Protocol for Responding to Suspected Sexual Abuse of Students
The Branson School prioritizes the safety and well-being of students through the cultivation of a supportive and educational environment. We want our students to understand how Branson will respond if a student discloses that they have been the victim of sexual abuse:
If you or another student has been the victim of sexual abuse, we encourage you to consider telling someone at the school. Our aim is to offer support and guidance about ‘next steps,’ answer any questions, and ensure that we are doing everything possible to create a safe environment for all of our students.
We know that disclosing such sensitive information can be difficult, so we’ve created the following guide to help explain what happens when a student discloses sexual abuse. While this guide is created with the intent of being as encompassing as possible, each case brings unique circumstances that may necessitate a response that is slightly or altogether different than below. Regardless of the circumstances, however, our goal is to empower and support students who make reports or who are concerned about others. We will do everything we are able to keep the process transparent to all parties involved.
What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse includes sexual assault, attempted sexual assault or sexual exploitation. Branson has separate policies in its Student Handbook that provide procedures for addressing bullying and harassment by and of students that do not rise to the level of sexual abuse.
Many discussions of sexual abuse reflect heteronormative concepts and do not necessarily include language regarding sexual misconduct in the LGBTQ+ community. The Branson School prioritizes the safety and well-being of all students and recognizes that sexual misconduct is not limited to heterosexual interactions. In this protocol, we will use the pronoun “they” to avoid heteronormative stereotypes.
Disclosing Sexual Abuse
Step 1: Disclosing Sexual Abuse to Branson
- If a student has been subjected to sexual abuse or is aware of sexual abuse of another student, the student may disclose the sexual abuse to an employee of their choice.
- Students are not obligated to disclose more than they want to the Branson employee and are always allowed to have a friend or family member present with them when disclosing.
Step 2: Branson’s Response to Disclosure
- When a Branson employee receives a report of sexual abuse of a Branson student, that employee will help the student find support and resources. To do so, the Branson employee may contact the School Counselor, Dean of Student Life and/or the Head of School for assistance.
- Branson will keep the student’s disclosure as confidential as possible, except as necessary to provide support to the student or to comply with legal duties to report sexual abuse of minors. If the person who sexually abused the student is another Branson student, Branson may need to conduct an investigation to address violations of Branson’s conduct policies.
Step 3: Mandated Reporting
- If a student who is a minor discloses sexual abuse to a Branson employee, the Branson employee will have a duty to call law enforcement or a child protective services agency to report the sexual abuse, because all employees of Branson are “mandated reporters.” As mandated reporters, Branson employees are required to report suspected neglect or abuse of a minor, including sexual abuse. A mandated reporter is required to report suspected abuse to the appropriate agency when the reporter has sufficient information to reasonably suspect that abuse may have occurred, generally on the same day a student makes a disclosure. If more than one mandated reporter at the school is aware of suspected abuse, only one report must be made.
- Once a mandated reporter has reported sexual abuse, the agency (and not Branson) will determine whether an investigation should be conducted. If an agency conducts an investigation, a representative of the agency may want to speak directly to the student(s) involved. Sometimes this can happen at school, at the student’s home, or at the agency location. If the agency interviews a student on campus, the student may have the right to have a Branson employee or family member present for support.
- Under California law, mandated reports are confidential, so Branson may not be able to share information about the report, even to the student’s family. In some cases, the investigating agency does not want information about the report disclosed because that may interfere with its ability to conduct an investigation.
- In some cases, a student may want to report the sexual abuse to law enforcement themselves. Branson will support a student in doing so, and if the student prefers, a Branson employee may be present when the student reports.
Step 4: Action Within Branson
- The school is committed to providing support to its students and will encourage students and families to seek out counseling options either through the school counselor or options outside of Branson.
- If a student reports that another Branson student was involved in the sexual abuse, the school will address the other student’s conduct by following its disciplinary policies. Branson may not be able to conduct a disciplinary investigation while an agency investigation is ongoing because doing so could impact that agency investigation or interfere with the other student’s rights. This may delay a decision on whether Branson should impose disciplinary consequences.
- Until a decision is made as to whether disciplinary consequences should be imposed, Branson may take interim measures to ensure that the learning environment is not impacted for the students involved. Interim measures may include, but are not limited to, adjusting students’ course schedule to minimize their contact with each other.
Content of this page last updated: September 1, 2023
Local and national resources for survivors of sexual abuse or assault
Branson Staff and Personnel
- Christina Mazzola, Branson Head of School, email@example.com
- Kelsey Acevedo-Soto: Branson School Counselor, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Whitney Livermore: Branson Dean of Student Life, email@example.com
- Ross Police Department: 415-453-2727
- Bay Area Women Against Rape: www.BAWAR.org Hotline: 510-845-7273
- CA Coalition Against Sexual Assault: 661-327-1091 or 800-273-7713, calcasa.org/agencies/
- Charis Denison: Sexual Abuse counselor and educator, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-819-2272.