District trains additional staff in Title IX compliance after sexual harassment allegations

Photo of Justin Papp

WESTPORT — Just over a month after a group of students alleged the mishandling of sexual harassment complaints by school administrators, the district has made good on a promise to train more staff members in Title IX compliance.

“Some will have the direct role of conducting investigations in their building,” said John Bayers, director of human resources. “Some were trained because it’s helpful for them to have a good working knowledge of Title IX regulations.”

Twelve additional staff members took the day-long training — for 22 in the district, 13 of whom are deemed coordinators and could undertake an investigation — in Title IX compliance, which is a piece of legislation passed in 1972 meant to ensure no person is discriminated against based on their sex or gender.

The general public tended to look at Title IX as an equality issue for sports,” Bayer said. “But Title IX deals more with the idea that no one is excluded based on their gender.”

Prior to the training, seven of the 10 faculty members trained in Title IX compliance were women. However, both Title IX trained educators at the high school — Assistant Principal Richard Franzis and Athletic Director Marty Lisevick — are men.

At a Jan. 22 Board of Education meeting, a group of female students came forward to question the handling of a joint complaint they filed in the fall alleging separate instances of sexual harassment perpetrated on them by a male student. According to the students, they felt uncomfortable detailing their

experiences to an older man such as Franzis. In addition, they felt their complaints were watered down by administrators and not taken seriously.

To allay concerns, Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer said more staff members would be trained and that students and staff wishing to file a complaint would have the option of speaking with a Title IX coordinator of either gender.

More Information

Trained in Title IX

Central Office: *John Bayers, director of human resources, Natalie Carrignan, director of technology, Valerie Babich, coordinator of psychological services pk-12; Theodore Hunyadi, director of facilities; Suzanne Levasseur, supervisor of health services; Michael Rizzo, director of pupil services; Christine Wanner, coordinator of health and physical education pk-12

Staples High School: James D'Amico, principal; *Richard Franzis, assistant principal; *Marty Lisevick, athletic director; *Meghan Ward, assistant principal; Patrick Micinilio, assistant principal; William Plunkett, guidance department chair

Bedford Middle School: *Adam Rosen, principal; *Denise Emmerthal, assistant principal

Coleytown Middle School: *Micah Lawrence, assistant principal; *Lauren Pitocco, assistant principal

Coleytown Elementary School: *Johanna Davis, assistant principal

Greens Farms Elementary School: *Beth Heroux, assistant principal

Kings Highway Elementary School: *Catherine Carmona, assistant principal

Long Lots Elementary School: *Megan Clarke, assistant principal

Saugatuck Elementary School: *Sandy Rodriguez, assistant principal

*denotes that the administrator is a designated Title IX coordinator

At Staples, a third Title IX coordinator, Assistant Principal Meghan Ward, was added to the list.

“We identified other people who could assist. Our goal was really to start working on this idea that whether it’s a staff member or a student, if they would prefer to speak to a Title IX coordinator of a different gender, they have options,” Bayer said.

Bayer said all staff are trained in dealing with sexual harassment, but Title IX training added an “extra layer” of instruction.

“Most of this stuff is a review of other forms of training, whether for sexual harassment, or bullying. There’s a lot of overlap between these things,” Bayer said.

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1