The School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 (SSOAA) requires schools to take steps to prevent and address student sexual abuse by school staff and student-on-student acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence. At the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the vision is to ensure children who matriculate through the District’s schools of all ages and backgrounds are prepared to succeed in school and in life. SSOAA represents an opportunity and an obligation for OSSE and the District to ensure all schools take the necessary steps to ensure our schools are safe and free from sexual misconduct, while also ensuring that all students are supported with a positive social and emotional climate in which they can learn and thrive.
Below, please find the major requirements outlined in SSOAA related to preventing and addressing student sexual abuse by school staff, preventing and addressing student-on-student acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence, and providing health education to students.
To prevent and address student sexual abuse by school staff, schools shall:
- Adopt and implement a policy to prevent and address student sexual abuse by staff.
- Provide the policy to staff, parents/guardians, and, in a developmentally appropriate manner, students, and make the policy publicly available, including on the school website.
- Provide training for staff at the time of hiring and at a minimum every two years thereafter on sexual misconduct, student sexual abuse, and child abuse.
- Provide training and information, on an annual basis, for parents/guardians regarding child abuse, sexual misconduct, and student sexual abuse.
Additionally, local education agencies (LEAs), except those that exclusively serve students age 18 and older, or a contracted service provider of the LEA shall:
- Investigate the employment and criminal history of potential employees.
- Maintain a record of any allegation against staff of sexual misconduct, child abuse, or the failure to report child abuse. SSOAA and federal law prohibit schools from assisting employees who are known or suspected to have committed sexual misconduct with a minor from gaining future employment.
- Provide information regarding any allegation against staff of sexual misconduct, child abuse, or failure to report child abuse, as well as the outcome of any subsequent investigation, when contacted by another LEA or school that is considering hiring the applicant.
To prevent and address student-on-student acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence, schools shall:
- Adopt and implement a policy to prevent and address student-on-student acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence.
- Provide the policy to staff, parents, and, in a developmentally-appropriate manner, students, and make the policy publicly available, including on the school website.
- Provide training for staff at the time of hiring and at a minimum every two years thereafter on student-on-student acts of sexual harassment, assault, and dating violence.
- Provide information for parents/guardians on recognizing the warning signs of student-on-students acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence, as well as effective, age-appropriate methods for discussing such topics with students.
Finally, the legislation requires public and public charter schools to provide academic instruction on consent, setting and respecting boundaries, and developing and maintaining healthy relationships.
Resources from OSSE (January 2020)
The following documents offer model policies and procedures to prevent and address student sexual abuse by school staff and student-on-student acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence. The model policies are designed as a tool for LEAs to use when developing and adopting their own policies. OSSE has developed these model policies to address each of the requirements in SSOAA. While LEAs are welcome to adopt the model policies as written, they are encouraged to review and adapt the policies to fit the unique needs of their individual schools. OSSE encourages LEAs to consult with their legal counsel to ensure their policies meet all local and federal requirements. For additional policy development resources, please consult the “Policy Development Resources.” OSSE developed a curricula guide to provide schools with a list of health education curricula and an adult training resource guide to support schools in meeting the school staff training that meet the requirements in SSOAA.
- Model Policy to Prevent and Address Student Sexual Abuse by School Staff
- Model Policy to Prevent and Address Student-on-Student Acts of Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, and Dating Violence
- Policy Development Resources
- Curricula Guide for Meeting DC Health Education Standards and School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 (SSOAA) Requirements
- SSOAA Adult Training Resource Guide (Updated: February 2021)
Each of the model policies contain community-based resources that may be appropriate for providing support for affected students and families. OSSE makes no representation as to the quality of services provided by these organizations; nor does OSSE guarantee any particular outcome from these resources.
In order to meet federal requirements under Title IX, schools should also adopt and publish a policy against sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, by employees, other students, or third parties and grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of sex discrimination complaints. For more information about Title IX obligations, consult the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights guidance. For more information about preventing other types of student and school violence, please see the OSSE Bullying Policy, OSSE School Crisis Page, and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education’s Safe Passage Program.
OSSE recognizes the complexity and uncertainty that often accompany responding to the sensitive situations involving sexual misconduct. In addition to the model policies, OSSE has developed the following key considerations for schools to think about when responding to incidents:
Uncertainty about Whether to Report
Situations that involve allegations of sexual misconduct are highly sensitive and often complex. Schools should always contact the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) hotline at (202) 671-SAFE or the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) at 911 if they are uncertain about how to proceed with a situation. CFSA and MPD are available to consult with schools, and the two agencies closely collaborate with each other to ensure the proper response and protection of students.
Determination of Students’ Understanding of their Actions
As recommended by the US Department of Education, if younger students or students with disabilities are involved in situations of student-on-student acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence, it may be necessary to determine the degree to which they are able to recognize that certain sexual conduct is that to which they can or should reasonably object and the degree to which they can articulate an objection. It may also be necessary to consider the degree to which younger children are engaging in activities that are considered typical versus those that are problematic. School staff shall always follow mandated reporting requirements and report any suspected sexual misconduct to CFSA at (202) 671-SAFE or to MPD at 911. The CFSA hotline is available to talk with school staff to determine if behavior is developmentally appropriate or indicative of abuse.
Determination of School’s Responsibility and Ability to Discipline
The policy on preventing and addressing student-on-student acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence applies to all actions that occur at school, during school events and activities regardless of their location, and during travel time to and from school, school events and activities. It may also include contact over social media that has an impact on student safety or performance in school. Schools shall follow student discipline policies, as required by DC Code §38-236.01 et. seq, to determine actions that fall within the school’s responsibility to address as discipline matters. Regardless of whether an action occurs within the school’s scope of responsibility to address as a disciplinary matter, school staff shall always report any information of neglect and abuse of a child to CFSA by calling (202) 671-SAFE or any information of suspected criminal activity to MPD by calling 911.
OSSE would like to thank the numerous community and governmental partners who provided insight and feedback on the development of these model policies. This partnership continues to be invaluable in improving quality, increasing access, and advancing equity for all students throughout the District.
AmeriHealth Caritas DC
Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW)
Break the Cycle
Capital City Public Charter School
Center City Public Charter Schools
Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA)
Children’s Law Center
DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence
DC International School
DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB)
DC PCSB Parent and Alumni Leadership Council (PALC)
DC Rape Crisis Center
DC State Board of Education (SBOE) Student Advisory Committee
Department of Behavioral Health (DBH)
District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)
|Friendship Public Charter School
Goodwill Excel Center Public Charter School
IDEA Public Charter School
Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)
Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School
Network for Victim Recovery of DC
Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG)
Paul Public Charter School
St. Coletta of Greater Washington
Washington Leadership Academy