Austin ISD reaches agreement with sex assault survivor; mandatory training coming for all staff

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Beginning Thursday, all Austin ISD principals and senior leadership will undergo extensive sexual assault, harassment and discrimination training, courtesy of the Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC).

The TLSC reports this action is a direct result of the district reaching an agreement with one of their clients, Julia Heilrayne, a student who was sexually assaulted by one of her peers at Austin High School several years ago.

“To any future student who might experience this, I really hope that they will report it and they receive compassionate and kind responses,” Heilrayne said. “This really is a big step forward in terms of protecting both current and future students in the district.”

The agreement has led to several district policy changes, the TLSC reports, including:

  • All employees hired in the future will receive the sexual assault training
  • The district will improve its policies on sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination
  • All staff will receive an updated training on the First Amendment in schools
  • AISD will improve the way it provides information to students and parents about sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination

Dr. Jacob Reach, AISD’s Chief of Governmental Affairs said this goes beyond what AISD currently offers, which is mostly centered around what to do after an incident occurs. The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault will lead the program which focuses on speaking with students, identifying red flags and understanding Title IX issues.

“It’s a bigger issue than just one student. We are representing 75,000 students,” Reach said. “We may know the legal responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean we are equipped to discuss it with a student to make sure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.”

AISD officials say the training will begin with 300 principal and administrators and will expand to other staff throughout the summer. The district is also working with the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault to ensure district policy covers best practices.

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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