The Evansville School District plans to do more to educate students about sexual harassment and misconduct, Superintendent Jerry Roth told residents at a second community forum on the topic Thursday.
About 20 people, including some school board members and teachers, attended the event at the Eager Free Public Library.
Concern about misconduct at the high school arose weeks ago after a Facebook post about a student allegedly behaving inappropriately. It caused heated discussion on social media, particularly the Evansville community page.
Thursday’s meeting was the second forum on the topic this month. School district officials did not attend the Sept. 5 forum but sent a statement.
The discussion wasn’t intended to focus on a specific incident but rather on the topic in general, organizer Victoria Flynn said.
Roth told residents the district plans to educate students through schoolwide presentations and assemblies. Topics could include what constitutes harassment and assault, how to report such incidents and ways to prevent them, he said.
“There will be some changes in how we talk with our student body, grades six through 12,” he said. “We’re also reflecting on what we do with our staff and how we educate our staff on things that they witness, things that they hear.”
The district also plans to inform the public through posters and advertisements, he said.
Residents asked Roth and Evansville High School Principal Jason Knott how the district handles sexual misconduct complaints.
Roth said officials keep track of complaints against students in Skyward, the district’s student information system, so they can review them when considering next steps.
Administrators listen to concerns and determine whether cases should be transferred to the Evansville Police Department, Knott said. The district works with the police department weekly if not daily, he said.
“We listen,” Knott said. “We listen to what’s the problem here and what do we need to do, and then we follow through with that. If our investigation determines there was something ... then we would determine we need to document this.”
Sue Neeley has two elementary school-age children. She said she wants the district to stay ahead of this issue.
“I’m a big believer in prevention versus reaction,” she said. “Of course we need to address these issues as they arise, but how do we prevent them from an early age?”
Flynn, the forum organizer, said residents should avoid pointing fingers and instead use events like the forum to help effect change.
“Evansville is our community. There is no side to choose,” she said. “We have already decided to come together as a proactive group focused on finding solutions rather than placing blame.”
Roth said the district is focused on improving school culture and working to make the community better.
“Evansville is a very special place,” he said.
“We’re not perfect ... but in Evansville we’re willing to face those things, those little blemishes we get on our face, and we try to cure them,” he said. “It’s not done by neighborhoods, it’s not done by one school, not done by the police department, not done by the school district. It’s done by an entire community.”