Female teacher at Tam High claims sexual harassment, unwanted touching by male students

Sexual harassment allegations at schools typically involve teachers and students. But in a twist at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, a female teacher is now speaking out against sexual harassment made toward her, claiming that male students have touched her and sent her obscene emails --  and that the district hasn't done anything to stop it.

"It's time I say 'Me Too,' " Eva Rieder, a math and English teacher, told Tamalpais Union High School District board members, alleging she's been harassed at least a dozen times in 15 years. “I've been slandered by a student spreading rumors that I made a drunken sexual advance on him at a party. I have been touched more than once by a student who also argues that it's OK to describe his masturbation habits in the classroom.”

She continued: "I have received profane phone calls and insidious attacks to my work and personal email addresses, some identified from coming to the school IP address during the school hours. All of them are so graphic that they are unfit for this public audience. These are only some of the outrageous events that I've experienced, and like other women in this district, I have been sexually harassed, stalked, intimidated, threatened, bullied, slandered, and defamed by male students." 

Tam High principal J.C. Farr told The Tam News Online, the high school site that broke the story, that he was not aware of the claims Rieder made in December. But said that “[Reider and I] have had conversations about her experiences [with sexual harassment] here in the past and just her general concerns.”

School board President Leslie Lundgren told the the Marin Independent Journal she was “very concerned" by Rieder’s allegations along with the allegations of another teacher. She declined further comment.

In an email to KTVU on Tuesday, Asst. Supt. of Education Services Tara Taupier wrote that the district has retained a lawyer to specializes in workplace investigations to look into the teacher's complaints and review the district's sexual harassment protocols. Taupier will also now be the second Title IX officer in the district to respond to complaints.

"We must wait for the investigator's report before making any conclusions," Taupier wrote. "Please know that the District takes complaints of harassment and sexual misconduct very seriously and responds expeditiously to complaints by investigating and taking any necessary corrective action."

Rieder went public with her experiences at the Feb. 6 school board meeting and her statements were recorded the Tam Broadcast Network and published on YouTube.  Rieder said that teachers and staff members at the district have to go through training to identify and prevent sexual harassment. And she argued, that the district should require students to have that kind of training as well.

"So I ask the board," Rieder said, "how do we, female teachers, who've confronted various forms of sexual harassment, convey to female students, that they will be supported, believed, protected or safe, in a district that has repeatedly failed to protect, believe, or respond to us in similar situations?"

She said she had told administrators about one specific instance of sexual harassment from a student that happened about four years ago, but that it didn't lead to any permanent changes.  

"Inaction is an action," she said. "How far will this escalate before the board takes real action?"

Rieder said she was afraid to come forward to report these problems until another teacher in the district spoke up about facing sexual harassment from her male students at Redwood High. 

Rieder was supported by a male colleague. Social studies teacher Luke Chamberlin said that he has experienced many firsthand accounts of "misogyny that's pretty typical in the student body, so you know how widespread this issue is." 

He cited examples of how young men speak and the slang they use to prove their negative attitudes toward women. "I'm asking the board, for specific action .. to revisit board policies on sexual harassment, to make sure no one is sexually harassed by anyone else in the future. We need to address sexism as much as we can. I am not  going to be a bystander to what I'm speaking of. Please act." 

On Tuesday, Tam High student Maxwell Harris told KTVU that he hasn't personally witnessed sexual harassment, but that he thinks it's a good idea for all students and teachers to get more training.

As for Rieder, she said the harassment she’s experienced has been so disruptive, it’s prompted her to take a leave of absence next year.