After an alleged sexual assault occurred at John Handley High School last week, community members spoke out at the Winchester City council meeting urging the council to take action.
The most recent alleged assault was the second to involve a Handley student within the last two years. In August 2017, former Handley student, Francesca, was sexually assaulted by a classmate in a local park.
When Francesca went to the Winchester city school board and asked for protection against her attacker, her claims were denied. She went on to create a bill that will protect other students across Virginia from encountering the same experience.
“Francesca’s bill requires that teachers and other adults in the school building are informed of protective orders. If their student has a protective order and if a student is subject to a protective order. Northam signed the bill and on July 1 it will become law,” said Francesca’s mother Danielle Bostick.
Local community members came together and addressed the city council with what they would like to see change.
“I think elected school boards are the way to go. As far as accountability and ease of access to know who to go to when there are issues within the schools,” said local resident and teacher Bruce Carlton.
Citizens believe an elected school board will increase overall accountability. During the meeting, the council did not respond to the community’s concerns that were addressed in public comment.
“Most school boards in the state, all but this one and I think one other, are elected. So it’s really unusual now,” said local resident and Indivisible Winchester member David Pratt.
A local grassroots organization, Indivisible Winchester, is working on a petition to recommend that the Winchester Public School board be elected rather than appointed. They would need 10 percent of all registered voters in Winchester to sign it and they hope to file it next year.
The U.S. Department of Education is still investigating the Title IX regulations of Winchester Public Schools.