Steamboat High School’s Culture and Climate Task Force Expands to Districtwide Standing Committee

The Steamboat Springs School District Culture and Climate Task Force is looking for more people to serve as it transitions from a temporary task force to a permanent committee.

Born out of recommendations after a January 2020 investigation into the Steamboat Springs High School administration’s alleged mishandling of sexual harassment allegations, the task force has been operating for approximately 20 months and is seeking to take the next step.

“Every year, in some way, the climate and culture changes in a school because one group of students leaves and another group enters,” said Lisel Petis, former executive director of Advocates of Routt. County and community member of the working group. . “We actually discussed from day one the importance of involving the whole district.”

In August, the task force presented five goals to the Steamboat Springs School Board, the first being to restructure itself into a district-wide standing committee that includes students, staff, parents and other members of the community with no direct link to the district.

The group aims to have 20 members, with adult positions lasting two years and student positions lasting one year and the possibility of participating a second.

“You can’t work on climate and culture all of a sudden when kids turn 13,” Petis said. “They bring with them that climate and culture from their previous experience and their previous schools.”

Other goals for the committee include completing an environmental scan of the culture and climate in the district this school year, adding a high school course focused on healthy relationships, l helping to launch a high school peer program and the possibility of adding an amnesty clause to remove barriers to reporting sexual and other misconduct at school.

“Really what we’ve done so far is we’ve gotten approval to move forward on several projects coming this year, we’re approved to move forward, I think, that’s where we’re really going to have our impact,” said Jammie Sabin, a task force member who had three daughters in the district.

Sabin said he’s particularly excited about the peer-to-peer program, where students will work together to discuss issues ranging from bullying to sexual harassment and assault.

Environmental scanning will be done regularly, conducted by a third party, and will include interviews with students and staff, as well as surveys, Sabin said.

“Really collecting real qualitative and quantitative data to measure what’s going well and what’s not,” said Meghan Hanson-Peters, a social studies professor in the district and a member of the task force.

Sabin said the aim of the analysis is “to get an idea of ​​what concerns children have right now so that we can try to put systems in place to help them.”

Not everyone believes the task force did enough, fast enough in response to the investigation, and Sabin said he wanted to see action immediately.

“I see you’ve spent time on it, if you’re trying not to put a band-aid on something, but actually try to make substantive changes. It takes a lot of planning, a lot of coordination,” Sabin said. “Now we’re poised to start embracing real change over the coming year, and that’s what excites me.”

Some students are planning a protest at parent-teacher conferences on Thursday, saying they don’t think enough has been done to address the problem.

“Super proud to hear they’re doing it; I’m a big fan of people empowering their own voice,” Petis said. “But really, I would like to see them get involved in the committee. That’s where they could make a lot of changes.

Petis said the school board and district administration have been very engaged in the work of the task force, and she believes that if a time comes where the district needs to pay someone to handle this, the board would support it.

“Hopefully that can be a pretty easy question,” Petis said. “Just having membership for (the environmental scan) means the district is open. They are not going to just hide these things and they are open to making sure students are taken care of.

Hanson-Peters said they are looking for people to join the committee who represent different facets of the community, are open-minded and support building a culture and climate of respect, trust and safety. in the district.

“Someone who can commit for the time, who will speak up at meetings, and then I think we’re definitely looking for diverse perspectives,” Petis said of who they’re looking for on the committee, “… so that when we are looking for solutions, there is not only one voice that says it.

Carol C. Reed