There’s no arguing with Leslie Camp’s stance on the issue.

Camp’s daughter found herself sitting in a classroom with a fellow student, Elias Dowdy, who was later convicted of raping her. The situation caused quite a stir in the district, mostly only after Camp decided to speak out about it.

She was highly critical of officials in the Niagara-Wheatfield school district, arguing that they could and should have done more to ensure that her daughter and her accused rapist were kept apart while attending classes.

What parent would want their child exposed to such a situation?

How many parents would do what Camp has done, speak out as often and to whoever she could in an effort to spread the message that such situations are not acceptable, not in her case and not ever?

While she acknowledges that district officials and representatives of the Niagara County District Attorney’s office are now taking steps “in the right direction,” she’s still not satisfied that enough progress has been made to ensure other students won’t ever face a similar situation in the future.

“I’m definitely not done,” Camp said in a recent interview.

Camp is now a member of a committee assessing Niagara-Wheatfield’s policy for dealing with students involved in rape and sexual assault cases. She is also expecting to meet with representatives of the district attorney’s office to discuss the way such matters are handled by prosecutors and the courts.

Beyond addressing policy concerns, Camp says she wants to continue to be an advocate for sexual assault victims. She wants to raise more awareness about this very serious issue, to keep it as relevant as it can be so that more people discuss its impacts not just in Niagara-Wheatfield, but across the county and the region.

“These victims of these crimes ... they get a life sentence,” she said. “How is that not taken into consideration? Why do we care about the perpetrator’s future? So what? They chose to do these crimes. These victims, they didn’t choose to be victims.”

While the healing process continues for victims like Camp’s daughter, the community must take seriously the issue of sexual assault generally and sexual assault involving school-aged youths in particular.

It’s imperative that every school district develop a policy that is proactive where the handling of students involved in sexual assault cases is concerned. Are they prepared? What do their policies say about handling such things?

There’s really no arguing Leslie Camp’s main point. There should never be a time when the victim of sexual assault has to sit in a classroom with a person who has been charged with assaulting them.

District officials in Niagara-Wheatfield seem to understand this now, thanks in large part to Leslie Camp’s attitude and outspoken nature.

School administrators across Niagara County should take note and undertake a review of their own policies to ensure they don’t find themselves in such an unfortunate situation in the future.

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