Student Sexual Harassment

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Any “unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature” a student receives is sexual harassment. Unfortunately, student sexual harassment in schools is not a rare and isolated problem as there are many student sexual harassment cases.  It’s gone on probably as long as there have been schools, but most of the time it’s never reported. The students most likely to be harassed are girls, gays and certain ethnic groups. It’s important that your school has a clear policy that outlines what student sexual harassment cases are, that it won’t be tolerated, and what steps will be taken when harassment does occur.  This is not only for the protection of your students, but for the protection of the school, as well.

Educating Students about Sexual Harassment

It’s important that children receive age-appropriate education about causes of sexual harassment.  A good time to educate on the subject is during classes about health and sexuality, but in younger grades this might not be possible.  Education about harassment in general can help teach very young children the inappropriateness of bullying or threatening other kids.

Older children can be better educated on how to prevent sexual harassment specifically.  They need to be made aware that harassment isn’t just when someone is touched in an unwelcome way, but that it also includes remarks, sexist name-calling, references to body parts, sexual advances, talking about a person in a sexual way, and gestures as well as actual touching.

cases on sexual harassment can cover almost any behavior that’s at all sexual in nature that makes the target of the behavior uncomfortable. Given this definition, studies have shown that at least 50% of all students have felt sexually harassed at some point.  Educating students as to what it means to harass can help with prevention.

Consequences of Sexual Harassment

Students who are victims of school sexual harassment cases are less likely to do well in school, and miss more days of school.  Any kind of bullying or harassment in school can cause these problems, as well as self-esteem and confidence issues, and even illness. 

Sexual harassment isn’t just a potentially damaging behavior, it’s also illegal and considered as sex discrimination cases under federal sexual harassment law, as well as most state laws. Students who are victims of this type of discrimination can file suit against their harassers as well as the school if the school failed to take appropriate to steps to protect the student from the behavior.

Aside from student education regarding sexual harassment, all staff should be made aware of the scope of harassment, how to recognize it, and what to do. An anti-harassment policy should be made available to everyone, so that everyone is aware of the consequences of sexual harassment, and become dedicated to preventing it within your school.

Updated: H.B.

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