District-led task force unites city leaders in "unparalleled" commitment to protecting students

Posted: Friday, January 31st 2020

The Multi-Agency Task Force included district staff, students, and agencies across San Diego County

We’ve seen the “See Something, Say Something” posters at the airport, on billboards, and on public transit. The campaign urges, “As you’re going about your day, if you see something that doesn't seem quite right, say something.”

Now the San Diego Unified School District is asking staff, parents, and students to adopt the same standard when it comes to keeping kids safe in our city.

After receiving unanimous approval by the Board of Education on Tuesday, Jan. 28, new recommendations are being put in place throughout San Diego as a result of a district-led, citywide task force on protecting children.

The task force laid out immediate, substantive actions that will strengthen a culture of reporting, addressing concerns of district staff, parents and students. This focus on reporting asks every individual to take action immediately if they so much as suspect a child may be in danger or at risk of abuse.

“Fostering a culture of reporting where students, staff and parents feel safe to report child abuse or sexual harassment begins with me, and I am committed to leading a district where everyone feels safe to report,” Superintendent Marten said. 

The extensive collaboration means every leading agency in San Diego charged with the protection of children is working together on that shared obligation.

“We convened this task force to close the gaps between all the leading agencies charged with the protection of children. It is right for the school system to lead this conversation, because schools are the place where all these agencies overlap,“ said Marten.

The board’s support of the task force recommendations will better protect students, engage parents and inform district staff of the responsibilities of mandated reporters.

Accompanying efforts to identify and prevent human trafficking will also be gaining a boost thanks to a substantial grant from the San Diego Rotary Club. 

The district’s Youth Advocacy department already works to raise awareness of human trafficking through trainings and supports for school staff, students and families; the new grant will help make these trainings and additional resources available to even more educators.

“To do our part in keeping students safe, we have to be working with a variety of different agencies across San Diego,” said school board trustee Richard Barrera. “Our schools and our community will be better for this collaboration.”

Steps to streamline the reporting process and make it easier for students to get involved have already been put into action, including adding a child abuse reporting option to the Crime Stoppers P3 Tips smartphone app. 

The app makes reporting suspected abuse “less intimidating” for students, says Bryce Benavente Pablo-Cook, a student at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts who served on the task force. “A lot of students are always on their phones, but a big portion of it is you don’t have to go up to [someone] and be like ‘this is what happened.’”

Students are also working to encourage reporting and bring extra awareness to school safety issues as part of the district’s “Students Speaking Out” public service announcement campaign, where student-made videos will be featured throughout the district and even aired on cable TV later this year.

“We should err on the side of the child, err on the side of reporting,” said Deputy District Attorney Tracy Prior, Chief of Family Protection. “Commitments were made here to keep working together, to make sure that we strive for that common goal - which is kids staying safe.”

The Multi-Agency Task Force was established on September 24, 2019 at the direction of the Board of Education, to identify potential areas for improvement regarding collaboration between the various agencies working to protect children from sexual harassment and abuse. 

For more information about the Multi-Agency Task Force, please visit: https://www.sandiegounified.org/multi-agency-task-force-protection-students

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