Sexual harassment reports double at Los Angeles community colleges

Classroom at West Los Angeles College in Los Angeles, Calif. on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016.
Classroom at West Los Angeles College in Los Angeles, Calif. on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016.
Susanica Tam/For KPCC

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According to a report released on Monday by the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District, formal complaints of sexual harassment at the campuses and the central office nearly doubled in the most recent years. The report tallied 14 sexual harassment complaints in 2016 and 27 in 2017.

The district educates 140,000 students.

“While I think those numbers are unacceptable, I think those numbers, to me, appear to be a little low,” said Andra Hoffman, an elected board member for the LA Community College District and chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Title IX/Sexual Harassment.

Many people who suffer harassment, Hoffman said, don’t file formal complaints, although the current climate is leading many more to come forward.

The report comes during a climate in which many U.S. institutions, both public and private, are being called to account for the ways in which they handle harassment. That’s leading administrators to overhaul their harassment policies.

“As the Assembly, as the Senate, as Congress, as so many of our larger institutions and systems are beginning to have some uncomfortable conversations, we felt that it was important that we also examine ourselves,” said Sydney Kamlager, the president of the college district’s board.

This is the first time, board member Hoffman said, that the district has produced a report that counts harassment complaints over multiple years and by category.  The complaints were divided into sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and those based on sexual orientation. Sexual harassment had the most complaints by far.

A separate report counted the number of crimes reported to L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies between 2013 and 2017 at each campus. Those crimes included rape, indecent exposure, and annoying/molesting children. The total for these types of crimes for all campuses was 96. Los Angeles Trade Tech College, south of downtown L.A. logged the most: 29, eight of which were reports of indecent exposure. Officials at the campus said they were troubled by the number of incidents.

“Given our location, we have a high number of individuals on our campus that may not be students, higher homeless… crimes that may be perpetrated by people who are not necessarily students here,” said Kaneesha Tarrant, Vice President of Student Services.

"The campus is safe for students and employees", she said.

The numbers in these reports leaves many unanswered questions, board members said, such as whether the reports of crimes or harassment led to prosecutions or some kind of resolution.

Kamlager said the report won’t go on a shelf. The sexual harassment committee is set to start talking about the findings on Wednesday, and issue a set of recommendations to the board of trustees by June.