NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County Schools Title IX Committee met Monday, but the new director of the committee was absent from the meeting.
The Board of Education announced Jarelle Lewis would be taking over the position of NHCS Title IX Director for Dr. Rick Holliday, who unexpectedly retired in July.
Lewis will not actually be joining the committee unit September, though committee members were introduced to him Monday.
Lewis is currently the Title IX director at Dickinson State University in North Dakota, but grew up in Wilmington. The New Hanover High School graduate is also a Title IX lawyer.
“He’s an expert in Title IX law and when we saw his resume, when we met with him, he’s just the type of candidate who jumped off the page and this is such an important hire for this community and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it’s going,” said Title IX Committee and Board of Education Member Nelson Beaulieu.
Beaulieu said Lewis beat out many other highly qualified candidates and is ready to handle the complex issues the school system is facing, including a lawsuit and allegations of mishandled sexual harassment cases.
“Not only is he ready to take it on, he’s ready to lead,” Beaulieu said.
Beaulieu said his background as an attorney will help him to stay on top off constantly changing Title IX laws, which made him stand out among other candidates.
Lewis was not the only thing missing from the meeting. The committee still has not decided on a mission statement. Board of Education Chairwoman Lisa Estep said it was in part due to wanting Lewis to be present when they do.
“I think our mission is to make sure New Hanover County Schools is to remain in compliance with a law that is constantly changing and so I think the reason for the lack of a mission statement is because Title IX is so vague, it is so difficult. The more we learn about it, the less we feel like we know about it sometimes. So our mission as a committee overall is to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment with a rapidly changing law at its center," Beaulieu said.
The committee also continued to discuss changes to New Hanover County’s current policies.
One of those changes will be made to be more inclusive of all students.
Wording under a harassment clause has been changed to say ‘harassment may occur between different sexes’ as opposed to the previous ‘opposite sexes.’ This is to be more inclusive of all students.
“I feel like New Hanover County is an inclusive community. I’m proud to live here, I’m proud of the work that we do in terms of bringing everybody to the table. And I hope that every single resident whether they’re gay, straight, trans, black, white feels like they have a home here and a voice in our school system,” Beaulieu said.