Staff, Families and Students of Bellevue School District:
As the Interim Superintendent for the Bellevue schools, I want to respond to communications I have received regarding recent protests in several of our high schools. Although the protest subject is part of a national movement, many of the communications have specifically referenced a particular case with information provided by a student.
I want my message to be clear. There is no tolerance for sexual assault or sexual harassment in the policies or practices of the Bellevue school system. Neither is there any room for a mentality that skips essential investigations and findings or neglects due process protection deserved by every person. The district will continue to investigate any charges or allegations. However, because these involve juveniles, findings will not be made public at any time.
The district cannot be a party to social media discussions, nor can it defend itself there. First, it would be wholly inappropriate for the district to engage in such a violation of student privacy. This is not an abstract discussion; it involves direct allegations by students, and two sides must be represented with privacy protected for all. Every aspect, ranging from the initial allegations to and including subsequent activities that may have resulted in discipline, is stringently protected by law and procedure to assure fair treatment.
From the information provided in social media, some persons have reacted in ways that immediately presumed guilt on the part of other students. That has included some students shouting allegations and naming other students. That behavior falls directly in the definition of “Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying” that cannot be tolerated by the school district. Most of us would object if our son or daughter were subject to such accusation and it was allowed to continue in the school. The Bellevue School District has a well-developed procedure and a strong tolerance for student protests. However, such protests cannot be permitted to damage school property, disrupt a school educational program, or threaten staff or students. It is abhorrent to see anger and threats now directed at school staff for carrying out their duties to protect students while wholly unable to respond or defend themselves.
Likewise, calls for termination of school staff in response to rumors or social media posts are not just disappointing, but exactly the reasons that fewer and fewer candidates are willing to tackle positions such as high school principal. To persons making such calls, I would suggest that we will never put our employees in such a position – without process, without fairness, without any educated knowledge of what took place, and without an inkling of the facts except what they heard from a student and magnified in the social media. We do not live in a world where it is acceptable to “try and convict” young people in the hallways, nor do we abandon school leaders doing the complex and difficult job in our schools.
The result of this to date has been abjectly one-sided and harmful, and I ask that it stop. The necessary legal processes are underway, and any needed actions will follow those findings. To reiterate, we have strong policies that allow us to properly pursue any allegation of assault or harassment. We fully understand the emotional impact on our students, and we will look for every means of support for each. Again, there is no tolerance for any sexual assault or harassment. As Interim Superintendent, I urge people not to contribute further to premature or unwarranted conclusions that clearly harm.
Dr. Art Jarvis, Interim Superintendent
Bellevue School District