On Sept. 29, 2017, The Campanile published a story titled “Title IX Misconduct” covering a sexual assault case at Palo Alto High School in October 2016. The Campanile has received negative feedback from some in the community over the sentence: “The incident was subsequently determined to be consensual.” This issue resurfaced at the recent Board of Education candidates’ debate. The Campanile has previously published a clarification regarding the article, but would like clear up any confusion.
We would like to apologize to the victim, the victim’s family and the community for any unintended trauma the article may have caused through inadequate attribution. Our intention was not to silence victims of sexual assault. As individual students distinct from our representation of the publication, we stand and will continue to stand with victims of sexual assault and commend them for the courage and bravery they display when they come forward.
As journalists, our obligation is to report the facts to the best of our ability. In the clarification to the original article published on Oct. 20, 2017, The Campanile clarified the sources for the consensual determination based on conversations with former Principal Kim Diorio and an interview conducted by The Mercury News with attorney Stephanie Rickard, who represented the former Paly student accused and subsequently convicted of sexual assault.
The Campanile was not trying to make a determination or pass judgement on these events, but rather report on statements made by others involved in the situation. In this reporting, we took the defense attorney’s comments to mean that the court found the act to be consensual and then quoted Diorio saying the same thing. To clarify, what we should have reported was that “consensual underage sexual activity” was the charge filed by the District Attorney. We should have used more sensitive language that made this nuanced distinction between a “charge” and a “determination” clear and recognized that the phrasing in question could have been interpreted as The Campanile taking a stance on the events that occurred rather than relaying information.
Any questions about this issue can be emailed to the Editors-in-Chief at firstname.lastname@example.org.