By Cat Cleary
According to a national survey conducted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), 48% of students in grades 7-12 experienced some form of sexual harassment at school during the 2010-11 academic year. AAUW’s research report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, describes the various types of harassment that students face today. The report also identifies the prevalence of the problem and explains the emotional impact that sexual harassment has on students. Defined as unwanted sexual behavior (in person and online) that interferes with a student’s education, sexual harassment at school is a serious problem facing both girls and boys across the country. So what now?
Here are some ways that you can help stop sexual harassment in your local community:
1. Check out your local public school board’s policy on harassment. What does it say about sexual harassment? If you find a way it could be improved, contact your school board!
2. Help educate school teachers and administrators about Title IX, how to respond to a student if he or she reports an incident of harassment, and what they as school officials can do to make school a safe space for all students.
3. Talk to students about it. Often students don’t know what constitutes sexual harassment. It is vital to educate students in schools including youth groups and community organizations. Create a workshop, be a class speaker, or hold an assembly!
4. Work with students to raise awareness at their school. Whether you’re compiling student stories for a blog, helping to create a poster campaign, or helping students identify where they can report incidents of harassment, you can be an active change agent—and partner to students—in this movement.
5. Educate parents about their role in stopping sexual harassment. Talk about how they can best respond if their child reports an incident of harassment, how they can talk to their children about healthy relationships, and how they can empower their children to be assertive, active bystanders.
The take away message: there are many ways that you can get involved and be a part of the solution! The kind of change that needs to happen in order to stop sexual harassment at school doesn’t just start at school. It requires a coordinated community response that involves parents, teachers, school administration, local and national non-profits, and students, faculty and staff at local colleges and universities. Rather than simply being reactive, we have to be proactive agents of change.