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La Joya ISD taking “proactive” approach to sexual harassment

When La Joya ISD faculty and staff members return from their Thanksgiving break  they will be put through an updated sexual harassment course. That’s according to school district Police Chief Raul Gonzalez who announced the changes to the district’s sexual harassment training policies last week.


The changes, Gonzalez said, include mandatory sexual harassment training for all district employees by members of the department’s internal affairs division.


Currently, the district’s 4,300 employees attend a one-hour training session consisting of a video and instructions on how to file a sexual harassment complaint. However, Gonzalez said the internal affairs division will work with the district’s human resources department on a new curriculum to train staff members on how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.


“We want to be proactive on what’s quickly become a hot topic right now,” Gonzalez said. “We’re strong believers in training and education. It costs us a lot less to prevent than to react and respond to any future claims of misconduct.”


The three officers in the internal affairs division – which was created a decade ago to investigate claims against district employees, Garza said – will each receive a $5,000 stipend for teaching the course. This was a salary adjustment approved by the district’s board of trustees at their latest meeting Nov. 14.  


Gonzalez said he wants the sexual harassment curriculum to focus on relationships between employees and  between students and employees.


“We’re going to be more detailed in this training,” Gonzalez said. “When we do the orientation it’s typically saying ‘this is harassment, don’t do it.’ We want to go further and make people know where to draw the line to make this district a safe environment for everyone.”


Though he declined to say if the district had recently faced any allegations of sexual misconduct between staff members and students, Gonzalez alluded to several instances of sexual harassment that have recently dominated the headlines. These instances include celebrities such as Harvey Weinstein, George Takei and Kevin Spacey being accused of sexual misconduct according to The Hollywood Reporter and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore accused of assaulting several teenage girls, per published reports. Recently, the Alton police chief was fired after an employee accused him of sexual harassment.


“We’re staying on top of it and being responsible,” District Superintendent Alda Benavides said. “Normally when these issues pop up people say, ‘I didn’t know,’ so we’re just trying to be proactive and ensure we utilize our internal affairs division so we know how to prevent and handle these situations.”


In other business, the school board announced the district’s upcoming Sports and Learning Complex was substantially completed.


The two-and-a-half-acre complex, which consists of a natatorium, a water park, tennis courts and a planetarium, was set to be completed earlier this year. After the board meeting, La Joya ISD Facilities Manager Daniel Garza said a majority of the complex’s landscape such as the parking lot, tennis courts and a portion of the water park and natatorium were completed.

Though he could not provide a reason for the delay or an adjusted figure for the complex’s budget (which was previously reported to cost $16.4 million) Garza said the natatorium, water park and planetarium are expected to be completed by December.


The opening day of the complex, as well as other details such as hours of operations and entrance fee, will be discussed at a later board meeting, Garza said.

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