Sexual Harassment in Schools

The last type of bullying I want to blog about is that of sexual bullying. Many people don’t realize that sexual harassment in schools is a widespread problem that many schools are dealing with throughout our country. Did you know that there are children in schools who are targeted because of their sexual orientation or because of their gender? Did you know it was even a problem at all?

Teasing in school occurs often, and rarely is simple teasing considered a form of bullying. Teasing, while not always appropriate is often something kids do to another child in a way that is not meant to be cruel. When teasing oversteps the harmless fun, it turns into bullying. When someone is teased incessantly, day in and day out because of his or her gender, whom she likes, teased about body parts or rumors are spread about a child’s sexuality or sexual experiences, it is considered sexual harassment. This is a form of bullying and should not be tolerated by schools. The following are some ways sexual bullying occurs:

-Using words that reflect negatively on someone’s sexual orientation; like calling someone “gay”

-Using sexual words to put someone down

-Making threats or jokes that deal with sexual crimes, such as rape

-Touching someone in a way that makes them uncomfortable or is unwanted

-Making someone perform a sexual act that they do not want to do

Unfortunately and especially in girls, sexual bullying often results in the girl having less self-confidence, the girl may experience feelings of shame and embarrassment. This may also reflect in the grades of the child experiencing this sexual bullying.

As with any type of bullying, sexual harassment should have set consequences in school. Ultimately, it is up to the school to have a plan in place for dealing with this type of bullying. There have been cases reported of schools failing to deal with sexual harassment and then being sued. In Minnesota there was a case of girl who was in elementary school who was a victim of sexual name calling and unwanted touching. The school did not respond “aggressively enough” to protect the child according to court documents, and ultimately ended up settling with the girl for $15,000, without admitting any wrongdoing.

Schools need to educate students on the difference between flirting and sexual harassment. Students need to learn what the line is and where to draw it. As with any type of bullying, schools can hold assemblies that teach about this type of bullying; they can work it into the school curriculum. The point is to make sure it is a part of the program when teaching about bullying. Parents should also have discussions at home with their children about sexual harassment.

I want to end with these questions: How young is too young to teach children about sexual harassment and sexual bullying in schools? Should this be something schools teach children in 1st grade, or should it wait? Do you believe that the sooner we start educating children about this, the better? Or do you believe that that parents should be the only ones to discuss sexual harassment with a child? Are schools doing enough to help stop sexual harassment before it starts?

If anything, this topic offers someone a lot to think about. What are your thoughts?