Are central Indiana schools doing enough to prevent sexual assault?

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Anti-violence groups are questioning whether central Indiana’s schools are doing enough to prevent and respond to adolescent sexual misconduct.

Several parents contacted CBS 4 Problem Solvers, claiming their child was sexually assaulted by another student at school. The parents felt that the schools didn’t do enough to address the problem. One child became suicidal; another ended up switching schools.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found Indiana ranks second to worst for student-on-student sexual violence. Indianapolis Public Schools recorded 1,760 such allegations last year. Nearly three months into their 2017-2018 school year, a spokesperson says they’ve responded to more than 190 claims.

“We have to do better,” said Kirat Sandhu with Indiana’s Coalition to End Sexual Assault.

While it requires school districts to report bullying and harassment cases, Indiana’s Department of Education does not require school districts to report sexual assault data. The national nonprofit, Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, considers that troubling. Some say a lack in reporting requirements could lead to a lack in accountability.

“It happens quite frequently in K-12 schools,” said Joel Levin, co-founder of SSAIS.

Through research, SSAIS found that a lot of lower education schools either under report allegations or don’t report them at all. Levin said he thinks schools may not report because they want to protect their reputation.

“A lot of times you’ll see cases like this being classified as bullying rather than gender based violence, sexual misconduct,” Sandhu added.

CBS4 looked through several school district’s codes of conduct. Not one of them spelled out a prevention or response plan. After requesting specific policies from Carmel-Clay School District, Brownsburg School District and Indianapolis Public Schools, only one responded with documentation mentioning how it would handle sexual misconduct between students. IPS’ spokesperson said they adhere to Title IX laws, gathering data and turning it over in writing to a federal coordinator.

When asked how many incidents Carmel-Clay’s school district recorded, a spokesperson said they had zero incidents in 2015-2016 but did not have data for last year. Brownsburg’s spokesperson said they were too busy to provide the data going into fall break.

CBS4 asked State Representative Bob Behning, House Chairman of Education, whether he thinks the state is doing enough to address a problem that many would describe as a crisis.

“It is troubling,” he said. “Obviously, you bringing this to the forefront…we need to figure out what our next steps should be.”

Behning said it may be time for state legislators to consider stronger laws.

“So that these are enforced in a more consistent way across the state,” he explained.