My 8-year-old was sexually assaulted. Cynthia Richardson refused to help.

(photo: Cynthia Richardson)
By Patrick Kirsch

I’m a parent, veteran, and resident of Salem. I don’t like to be involved in politics, but I can’t stay silent about the May 16th election.

I was shocked last week when I opened my voter pamphlet and saw that Cynthia Richardson has the audacity to run for the Salem-Keizer School Board. I know Cynthia as the head of the Salem-Keizer Office of Student Equity, Access, and Advancement. In that role she refused to stand up for a student in her district at the time she was most needed.

Last fall, my 8 year-old daughter was sexually assaulted at a Salem-Keizer school. I went through all the steps I could with the district to try to keep her safe. I was frustrated that they refused to do more than move the other student—who had assaulted my daughter more than once in the same day—to another classroom. I was told I was “lucky” to get that much.

I asked for staff to do something—anything—to acknowledge to my 8-year-old that this was wrong and that they were sorry they couldn’t protect her. She got nothing.

I reached out to the one person who I thought would be able to get something done—Cynthia Richarson, who heads a significant department and is supposedly there to help students have a safe and supportive learning environment. I thought surely because my daughter is biracial that Cynthia would care. She did not.

Over two phone calls with Cynthia Richardson where I asked her to get involved in the next steps in caring for and protecting my daughter she did nothing. Instead, the first thing she asked was why my daughter didn’t scream. As if it was my 8-year-old’s fault that nothing was done to protect her!

What is incredible is I was told by a school psychologist that even in cases of rape of students the district policy is to not move the offender from the school.

Cynthia Richardson has had the responsibility of leading the Salem-Keizer School District for years. Yet under her leadership the district seems uninterested in standing up for victims of sexual assault and even less interested in listening to parents.

If Cynthia Richardson can’t keep students safe, we can’t trust her to serve us on the school board.