What Iowa law mandates of school officials in sexual assaults

What Iowa law mandates of school officials in sexual assaults

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What Iowa law mandates of school officials in sexual assaults

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In cases such as that of a Newton wrestler who described being sexually assaulted by teammates, school officials are not required under Iowa law to report incidents to police if the alleged offender is a minor and the victim is over 12 years old.
Teachers and others who work with youths are “permissive reporters” in such cases, said Binnie LeHew, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Violence Prevention Unit.
“It’s confusing for mandatory reporters because we all believe and know that we want to make sure that any minor is safe and protected,” she said. But even if law enforcement is not involved, best practices call for school officials to ensure the victim feels secure during the course of any internal investigation.
“This is the kind of thing that we would hope a school would immediately jump on and say: We don’t know what happened, we’re doing an investigation, but in the meantime we’re going to protect the victim,” she said.
In the Newton case, the victim’s parents say school officials allowed the students who hurt their son to compete with the team despite the investigation.
Such decisions are typically “well-meaning attempts to be fair,” LeHew said.
“But when you have bullying or sexual abuse, it’s a power balance thing; schools need to step in to equalize things,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether or not you know if it happened. The victim of the crime has to be supported and have every opportunity to participate (in school activities), which means you may have to suspend the activities of the alleged offenders.”
The Newton boy who said he was assaulted continued to compete until his season ended at the Class 3-A district meet Feb. 9.
“More often than not, the victims end up changing their school because they can’t stay there anymore,” said LeHew, a licensed independent social worker. “It’s unfortunate.”
Parents who aren’t satisfied with how a school handles an incident should file a report with the police, she said.
An institution’s investigation may have different goals than one conducted by law enforcement, LeHew noted.
A school, for example, may focus on whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of its employees, or whether the organization’s internal rules were followed. The privacy of alleged offenders is also sometimes given more weight in an internal investigation than in a criminal one.
“It’s a courageous thing for parents to do,” LeHew said. “But sometimes you can only get answers if you take it outside of the school.”

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What Iowa law mandates of school officials in sexual assaults
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