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Cape Elizabeth School administrators defend Title IX policies

The Cape Elizabeth School Department says the changes it has made to its Title IX policies were discussed and planned before recent call for change

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The Cape Elizabeth school department is defending the way it has handled past allegations of sexual assault. 

It is making some changes to its policies.  

The changes come as three students face suspensions for bullying because they posted sticky notes in bathrooms at the high school. 

The notes warned girls there is an unnamed rapist in the school.

However, the school says the changes it has made to its Title IX policy are not directly related to the sticky note ordeal, and the protest which came thereafter. 

The Title IX Coordinator for Cape Elizabeth Schools, Cathy Stankard says the school board and administrators have been discussing changes to its Title IX policy for a long time.

"Laws change, times change, and so we are always reviewing our policies," says Stankard. 

One of the changes that has gone into effect is that Stankard, as the Title IX Coordinator, can now investigate allegations of misconduct. 

Also, the school's Title IX policy now protects gender identity and expression.

Stankard says, "The things that [protesters] were asking for were either already in place or already in the works."

Even so, Stankard says the recent events have shown administrators there is a disconnect between the policies in place and student's awareness of them, and has prompted them to further education about the Title IX policies among its student body and faculty. 

"We're going to use the revisions which aren't significant-- but we feel good about asking the questions-- we're going to use the revisions to further educate our students and faculty." 

RELATED: Student walk out at Cape Elizabeth High School

RELATED: Student who warned of 'rapist' at Cape Elizabeth High School says she was suspended

Now, Aela Mansmann, the 15-year-old girl who made national headlines when she was suspended for bullying-- for posting sticky notes warning of a rapist at the school -- is fighting her three day suspension.

"The sticky note didn't have a name on it," says Mansmann. "My intentions for the sticky note was never to target one individual. There's multiple perpetrators in the school, and there is an underlying culture of rape culture. The whole goal of the sticky note was to be a conversation starter, and in my opinion this has done that." 

The Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is working with her through the appeals process.

Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine Alison Byea says, "The real thing we want to focus on is that we have a crisis within our communities of sexual assault. And we have a young student who has been elevating that conversation for months now, and sometimes these conversations are uncomfortable, but necessary. And this student was bringing up an issue from within the community, and we don't believe she should be disciplined for bring up those conversations."

NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to the Cape Elizabeth Superintendent for additional comment about the suspension appeal, but did not hear back.

Because Mansmann is appealing her suspension, she is allowed to attend classes. She has not served the three day suspension and is appealing so she will not have to serve it, and so that it will not show up on her record. 

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