Hello EDEQUITY members:
Last week we began our discussion of gendered violence by focusing on
teasing and bullying--behavior that can be a precursor to later forms of
violence. Please continue to post any thoughts or resources you have on
that topic but this week we will focus on sexual harassment in K-12.
Following is information compiled by the WEEA Equity Resource Center to
start our discussion. Again we encourage you to share strategies and
resources for addressing these isssues.
Susan J. Smith
Sexual Harassment in K-12
Sexual harassment--defined as unwanted and unwelcome behavior of a sexual
nature--affects students in educational institutions ranging from
elementary to postgraduate schools. While both males and females engage in
or are victims of sexual harassment it is primarily boys who initiate
sexual harassment. Girls are the primary targets of sexual harassment,
particularly unattractive or unstylish girls, physically mature girls, and
boys not fitting the male stereotype.
Peer sexual harassment is pervasive and a widely acknowledged part of
students' school culture. In one case, 96 percent of the students reporting
harassment had been harassed by a fellow student. More than half of these
students (males and females) said they committed at least one act of
harassment against someone else in school. In a 1993 study commissioned by
the American Association of University Women, more than half of the girls
reported that they were harassed for the first time in middle school while
10 percent of Latina girls were harassed before the third grade.
The majority of incidents of sexual harassment take place in sites that are
typically filled with students and adults who look the other way. Whether
out of fear or simply not knowing what to do, this behavior supports a
cultural acceptance of, or at least an unwillingness to intervene in,
visible harassment. Students believe that teachers see harassment but do
not want to get involved. Students also fear reporting incidents, so
teachers seldom hear complaints. Some students themselves actively
encourage aggression or stand by and do nothing. One research report found
that one out of 12 youngsters who stay away from school does so because of
fear. It also found that harassment keeps kids from coming to school,
attending certain classes, or going to certain activities.
One of the most traditionally overlooked aspects of sexual harassment is
that directed at gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. However, there is
growing documentation that these students are frequent targets for attack.
For example, a Washington State Safe Schools Coalition study reported 91
incidents of harassment and violence over the past four years directed at
students who either were or were thought to be gay or lesbian. The 1997
Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results found similar incidents
for gay and lesbian youth.
Even less public awareness exists of the needs of students with
disabilities and students in special education settings when it comes to
sexual harassment. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention
and Control,(superscript: )students with disabilities may be at greater
risk than people without disabilities, not only because their disabilities
may prevent them from protecting themselves but also because they are seen
as easy targets who will not be believed.(superscript: )Girls and women
with disabilities or in special education are often excluded from national
sexual harassment surveys or their disability is not included in the
information, making it difficult to determine the extent of harassment. The
research that is available on sexual violence, however, reports that the
rate of sexual violence for women with disabilities ranges from 25 percent
to 67 percent. Among adolescent girls the reported rate of sexual violence
is about 24 percent, while among adolescent boys with disabilities the rate
ranges from 4 to 6 percent. More research is needed to determine the extent
of sexual harassment targeted at girls and women with disabilities and to
develop appropriate prevention strategies.
End of Message
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