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The Southeast Polk School Board heard from two individuals at Thursday night’s meeting who spoke out against an incident that took place at the junior high. According to Matt Beattie, a parent in the district, a male student exposed himself and masturbated in class.

“The student directly harassed my daughter as well as other students and staff in this act,” Beattie said. “My daughter was pulled in and questioned as a witness by a male staff. The uncomfortable questions from an adult male to a junior high girl that was just traumatized added to the mental stress of the situation. This sexual harassment happened first period. When we were notified, it was at the end of the day. With nearly a full classroom of students and staff, were any other parents notified of this incident that took place? I’m sure they weren’t, otherwise, they’d be here with me.”

Beattie said there is a “major problem” in the culture and the junior high building.

“I believe this culture has created a dangerous environment for our students, specifically my own daughter feels threatened and unsupported,” he said.

The incident, Beattie said, resulted in no penalty until they said their daughter didn’t feel safe.

“Junior high building administration then decided to have a one-day out-of-school suspension for this young man,” Beattie said. “They also moved the boy to a different schedule so our daughter did not have to share a classroom or potentially maybe run into him in the halls. But by moving this child into a different classroom, I believe this only shifts the risk from one group of students to another. It doesn’t really address the issue.”

Beattie said after talking with his daughter in great depth about the incident, it came out the boy has done other acts like this in the past but nobody spoke up about it.

“We understand the boy has also had another sexual incident that happened after this inside the school,” Beattie said. “It is unacceptable that our kids cannot go to their school leaders to talk about this and feel safe. We have a female school resource officer, female counselors, that can be called upon to talk with a female victim in a sexual harassment instead of further embarrassing our daughter.”

Beattie said they received “not a lot of action” from the junior high. He went to a school board member who investigated the incident.

“(They) assured us this was only a junior high boy making a dumb mistake,” Beattie said. “Let me say this loud, this is not a dumb mistake. And the stance taken by the administration is completely unacceptable.”

Beattie said the “male-dominated” point of view does nothing to protect female students and undermines the feeling of safety and security in the building.

Connie Wright also addressed what appears to be the same incident, saying she had to hear about it from a parent who doesn’t live in the SEP district.

“This incident was of a sensitive nature, and quite frankly I’m disappointed in the district for not advising parents of this incident,” she said. “This district had a job to do, to inform parents. When you sit up there and talk about how every child deserves or safety is a priority and makes the decision you did a few weeks ago, and yet with something like this, this serious, we get crickets.

“And I don’t want to hear the excuse that the administration in that building was handling it because that administration in that building did not handle it. And we received no notification whatsoever from the administration. Then it’s up to the superintendent and the school board to make sure that we do. So stop telling us that it’s up to you to make the decisions that you feel is in the best interest of our own families because you don’t trust us to do it for ourselves and that you’re so transparent with communicating within the district and in fact you’ve just proven that’s not true. This incident was a pretty serious situation. Face it, somebody here dropped the ball again.”

The Iowa Standard talked with Mike Dailey, principal of SEP Junior High. Dailey told us he cannot respond to any questions specifically about one student.

“I can’t discuss specifics about whether the issue occurred, how the situation was handled if it did occur. I just can’t go down that path,” he said. “I’ve got a building full of 1,100-plus students and that’s the best I can give you. I cannot either deny or acknowledge any of the above. I have to protect my students. Regardless of whether it happened or didn’t, my role is to protect the kids.”

Author: Jacob Hall