Aurelia Advocates Expose Title IX Breaches Within CPS

Pictured+%28L-R%29%3A+Anna+Bellows%2C+Morgan+Nerich%2C+Nasra+Samater%2C+Kaelyn+Silva%2C+Molly+Stone-Peterson%2C+Abigail+Price.

Kristen Nerich

Pictured (L-R): Anna Bellows, Morgan Nerich, Nasra Samater, Kaelyn Silva, Molly Stone-Peterson, Abigail Price.

Esther Cull-Kahn, Editor-in-Chief

On December 1st, 2021, the day after CRLS students staged a walkout to protest sexual assault, four upperclassmen—seniors Anna Bellows, Molly Stone-Peterson, Nasra Samater, and junior Kaelyn Silva—began what would become the Title IX Aurelia Advocates. According to the US Department of Education, the Title IX amendment is defined as such: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The group named themselves after Aurelia Davis—mother of LaShonda Davis—who won her 1999 Supreme Court case that allowed school districts to be held responsible for addressing and protecting students from sexual misconduct. Bellows identified to the Register Forum that their long-term goal is “to preserve the right to equal access to education.”

On December 28th, the group met with District Attorney Marian Ryan, Superintendent Greer, Principal Damon Smith, and club leaders. According to Stone-Peterson, “All of our questions were about the reporting process … Smith and Greer went into the meeting with a different idea than the students [regarding] the goal of the meeting,” and in the end, “everyone came out feeling pretty confused.” After the meeting, seniors Morgan Nerich and Abigail Price joined the group, officially founding the Title IX Aurelia Advocates. Price described her motivation for joining to the Register Forum: “After the walkout, emotions were high … students felt very disillusioned … I want to make the school a place that isn’t only safe, but a place where students are also happy.” They highlighted that their group would not have been created without the walkout that was organized by seniors Reina Stevens and Lwam Mahari.

Even if the school is fully compliant with Title IX, these issues still exist.”

In response to many students’ frustration, the Advocates researched the history and requirements of Title IX. Bellows explained that their research explored the questions, “What is the [current] system in place [in CPS]?” and “How should a school be held responsible for what happens within its walls and to its students?” After their research, they created a proposal outlining CPS’s breaches of Title IX as well as feasible solutions. Samater told the Register Forum, “I’m incredibly proud of the whole proposal, the breaches and solutions are, I believe, the most crucial part.” Further, Stone-Peterson expressed, “We are asking for the bare minimum: for the school system to be legally compliant,” because Title IX is a federal civil rights law. She continued, “We have precedent for everything we are asking for.”

Looking ahead, Silva cited one of their short term goals as “having a meeting with the central office of CPS.” Nerich emphasized the need for cooperation: “We have a group of people here ready to listen and collaborate… [the] administration should know that this is the time to speak out about these issues.” 

The Advocates recognize the time it will take to achieve their goals, which is why Price stresses the importance of continuing to push for change. She explained that “We don’t want this to graduate with us, we want to get underclassmen involved now… so they can continue pushing for this.” In order to support the proposal, the Advocates encourage students to talk to their peers, teachers, parents, and anyone they can about the importance of Title IX; Silva articulated, “Sharing your passion for this issue will ignite passion in others.”

Although the group is fervently fighting for the implementation of Title IX requirements, Stone-Peterson recognized that “even if the school is fully compliant with Title IX, these issues still exist. This is just a step in the right direction.”

Read their full proposal, learn more, and support the Advocates at bit.ly/TIA-Advocates. 

This piece also appears in our February 2022 print edition.