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Austin ISD Will Train Staff To Better Handle Reports Of Sexual Assaults

Students climb the stairs at Navarro Early College High School.
Julia Reihs

All staff members in the Austin Independent School District will receive new training starting Thursday on how to handle sexual assault reports as part of an agreement with a former student.

Julia Heilrayne was sexually assaulted during a school-sponsored event while she was a student at Austin High School.

"After I reported my sexual assault, my principal told me to stop talking about how the student had assaulted another girl and me. She threatened suspension if I ever mentioned it. She then said that my assault would never have happened if I had screamed," Heilrayne said in a news release last December. "While the school was busy silencing me, the student who assaulted me went on to sexually assault a third student after that."

Since then, Heilrayne and her mother have worked with the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault to come up with an agreement with AISD to make the reporting process better for students.

“To any future student who might experience this," Heilrayne said at a news conference Wednesday, "I really would hope they would report it and receive compassionate and kind responses … and [staff] handle the situation in the least traumatic way possible."

Every AISD staff member, from central office administrators to campus-level staff like janitors and cafeteria workers, will receive the training on what to do if a student reports a sexual assault.

Heilrayne’s mother, Karen Rayne, said she is proud that AISD is taking steps to treat sexual assault survivors differently.

“What I would really hope someone would experience if they reported a sexual assault is that one of the first things they heard was that what happened was not their fault," she said. "And that they were to interact with professionals who listened to them and allowed them to tell their story and didn't need them to tell their story over and over because there are procedures in place to allow them to do it in effective and minimally invasive ways as possible.”

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault will also work with AISD to update district policies around sexual assault.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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