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San Francisco may revive youth sexual assault task force

Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts students walk out of class on April 15, 2022, to protest sexual assault on campus. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Over a year after San Francisco students protested en masse over responses to sexual assault and harassment, the city may bring back its youth sexual assault task force.

The task force will bring together students, service providers and city agencies to analyze best practices, and would issue annual reports on findings and recommendations for all education institutions in the city, this time lasting three years. The revival plan is set to be introduced by Supervisor Myrna Melgar at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting. 

“Despite many student walkouts urging officials to address the issues of sexual assault and harassment, there has been little progress, and the issue continues to run rampant in San Francisco schools,” said Emily Nguyen, chair of San Francisco Youth Commission in a statement. “Reinstating the Safer Schools Task Force will ensure the needed coordination and efforts to address this issue.” 

A series of protests erupted in late 2021 over administrative responses to sexual assault and harassment. Students at the time demanded a safe reporting process, a support system for survivors, established consequences for alleged perpetrators and better transparency around federal civil rights under Title IX.

At a hearing in October, students renewed their demands to the San Francisco Unified School District to enshrine consent lessons into health curriculum from young ages, to require mandatory consent orientation for student athletes, and to require athletic coaches to undergo the same training as other district employees. Students also called for better access to information about Title IX rights through posters and digital school platforms. 

“A lot of them are pretty frustrated and want to see some action,” said Alondra Esquivel Garcia, director of the Youth Commission. “We’re hoping that if we have this one task force, we’ll have all these decision makers and voices and people who do this for a living. It’s important we let people know there is some effort going on.”

Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts students perform a walk out to protest Sexual Assault on campus on April 15, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

In its past iteration, the San Francisco Safer Schools Sexual Assault Task Force met for one year in 2017 and culminated in 47 recommendations for preventing and responding to sexual assault. Recommendations included education around prevention, improved coordination between agencies and services that respond to cases and survivors, and an ongoing task force. 

The renewed task force would likely begin to recruit in the summertime, according to Melgar’s office.

“As a mom, I am especially concerned about the safety of our students,” said Melgar in a statement. “Our young people need to feel safe to come forward with a traumatic event, and they will be believed and supported by their schools. As a city, we need to do everything in our power to provide coordinated support to our youth.”