LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — Administrators at an Indiana public school district vowed to undertake an “aggressive policy review” after federal education officials launched a Title IX complaint investigation.
During a school board meeting Tuesday night, North West Hendricks School Corporation administrators voted to implement a slew of policy changes promoting Title IX compliance, including the hiring of a law firm to “provide Title IX training to all district administrators.”
Board members also discussed proposed amendments to the district’s controversial “Parent Code of Conduct.”
The policy posted on the district’s website states parents should not “use Facebook or any other social network to make rude/offensive comments toward individual staff members or the school in general.”
Parents in violation of the policy could be removed or banned from school grounds, according to the code of conduct.
Critics slammed the policy as a free speech violation and notified the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana.
Some parents said they feared the policy could be enforced to improperly silence criticism of the district’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.
The school district became embroiled in controversy after Tyler Bruce, a teacher and football coach at Tri-West High School in Lizton, was accused of molesting and abusing a student during the 2018-2019 academic year.
The Indiana Department of Education determined Bruce “committed acts that involve immorality, misconduct in office, incompetency and/or willful neglect of duty” and sought to revoke his teaching license, according to a complaint filed in Sept. 2019.
A criminal investigation into the allegations against Bruce, led by the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office, remained ongoing Tuesday.
Bruce remained employed by the district and on paid administrative leave, a North West Hendricks School Corporation spokesperson confirmed Tuesday night.
“This is not something that anyone is taking lightly,” district spokesperson Donna Petraits told News 8. “Regardless of what people may think, the district is doing what it can to amend policies that have come into question. We have to sit back and allow the legal system to do its work. We will all be relived, I am certain, once a decision has been made [in the pending criminal and Department of Education investigations].”
The amended Parent Code of Conduct will not police conduct on personal social media accounts, she added.
Administrators declined to confirm details about proposed amendments to the policy but said Indiana School Boards Association (ISBA) attorneys were consulted following “recent scrutiny.”
“The ISBA made recommendations for improvement and the school board had its first reading of those changes to the policy at the board meeting,” Petraits said in an emailed statement to News 8. “Patrons can anticipate a Parent Code of Conduct that is clearer and within all legal guidelines. It will be posted and available once it is board approved, potentially at the February school board meeting.”
Despite administrators’ insistence they had taken “bold and proactive steps” toward making “responsive policy changes,” some community members remained unsatisfied. Parents urged the district to support open dialogue and increase investment in student safety.
“We don’t need a new athletic complex; we need a board that’s going to start standing up for our kids,” one mother told administrators during public comment. “None of you have done that. None of you have done a damn thing about it. None of you even have the balls to sit there and answer a question.”
Other parents in the audience applauded as she spoke at the podium.
Kathy Frederick-Caldwell, a longtime Lizton resident whose children attended North West Hendricks schools, addressed board members by reading a poem written by a female student at Tri-West High School.
The text of the poem was provided to News 8 by Frederick-Caldwell and sources close to the anonymous 12th-grader:
“We’ve been told the dress code is enforced to prevent other students’ from being distracted.
But little did we know it was more for the adults who wouldn’t be punished for the inappropriate ways they have acted.
Our exposed skin isn’t an excuse for predatory action.
We are here to learn; we are not here for their satisfaction.
They’re looking down my shirt while they’re supposed to be teaching me fractions.
But I guess it’s okay because of their authority; I’ve been taught to respect them and take trust in their actions.
I would be lying if I said I feel comfortable walking down the halls with grown men leaning up against the corners of the walls, inspecting girls’ bodies as they walk by, wondering what a 17-year-old girl would taste like; but that’s okay, right?
This isn’t about legality; you’re supposed to be teaching me about character and morals.
I’m confused; a grown, married man came after a young girl, but somehow she’s the whore though?
There are too many snakes in this grass, I think it’s time to mow.
This school system is corrupt, it’s time to take action so it can regrow.
This is about the students, our futures and the future of this school, but many of you would put more importance on a football game.
It’s disgusting that everyone in the school knew, yet the adults our parents entrusted us to are all trying to shift the blame.
The school board is relishing in their 15 minutes of fame.
Congrats! You made the news and now everyone knows our little school’s name.
But in the end, it’s the students who lose; considering Tri-West High School’s name on our diplomas will now bring us shame.
This is an embarrassment to this community and to the young kids that have to grow up in this system.
Lucky for me, I’m out after this year and I’ll go out into the world with new wisdom.
You’ve shown me and my classmates how corrupt and disgusting even the most minute school system can be.
So keep defending a predator; but in the end, it’s God who will judge you, just like he will judge me.”