Thousand Oaks school officials have cited a new state law in recommending the expulsion of three male Newbury Park High School students accused of sexually harassing two female students, officials said Monday.
Administrators have refused to comment on the specific nature of the allegations. But a report to the board of the Conejo Valley Unified School District alleges that the boys engaged in "inappropriate physical and verbal behavior toward other students."
The report recommends expulsion for the students--a senior and two juniors--accused of misconduct. The district has not released the identities of the three students.
The new law, passed in January, defines sexual harassment between students as unwanted sexual advances and other verbal, visual or physical contact of a sexual nature. To meet the standard, the behavior must have "a negative impact upon an individual's academic performance or create an intimidating educational environment," the law states.
The school board is scheduled to decide Thursday whether to expel the three boys and allow them to enroll in the district's independent study program to continue their schooling off-campus.
Parents of each of the boys have signed separate forms called a "voluntary consent to discipline," which means the parents have waived their sons' rights to a hearing before the school board to contest the charges, Assistant Supt. Richard Simpson said.
The three students were suspended May 12 while school administrators investigated the girls' charges, officials said. If the board expels the students, they could not be considered for readmittance until Jan. 30 of next year, officials said.
The recommendation to the board, however, would let the students begin independent study immediately at the district's adult school campus, Simpson said.
The state law requires districts statewide to adopt policies governing sexual harassment between students in school. Officials in the Gender Equity Office of the state Department of Education were not available Monday to say whether the law has been applied previously.
A spokeswoman for state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), a primary force behind the law's passage, said no district has reported using the new law. But districts are not required to report when students are expelled using the law's provisions, spokeswoman Karin Caves said.
Although admitting they did not know details of the allegations, some Newbury Park students interviewed on campus Monday said they believed the situation has been blown out of proportion. They said petitions are circulating at school seeking to return the suspended students.
"Now that the media has a story, and the principal got hold of it, they won't let it go," senior Dave Mellas, 18, said.
But Simpson said the students are making judgments without all the facts.
"The behaviors that we're looking at are not behaviors that would have been considered appropriate five years ago, or at any time that I can think back in education," Simpson said.
The students recommended for expulsion would not be the first to be removed from a district school for behavior now defined as "sexual harassment," but they mark the first time the district has used the new state law, Simpson said.
The district has always had a policy to punish students who "commit an obscene act or engage in habitual profanity or vulgarity," Simpson said. Another policy bars students from "causing or attempting to cause, or threatening, physical injury."
In addition to citing the new state law, administrators are alleging that the three Newbury Park High students violated those policies, Supt. Bill Seaver said.
Simpson said the district has no plans to beef up education on sexual harassment at the school.