Sexual Harassment in Schools

How to spot it and seek help.

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Sexual Harassment in Schools

A poster from the Womxn's March in Seattle declaring

A poster from the Womxn's March in Seattle declaring "A woman's body is not yours to take" by Cindy Shebley via Creative Commons.

A poster from the Womxn's March in Seattle declaring "A woman's body is not yours to take" by Cindy Shebley via Creative Commons.

A poster from the Womxn's March in Seattle declaring "A woman's body is not yours to take" by Cindy Shebley via Creative Commons.

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Any form of unwarranted comments or unwanted touch can foster feelings that range from discomfort to feeling threatened. Sadly, these interactions are way too common in day-to-day life for many people, but they are especially abundant in the lives of teenage girls. According to an online survey conducted by Stop Street Harassment, 81 percent of women experience some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime. What’s even worse is when these types of interactions occur at school. School is supposed to be a safe environment that nurtures learning and growth. Sexual harassment in a learning environment can interfere with academic performance and emotional and physical well-being. Whether the inappropriate comment or touch comes from another student or a teacher, it can be hard to know how to proceed when combating sexual harassment.

As outlined in their sexual harassment policy, BVSD constitutes the following as forms of harassment: 

  1. Sex-oriented verbal “kidding,” abuse or harassment.
  2. Pressure for sexual activity.
  3. Repeated remarks to a person with sexual implications.
  4. Unwelcome touching, such as patting, pinching or constant brushing against the body of another.
  5. Suggesting or demanding sexual involvement, accompanied by implied or explicit threats concerning one’s grades or similar personal concerns.
  6. Sexual violence.

If you feel as if you have experienced any of the above forms of harassment, please don’t be afraid to reach out. You are not alone.

In 1972, the Educational Amendments Act was passed, and part of the act was Title IX. Title IX makes discrimination based on gender illegal at

Awareness ribbon for sexual harassment and assault at the hands of educators by We Are Title IX via Creative Commons.

U.S. schools that receive federal funding. Under this law, both sexual assault and sexual harassment are considered forms of gender discrimination. If you are sexually harassed at school or the person who assaulted you goes to your school, Title IX provides you with some protective rights. The Title IX process only takes place at your school and does not involve the criminal justice system. When you file a Title IX complaint, your school must conduct an internal investigation. Ideally, schools would conduct their investigation efficiently and effectively and address the issue at hand in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Legally, they cannot ignore a complaint or blame the victim for what happened. Sometimes, though, schools don’t follow the law. They can delay the investigation, dismiss allegations or try to get the victim to drop the complaint. The truth is, sometimes the legal system isn’t the most effective way to get help. If you do not feel comfortable reporting your situation to Title IX, there are other resources out there that can help and provide additional support.

If you are ever in a situation where you do not feel comfortable, Safe2Tell can also be utilized as a great resource. I am well aware that Safe2Tell is often taken as a joke, but if you are in a harmful situation, reaching out can be the best first step to solving the issue at hand. Safe2Tell is a platform where students can report harm, danger or a threat toward themselves or friends. Your report will be anonymous, and your anonymity is protected by Colorado state law. Anonymity helps to ensure your ability to get help for a difficult situation while still staying safe and protected. If you are not comfortable reporting something to Safe2Tell, there are many other safe ways to reach out. The school counselors and Brent Biekert, the student resource officer, are both readily available if you are in need of support. 

Unfortunately, sexual harassment in a school setting isn’t terribly uncommon. A survey done by the American Association of University Women found that 38 percent of students between 8th and 11th grade who had been sexually harassed were harassed by a teacher or school employee. Besides overt incidents of sexual harassment, there are many other forms of harassment that occur at schools. You may remember “Slap Ass Friday” from middle school where boys would go around and slap girls’ butts. Additionally, “locker room talk” is yet another form of harassment that is way too common. Normalizing slapping girls’ butts and locker room rhetoric is damaging to the victims of harassment. Both negative behaviors may be brushed off by parents or the school as bullying, which further harms the victims. The only way we can really solve this issue is by not normalizing the harassment and be supportive of those who come forward as victims of sexual harassment. Opening up the discussion on sexual harassment instead of covering it up as bullying or because of “liability issues” would be the most beneficial thing for any victim of harassment. This would help people to feel like they are not alone and hopefully would make reaching out feel less daunting. 

Resources: 

Safe2Tell: 1-877-542-7233

Anonymous web report

 

National Sexual Assault Hotline – free and available 24/7: 1-800-656-4673

 

BVSD’s Sexual Harassment Policy

https://www.bvsd.org/about/board-of-education/policies/policy/~board/j-policies/post/sexual-harassment