Sexual assault allegations within the FUHSD


Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared in the print version of the Phoenix in February 2020. 

Technology and social media have been improving for decades. As new varieties of social media have been created on the internet, so have new platforms. Social media has become a place for people, teens and adults alike, to raise awareness and share their stories.

On January 9, the Instagram account @fuhsd.expos.ed shared their experience with sexual assault. Through five separate captions on the account’s respective posts, the user claims to have exposed the Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD). The account user, who goes by the name of One, told the following story.

One was dating a person, whom they called Two, but soon realized their relationship was toxic as they claimed Two forced them into performing “sexual favors.” Breaking off from their relationship, One was able to move on and forget about Two, living a much happier life. Then, Two was in the same classes as One, leaving One with no choice but to talk to their school counselor. As per the law, the counselor informed the police and One’s parents. According to One, the police and district seemed to do nothing about the situation except remove Two from One’s classes. No type of punishment was inflicted upon Two, even after Two admitted to coercing One.

One hoped that after posting their story on social media, maybe people would be able to empathize with those who have encountered sexual assault as well.

“I had the idea [to create the account] for a while,” One said in an interview. “I just wanted to forget about it, but I always had the thought, ‘What if I want to share this story? Maybe I could not only get justice for myself, but for other people who might have been through similar experiences.’”

On January 15, an anonymous petition was created, with an intent to ensure that students are not treated the way One was treated, and to change district policy regarding the issue. As of press time, the petition has over 250 signatures.

“A lot of people responded saying they want to help,” One said. “They even started a petition; there’s a lot of people creating a lot of things, but I don’t want to get too involved.”

In light of these recent allegations, FUHSD promptly sent out an email to the students and parents within the district, covering their policies regarding sexual assault, which action can be taken and any mental health resources made available to students. The email covered a myriad of topics, from explaining the district’s responsibilities under Title IX to the rights held by students within the FUHSD. 

Title IX states that no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination. So, if a female student were to sexually assault a male student, they would be subject to the same punishments as if a male student were to assault a female student. 

The email also stated that if a complaint were made, an investigation would follow around ten business days after. The district intends to treat all of its students fairly and equally. Whether one is the assaulter or the person being assaulted, the district guarantees that they will be treated with the exact same rights. This includes being treated with respect, ensuring safety at school and participating in conflict resolution procedures. 

“[After the initial complaint is made], I take up the situations, work with the sites and have an investigation,” FUHSD Title IX officer Trudy Gross said. “The investigation is also guided by policies.” 

 These policies are mandated by the district and by extension, the state. The process is extensive, and its intention is to protect all parties involved. In addition, the district takes specific measures to protect its students. 

It may seem unclear to students what the process actually is and what actually goes on when a situation like this occurs.  

“[First and foremost], we are obligated in cases like in regarding assault to immediately contact the police department,” Dean Chris Moore said. “We have a resource officer that we work with very closely.” 

The local police and FUHSD staff work hand in hand to deal with situations like these. 

“There’s two different things in play,” Moore said. “There are school rules, which are Education Codes, and then there’s laws that everybody has to abide, no matter where you’re at, and those are penal codes.”

However, while this process is going on, the students involved might feel discomforted. The district tries to makes sure all students are comfortable. There are what are called interim measures, which are temporary policies put in place during the investigation. 

One wishes to remain anonymous; One said in an interview that they did not want to specify which school they attended in the district. In One’s specific story, Two was in some of their classes, and it took a while for that to be dealt with. 

“[Students involved in sexual assault cases] might be sharing classes, and this is where it gets a little bit tricky,” Gross said. “Similar to innocent until proven guilty, if students are in the same class, sometimes during that period of time we try to do no contact and that type of thing. We might not be able to say a student has to leave the class because we’re still trying to determine if they have broken the policy.”  

The “no contact” approach to these situations is quite common. In fact, contracts referred to as “no contact” contracts can be signed by the students involved in these situations. The students promise to have no interaction whatsoever, including running into each other in the halls or communicating through social media.

 “There’s also a component that says if you fail to comply, the following actions may take place and a lot of those include like school based consequences,” Moore said.

As for actually determining the charges against the person being accused, there are three major questions the district asks about the situation: whether it’s persistent, pervasive and/or severe. If charges are pressed, there are specific actions that can be taken. 

“We do what are called corrective actions and that can be things like changing their schedule again,” Gross said. “In some disciplinary situations, that could result in other discipline that means the student has not returned to the school.”

The FUHSD directly dealt with One’s case, and Gross identified an error in One’s story regarding the appeal process. 

“It says it was appealed to the district,” Gross said. “We tell, in the letter [sent to those involved], how to file an appeal; an appeal goes to the state.” 

So, some of the complaints made by One are not directly the district’s responsibility, but the state’s. Still, One believes the district itself did not handle their case properly. 

“There was so much [the system] could have done,” One said. “They barely did the bare minimum. At first, they literally did nothing; what they did was only to protect themselves. I felt like they really didn’t care.”

Students involved may feel stressed and overwhelmed during this process. Due to this, the district has recently made available multiple mental health resources for students. These resources include high school support staff, such as guidance counselors, school psychologists and administrators, as well as other resources like phone hotlines and programs. 

It took great courage for One to come out with their story, and similar experiences were shared in Hollywood in recent years. The rise of the #MeToo movement featured women of all backgrounds who accused respective famous men of sexual assault. Since the women bonded over their shared experiences, it provided a sense of camaraderie. 

“It’s really cool to see people all coming together to support this cause even if they haven’t been sexually harassed,” One said. 

These cases can happen to anyone, celebrities and students alike.

“This could’ve easily happened to anyone,” One said. “I just hope to put a voice out there and for others to come and claim it. I don’t want it to just be my story; it’s everyone’s story.”