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Sexual Harassment in Schools

All content on this page provided by Nan D. Stein, Ed.D and Kelly A. Mennemeier, B.A. in their October 2011 Critical Issue Brief:Addressing the Gendered Dimensions of Harassment and Bullying.pdfAddressing the Gendered Dimensions of Harassment and Bullying.pdf

Summary: “This paper first introduces and discusses a policy memo from the U.S. Department of Education that clarifies the distinctions between bullying and harassment and the priorities and responsibilities of school districts, and then outlines the differences between sexual harassment and bullying, explores the unintended consequences of ignoring the gendered dimensions of bullying and harassment in k-12 schools, and suggests helpful strategies for advocates collaborating with school personnel and students.”

Definition of sexual harassment in schools:
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and is illegal under federal law Title IX, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. Decisions in the U.S. federal courts and by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education have amplified the definition of sexual harassment:

  • Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment of a student that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive to deny or limit the student’s ability to participate in or to receive benefits, services, or opportunities in the school’s program is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX (Title IX, Sec. II of OCR’s 2001 Sexual Harassment Guidance).

Recommendations for local advocates and prevention educators working with schools and school communities (page 9-11)

  1. Get buy-in from school administration and educators.
  2. Use an evidence- and practice informed approach.
  3. Engage students in assessing school climate and making their school a safer place
  4. Educate school personnel and help develop policies and procedures that emphasize prevention and accountability
  5. Engage parents, guardians, and other supportive adults

Additional information provided in a report from the AAUW

This report reinforces what we, as advocates and educators, already know from our work in the field. Sexual harassment is pervasive in campus communities and on-campus prevention education sessions, campus administrative support, and advocacy are the best tools we have to combat the problem.