Students at Chenango Valley High School Protest Sexual Harassment Allegations

BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — More than 40 students staged a strike at Chenango Valley High School on Monday, May 23, to protest the district’s response to allegations of sexual harassment at the school.

On Thursday, May 19, a group of students met with Chenango Valley School District Superintendent Dr. David P. Gill to present their allegations of harassment involving fellow students.

Gill responded to the student’s concerns in a letter sent to families on Friday, May 20.

However, students at the protest said they felt they were not heard or taken seriously by school administrators.

“We encourage the school to change because we need to be heard, and we are tired of being bullied,” said Chenango Valley junior Anesia Christian-Tas.

Elizabeth Zandunk, who is also a junior in high school, said she started a petition in response to allegations of sexual harassment.

“The petition is basically about helping to end the way all the higher authorities treat us and how they really don’t do anything when it comes to serious issues,” Zandunk said.

Following the protest, the school district sent a second letter to the families.

The full letter is posted below:

This letter is being sent to you as a follow-up communication to the letter that was sent to families on Friday, May 20. We wanted to further inform you that allegations involving students were brought to our attention on Thursday, May 19, during a meeting between a group of students, myself, our assistant superintendent, and a high school social worker. These students also expressed additional concerns, some of which stem from what they see as broader cultural issues at school.

We take these concerns very seriously and are committed to getting to the bottom of specific allegations involving students as well as broader cultural issues that may affect our community.

First, we investigate specific allegations of misconduct. Once this investigation is complete, we will take appropriate action, if necessary. Although New York State law restricts us from releasing the outcome of certain cases, I assure you that the school treats this matter with the utmost seriousness.

As you may know, approximately 30-40 students walked out of the high school building in protest around noon today. Students have the right to peaceful protest, and they exercised that right appropriately today. During these protests, a parent entered the school building without going through security. Our safety plan was immediately implemented and the parent left the building without incident.

Because we are also troubled by the broader cultural issues that some of our students have communicated, we are seeking board approval to retain the services of an outside law firm with no prior connection to our school district, to conduct an impartial investigation into these issues.

The board is in the process of selecting a firm that will have extensive experience in investigations of this nature. This will be determined at a special board meeting to be held in a day or two. Information about this meeting will be posted on the district website as soon as possible. We will publicly announce the company name in the coming days.

As noted above, we are limited in what we can share on specific claims, as it relates to students. However, we understand that this is troubling news and we are here to listen to your concerns. Do not hesitate to contact your child’s school counselor who will be your contact for the school’s response to these problems.

We also encourage anyone to report any concerns through our anonymous reporting system, Sprigeo. This can be found in several areas on our district website (www.cvcsd.stier.org).

This is a developing story. Stick with 12 News for more information.

James C. Tibbs