’s two policies on sexual harassment and discrimination.

The first policy is a guideline for cases that involve any staff members in the district. The second policy is specifically for student-to-student cases of harassment and discrimination.

“I think it’s clearer for everyone to have two separate policies,” said Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Seusing, who has worked with board members on fine-tuning the policies. Prior members of the BOE Policy Board were unable to agree on several details such as the length of time a school district would have to investigate a complaint.

“This is one of the policies that has never been approved or accepted by the board,” said Seusing.

The two policies follow the general outline provided by the state Department of Education and are similar to sexual harassment policies in other school districts. Sexual harassment is defined but not limited to verbal harassment that is sexual in nature, sexual advances, gestures or pressure for sexual activity, sexist remarks, unwelcomed touching, leering, demands for sex accompanied by threats or promises of rewards or benefits, displaying sexual objects, pictures, or writing and physical assaults that are sexually motivated.

According to the policies, sexual harassment is prohibited in any type of communication including telephone calls, emails and internet messages.

The director of human resources is the school district’s human rights officer and is responsible for ensuring that the schools protect anyone who feels he or she is a victim of sexual harassment.

Students can report any complaints to teachers, administrators, other adults in the building or directly to the human rights officer.

An audit by the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights required Nashua to provide specific information on how anyone with a complaint can bypass the traditional route of reporting sexual harassment and discrimination to the school administration and go directly to the N.H. Commission, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, in Boston, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, also based in Boston.

BOE members agreed to eliminate a clause in the policy that required a report to the superintendent within 10 days of a sexual harassment complaint.

“Sometimes, it can be so complex, and it takes a lot of time to investigate,” said Seusing.

The full Board of Education will now review the two policies and decide whether to approve them or make any further changes.

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