Student petition to expand sexual harassment resources in FoCo schools gets over 800 signatures

Justine Lookenott
The Forsyth County Board of Education building in Forsyth County, GAPhoto byForsyth County School District

(Forsyth County, GA) During the December 2022 Forsyth County Board of Education (BOE) meeting, high school junior Aksheta Thakur read to the members an anonymous story of a student who said they had been sexually assaulted three times in their life - two of which they said happened while they were a student at Forsyth County Schools (FCS).

The testimony from the anonymous student lamented the lack of resources for someone in their situation.

“I felt I had no support, nor did I have any education to help decide what to do. I wish I could have done something right away,” Thakur read out loud.

Thakur, who is a junior at Denmark High School, is a Reform Initiative Leader for The Ruth Project. The organization was founded on September 18, 2020 - the night Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. The goal is to continue the fight for gender equality in schools through Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government.
High School junior Aksheta Thakur speaks at the FoCo Board of Education meeting on December 13, 2022Photo byForsyth County School District

The story Thakur read is one of 30 stories she has collected about students being sexually harassed on school grounds. The claims of harassment range from catcalling to sexual assault.

In partnership with The Ruth Project, Thakur put together a petition to improve Title IX policies in Forsyth County schools, including expanding and making resources for sexual assault survivors and victims of gender-based discrimination.

“There are too many stories like this testimony making the need for detailed and accurate Title IX education for students and training for staff even more pressing,” Thakur said in her speech to the BOE. “…They deserve the right to feel safe at school but without measures to educate the student body on how to prevent harassment or knowledge of who to contact, if a situation occurs, student survivors are left without appropriate support from the school district.”

The petition’s number of signatures has grown from about 500 in December to almost 850.
Former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2019Photo byGetty

The Problem

Combatting sexual harassment and sexual assault on school campuses is an ongoing national issue.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) takes its definition of sexual harassment from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which defines it as anything that includes “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.”

According to RAINN:

  • Eight percent of sexual assaults occur on school property
  • One in nine girls and one in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult
  • 82 percent of all victims under 18 are female
  • Females ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault
A breakdown of locations where sexual assault occursPhoto byRAINN

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) defines sexual violence as “any sexual activity when consent is not obtained or given freely.”

According to the NSVRC:

  • Nearly 11 percent of high school students reported experiencing sexual violence
  • One in six high school female students and one in 19 high school male students reported someone forcing them to do sexual things they did not want to do in the last 12 months

Sexual harassment and violence are often perpetrated by someone the victim already knows such as a friend, coworker, neighbor, family member or current or former partner.
Aksheta Thakur at Denmark High School in Forsyth County, GAPhoto byAksheta Thakur

The Petition

The “Support Sexual Harassment Education in Forsyth County” petition is a part of several sexual harassment initiatives around the country from The Ruth Project.

Thakur’s petition lays out the issues she wants to see improved in the school system.

“Many students are unaware of the rights Title IX provides them – especially in Forsyth County, Georgia, where sexual assault resources are scarce,” Thakur states in the petition. “In Forsyth, many schools have failed to educate students about how to effectively respond to acts of sexual violence, which include groping, catcalling, and other unwanted advances. Neglecting to inform students about Title IX legislation prevents them from seeking help and eliminating harassment.”
Thakur's petition aims to improve Title IX policies in Forsyth County schoolsPhoto byThe Ruth Project

While FCS does have a Title IX director, Thakur says many students don’t know who that person is or what they do. She said some students don’t even know what Title IX is.

“I was hoping schools can force a better education around this topic because I know it is controversial, but I think it's really needed in today's society,” Thakur said in an interview with Newsbreak. “So providing students with hands-on education, like where to go if they need help, just basically a better educational system.”

Her petition has several goals, including:

  • Creating better procedures for any student facing sexual harassment
  • Implementing better teaching protocol for staff
  • Requiring school staff to inform students of who (and where) their Title IX coordinator is in every school
  • Requiring schools to investigate every allegation of sexual harassment in order to set a clear precedent for a zero-tolerance policy
  • Allowing for all student reporting to be confidential from anyone else, including parents

Thakur is currently reaching out to school officials to look at implementing her idea.

“It is easier to find a woman who has been sexually harassed than a woman who hasn’t and it is imperative that we work together to ensure that this changes,” Thakur said in her speech. “By improving Title IX education and accessibility Forsyth County has the opportunity to transform the experiences of students.”
Aksheta Thakur plans to study political science to pursue a career in law after graduationPhoto byAksheta Thakur

Upon graduating high school, Thakur intends to study political science to pursue a career in law.

FCS Sexual harassment policies and resources

The FCS Board Policy Manual on Sexual Harassment of Students was adopted in 1995 and updated in 2016.

The policy forbids any act of harassment of students or employees based upon race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age or disability.

According to the policy “Harassment includes, but is not necessarily limited to, conduct or speech which entails unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, taunts, threats, comments of a vulgar or discriminating nature, which are intimidating or create a hostile environment for a student or employee, as well as physical contact. There may be other speech or conduct which employees or students experience as illegal harassment which should be reported also; harassment can take many forms and it is not possible to itemize every aspect of the harassment forbidden by this policy.”

Any violation of the policy will be disciplined promptly, including the termination of employees or the suspension or expulsion of students.

Any student or employee who believes they are facing harassment can report the offense to the designated coordinator. If the offense is reported to any other staff member, they will be responsible for notifying the proper coordinator immediately.

Any attempt to retaliate against the individual with the complaint will be disciplined.

Supervisors are required to educate their employees about this policy while principals are required to inform their students and the parents of the policy contents and procedures.
The Forsyth County Board of Education meeting on December 13, 2022Photo byForsyth County School District

The full policy can be read here.

Sexual harassment is mentioned under several categories in the FCS Code of Conduct. Here is how FCS outlines its policy as taken from the Code of Conduct:

  • Language and sexual behavior restrictions: Use of lewd, profane, vulgar or obscene words or gestures, also to include videos or pictures taken of such behavior with or without subsequent posting to the internet or social media; use of speech or gestures that are perceived, or where the inference is intended, to demean or threaten the well-being, safety, or dignity of another person with or without that person’s knowledge; possession or transmission of obscene or pornographic pictures, materials or objects; indecent exposure; and all forms of sexual contact are prohibited.
  • Sexual Conduct and Criminal Penalties: The General Assembly of Georgia requires that this code of conduct include language encouraging parents and guardians to inform their children of the consequences, including potential criminal penalties, of underage sexual conduct and crimes for which a minor can be tried as an adult.
  • Disrespectful conduct toward other students, school visitors or persons attending school-related functions: Examples include use of vulgar or profane language; verbal assault, including threat of violence; verbal or physical taunting; any threat or act of unwanted physical touching; sexual harassment; intentional damage to personal property; stalking; reckless endangerment; attempt to ‘frame’ or entrap through deceit; any threat or act of verbal or physical violence, assault, battery or fighting; sexual, racial or ethnic harassment; or any other violent act.

FCS Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Caracciolo said that students experiencing harassment can go to any trusted adult that is an employee of FCS to get help.

“We then work with the student and parents/guardians - SRO [school resource officer]/local law enforcement to investigate, and school counselors/social workers to support the student/family needs,” Caracciolo stated in an email.

Students can also anonymously report crimes on school grounds through Campus Crime Stoppers, P3 Campus Reporting and the State of Georgia School Safety Hotline Number.
The Forsyth County Board of Education building in Forsyth County, GAPhoto byJustine Lookenott

FCS has two Title IX coordinators:

For more information on The Ruth Project, visit To read the “Support Sexual Harassment Education in Forsyth County” petition, click here.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA

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