- The organization Stop Sexual Assault in Schools recently launched the #MeTooK12 campaign to bring greater attention to the issue of sexual harassment in schools, a place where these negative behaviors often take root, District Administration reports.
- A 2015 study of students in the Oakland Unified School District in California, for example, revealed that girls in the district identified sexual assault and harassment as the one of the biggest reasons for chronic absences and suspensions.
- Schools also need to look at crafting new sexual harassment policies, hiring Title IX coordinators to investigate reports of gender-based discrimination, provide more professional development to teachers on the issue, and place greater emphasis on sexual harassment as a part of anti-bullying programs.
As the problem of sexual harassment is brought further into the light, students, administrators, community groups and even the New England Patriots are working to craft solutions to the issue within schools. Though sexual harassment has normally been considered an adult issue, many of the attitudes and actions begin at school age, so teaching students about sexual harassment and abuse as a part of anti-bullying or social-emotional learning programs is paramount. Even young children can be taught to respect others and recognize personal boundaries.
It is not just students who need to be taught—or reminded – about the nature, impact and ramifications of sexual harassment and abuse. Neither is it just boys or men that need guidance on the issue. A recent Fox news report noted that “According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, a project operated by the U.S. Department of Justice, females account for around 10% of all sex crimes reported to authorities. However, a much higher percentage – over 30% – of all teacher-student sexual offenses are estimated to have been perpetrated by females. In the latest available statistics, in 2014, just under 800 school employees were prosecuted for student sex crimes – around one-third female.” Also, according to statistics by the Counter Pedophilia Investigative Unit, between 1% and 5% of teachers sexually harass or abuse students and at least 25% of school districts in the United States have dealt with incidents of staff sexual abuse in the past 10 years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends several programs that can be used in teaching about sexual harassment and the prevention of sexual violence. There are also a growing number of both national and regional programs that are springing up in response to the current national focus on sexual harassment issues. School administrators may need to investigate which programs are best for their campus. Professional development can also help teachers understand their role in prevention and help them recognize signs of harassment and abuse among students. School boards and administrators can also take a hard look at school policies to make sure they comply with state and federal laws and adequately protect students from abuse or from inappropriate school responses to those situations.