Sexual harassment and gender bullying are in the public eye these days, particularly in politics and Hollywood. But it is prevalent in schools as well. In this episode we focus on sexual harassment, hearing a real student-on-student experience from a student, Ava, and her mother, Mia and how things were addressed connected to that incident. Karen also shares an experience she had as a teacher being sexually harassed by a student. Later in the episode, we hear from an administrator, Mark, who shares how his school is addressing these issues head on and creating a culture of awareness, as well as shares some insights into the legal perspective of handling sexual harassment in schools. What is sexual harassment in schools?
Sexual harassment is unwanted or unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that interferes unreasonably with a student’s ability to learn, study, work, achieve, or participate in school activities. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and schools are legally responsible for preventing it. Schools must also prevent harassment based on your sex, even if it is not sexual in nature. Does not have to occur on school grounds – can be associated with any school-related activity Sexual harassment covers a range of behaviors, including but not limited to: touching, pinching, or grabbing body parts; sending sexual notes or pictures; writing sexual graffiti on bathroom walls; making suggestive or sexual gestures, looks, jokes, or verbal comments; spreading sexual rumors or making sexual propositions; pulling someone’s clothes off; pulling your own clothes off; sexual assault; and rapWhat do you do if you or someone is being sexually harassed?
Tell the harasser that you want the unwelcome behavior to stop. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell the harasser that his or her behavior bothers you and that you want it to stop. Talk to someone you trust. Whether it’s a friend, parent, counselor, or someone else whom you trust, find a person who believes you. Doing this will provide you with support and can be important evidence later. Keep a detailed written record of the harassment. Record what happened, when, where, who else was present, and how you reacted. Save any notes, pictures, or other documents you receive from the harasser. Report the harassment. Find your school’s anti-harassment policy and talk to the person who has been designated to deal with complaints of sexual harassment. If you feel uncomfortable talking to the designated person, go to a teacher or another adult at the school whom you like and trust. It’s okay to bring a friend or parent with you to that meeting. File a complaint. You have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, with your state’s Department of Education, or to bring a lawsuit under Title IX. You may want to talk to a lawyer about these options, particularly if you are thinking of filing a lawsuit. Remember you are not alone. The most recent comprehensive study of sexual harassment in high schools found that 83% of females and 79% of males reported having been sexually harassed in ways that interfered with their lives, with 27% experiencing it often.What is a schools responsibility?
Title IX (9) (a law for over 40 years)– Civil rights law that prohibits institutions that receive federal funds from sexual discrimination, and sexual assault/harassment is a form of sexual discrimination that can limit or prevent a students right to participate in education Under Title IX schools have a responsibility to protect students from sexual harassment and gender-based bullying, investigate allegations, and enforce the prohibition of these acts. Schools often have written policies against sexual harassment and gender-based bullying, but are not prepared to actually handle real incidents Delay the investigation, Deny the allegations, Distort the facts, Disparage the victim, Deny the victim rights to education Ignorance, the fear of liability, and concerns about public opinion cause schools to downplay, ignore, or deny altogether reports of sexual harassment/assault and subsequent retaliation against victims. 81% of students grades 8-11 report some type of sexual harassment and 87% of those students say it has a negative effect on them.
What should schools be doing? Here are some articles with some different perspectives: https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2018-01-08/the-metoo-movement-goes-to-school
And as our guest Ava suggested, schools should include in those beginning-of-the-year assemblies conversation and information around sexual harassment (what is it? what does it look like? what should you do if it happens? How do you prevent it?)
Some resource sites for students and parents: https://metoomvmt.org/
Stop Sexual Assault in School: http://stopsexualassaultinschools.org/
Thanks for listening and a big thank you to our guests, Ava, Mia, and Mark for sharing their stories and their perspectives.