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Seattle Schools responds to mistakes made in Garfield High rape investigation

While the Seattle Public School Board only managed to further inflame critics and protestors at a meeting this week, interim superintendent Larry Nyland says his system is making changes and learning from the revelations that emerged this summer about the district’s response to a reported 2012 sexual assault during a Garfield High School field trip on the Olympic Peninsula.

While we cannot undo that event, we can learn from it and take steps to increase the safety for our students,” Nyland writes in a letter on the district’s response.

Nyland also said the district has already trained administrators on how to better respond to reported assaults and overhauled “training, field trip and chaperoning practices.”

The full letter from Nyland is below.

The incident reported after a 2012 Garfield High School field trip is of concern to us all.  We would each be deeply shaken if our child was involved in such an incident.  While we cannot undo that event, we can learn from it and take steps to increase the safety for our students.  

We will continue to work together to support student safety both on and off school grounds.  We support Ted Howard in his leadership as principal of Garfield High School. 
As background regarding this incident: 

• The FBI and the National Parks Service immediately investigated the incident.
• Based on the investigation, the U.S. Attorney did not file any charges.
• The District also investigated and found the facts to be inconclusive.

We can and will, however, continue to learn from this incident.  As a result of this incident the District has:
• Established a Critical Incident Response Plan and trained administrators in how to respond to issues such as this.
• Reviewed and improved our training, field trip and chaperoning practices.
• Trained administrators in appropriate responses to critical incidents such as this. 

We will be reporting to the School Board Operations Committee tomorrow on all incidents involving students the past year. We are also working with the Office of Civil Rights and will give careful consideration to their recommendations for improvements in our compliance to ensure that we are clear and current in our efforts to protect student safety. I have asked a senior management working group to review all processes related to the requirements of Title IX on sexual harassment to improve our notices, training, investigation practices, compliance actions, and remedies for victims of sexual harassment. 

Ted Howard, principal at Garfield High School, is equally concerned about this issue and is also committed to learning from this incident to improve safety for our students.  Given this experience, he and the Garfield staff are now even more aware, knowledgeable and committed to enforcing our field trip policies rigorously. 

We will also do everything possible to prevent harassment, intimidation, or bullying of all students including any retaliation toward any of the parties involved in this incident. 


Dr. Larry Nyland


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5 thoughts on “Seattle Schools responds to mistakes made in Garfield High rape investigation

  1. Concerned citizens are requested to visit or email We will provide you with links to documents which will show the real story behind these hollow assurances. How is the District “working with OCR” other than slowly producing documents which OCR summoned for its investigation of the School District? The District found hospital reports indicating rape inconclusive. It found the assailant’s report to the FBI that he was told to stop the sexual behavior multiple times inconclusive. All these reports are available to the public. They would be “deeply shaken” if their child was involved, but they never expressed compassion or concern for the victim of the rape.

    We’re parents of the victim who have spent almost two years holding the District accountable. Of course the District would never acknowledge that negligence occurred when teachers and chaperones failed to read the rules for 3 years in a row, when the principal authorized the trip without a single male chaperone, and when a college student responsible for the boys went to sleep with earplugs. All of this is detailed in reports so the public can cut through the obfuscation and rhetoric and start protecting its children. We plan to offer community service hours for students who participate in our program to protect their peers when the District has a long record of failing to do so. Young adults are joining in this advocacy because they KNOW what happens in high school.

    Want to help? Please email us!

  2. Dr. Nyland’s letter is a farce. The Critical Incident Response Plan is empty. Read it. It is a PR plan to address bad press. The superintendent utterly fails and refuses to address the real problem: district staff don’t follow procedures, policies, regulations, or the law. The solution is simple: impose meaningful consequences on those staff members who violate the rules. Why hasn’t anyone done this or even thought to do it?

  3. Here are a couple of facts that Dr. Nyland conveniently omitted from his background points:
    * Although the US Attorney’s office declined to prosecute, it did not determine that a sexual assault did not take place.
    * The District waited six months after the assault to begin its investigation, in violation of federal Title IX guidelines.

  4. The district has been RETALIATING against the victim’s family by not redacting documents properly and giving out personally identifying information about the victim (such as her previous address) to the public. There have been four information leaks (in clear violation of FERPA), the last one being a few days ago. Dr. Nyland, that happened on your watch.

    The district leadership is breaking the law, trying to intimidate the victim’s family into silence. Either that, or they’re so utterly incompetent that I wouldn’t trust them to take care of a goldfish, let alone a child.