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Student wants DPS to change Title IX policies

Denver East senior Lilia Scudamore believes schools do not properly handle accusations of sexual assault and harassment.

DENVER — Amongst the tradition and history of Denver East High School is a question posed by students like Lilia Scudamore about how her school has handled certain accusations.

"We realize that there was a lot of miscommunication and lack of information from the district about what the Title IX process really is and how people can take steps when they face sexual harassment or sexual assault," Scudamore said.

She is a senior at East and wants to know if Denver Public Schools (DPS) is doing enough to change what some students call a "rape culture." In September, students protested after another allegation at East High School of sexual assault last summer. This is after years of issues surrounding accusations of assault, harassment and how school faculty handles reporting it.

"Title IX is a federal law that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex in all schools that receive school funding," Scudamore said.

DPS, like every school district, must develop policy based on the federal statute known as Title IX. Scudamore is on the Student Board of Education and part of an effort to get DPS to fix its procedures to make sure victims have a voice.

"Our biggest concern was just the lack of accessibility of our Title IX policy to students who are younger and are also students who speak other languages," Scudamore said.

She said district policy does not adequately address when a student threat should be removed from campus.

"That entire section is not even in DPS' policies," Scudamore said.

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Michele Berge is the General Counsel for DPS. She applauds Scudamore's passion.

"Thank you for your advocacy. Thank you for fighting for a better process. Thank you for making sure the process is right for you," Berge said.

Berge said the district made changes to its Title IX policies in August and is constantly looking to improve the rules.

"The most important thing we can do are the remedies, right, because we need to assure that students are safe and protected and then feel safe and protected," Berge said.

Scudamore wants to see Title IX information posted visibly on every school's individual website.

"Really for these conversations to happen from an elementary school level so when students are more likely to face them in middle school and high school, they know how to act, they'll have resources available to them," Scudamore said.

Ellen Kelty is the district's Director of Student Equity and Opportunity. Kelty said teaching students the meaning of "no" and harassment can start early.

"Helping students understand their rights and understanding consent, understanding how to keep themselves safe starts in preschool," Kelty said.

Her team created a video on consent and mandatory reporting in the fall for students and families around DPS.

"Our students, particularly our girls, are finding their voice and they're finding their voice around consent," Kelty said.

It's a voice that wants to change a perceived culture at East High School. It's a voice that Scudamore believes begins with a question and a demand for answers even after she graduates.

"I would love to continue this work, but I do believe it's up to other students as well to continue doing it," Scudamore said.

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