sexual harassment in schools

What is Sexual Harassment in Schools and How to End It

If you’re experiencing sexual harassment in school, you’re not alone.

Up to 85% of girls and 76% of boys in grades 8-11 have experienced some form of sexual harassment; others have gotten through this situation, and you will too.

It’s important to identify what sexual harassment is and the exact steps you need to take to stop it. Some situations can be rectified after one step, others may require legal action.

To learn what kind of sexual harassment in schools is commonly occurring, and a guide to putting a stop to it, keep reading.

Types of Sexual Harassment in Schools

Students can experience different forms of sexual harassment from teachers, other students, and guests of the school. Here are the most common forms:

1. Quid Pro Quo Harassment

In Latin, “quid pro quo” translates to mean “this or that”. In terms of sexual harassment, it covers a wide array of behavior from a teacher to a student.

It often begins with a teacher making inappropriate comments towards the student regarding their body. Complimenting your appearance, commenting on your body, and making inappropriate gestures towards your body are examples of harassing behavior.

This situation then elevates to the teacher insisting the student participate in sexual behavior or else they’ll get a bad grade, they’ll get in trouble or some other negative consequence.

Teenagers, who are used to being controlled by the rules of authority, may not see any other option than to comply with the teacher. This situation can create extreme anxiety among other negative outcomes.

Teachers or people of authority in the school should not be flirting with students, commenting or complimenting students’ bodies, or manipulating them with their authority.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a serious situation that needs to be addressed immediately.

2. Hostile Environment Harassment

This type of sexual harassment in schools can be between students and peers, or authority figures.

The main indicator that it’s occurring is when the victim feels uncomfortable and unable to participate in school or complete school work because of the hostile environment. Studying for tests and exams falls lower down the ladder of priorities.

Hostile environments can be created by groups of students picking on one single student, or a single student picking on the victim.

The harassment can be displayed as calling them vulgar names (like “slut” or “whore”), touching them without consent, and gesturing towards their body. An example would be a boy in school grabbing a female student’s rear end to make her uncomfortable.

The victim will often feel they need to avoid going to school to avoid the harassment, stop participating in activities the harasser is also at, or can’t complete classwork because they feel so anxious about the harasser.

3. Online Sexual Harassment

Students are usually active on the internet during school and at home through social media and private messaging on their cellphones.

Online platforms are a common place for sexual harassment to occur. The harassing student can hide behind the screen seemingly safe from consequences. The victim may be sent unwanted sexual messages and pictures, or threats of what will happen if they don’t comply with the harasser’s demands.

Students can face rumors being spread about them in relation to their sexuality and body. In some cases, victims have had whole websites and social media pages created to spread rumors about them.

What to Do If It’s Happening to You

The first thing you need to do is make it clear to the harasser that you don’t feel comfortable with their behavior and you want it to stop.

If it continues after you’ve asked them to stop, there are further steps you need to take.

Tell Someone You Trust

Whether it’s your parents, guardian, or the school counselor, a trusted adult needs to be informed about what’s going on.

In some cases, they can talk to the principal who will meet with the harassing student and hopefully put an end to their behavior. If it’s a teacher harassing you, you definitely need to tell a trusted adult.

Write a Letter

You might need to have physical proof that you’ve told the harasser that their behavior is unwanted.

Writing a letter is a good idea to clearly state how you’re feeling.

However, it’s equally as important to date the letter and makes a copy of it. In case the situation progresses to legal action, you will need proof that they knew their behavior was unwanted.

Document Everything

Start a new journal to document the time, place, and harassment that takes place. Also, note the names of anyone who may have witnessed it. If the harassment happens online, screenshot and save everything in case it gets deleted later.

Complain to School Officials

If your own actions and requests so far haven’t stopped the harasser from attacking you, it’s time to make a formal complaint with the school. Perhaps bring your parents with you or a trusted adult to support you and put pressure on the school.

The school has a legal responsibility to protect its students and ensure all children are safe. Sexual harassment makes the victim feel unsafe and unprotected at school.

File a Report

You can file a report or a claim with the U.S Department of Education, or with the police depending on the harassment.

If you’re being harassed by a teacher, then you need to get lawyers and the police involved. If other students are harassing you, and the school isn’t doing anything about it, then you may still need to seek legal guidance against the school. US Attorneys can guide you through the process.

Sexual Harassment is Never Your Fault

No matter what you’ve done or said in the past, you don’t deserve to be sexually harassed. Some victims, especially minors, believe they’ve done something to cause the harassment and therefore they deserve it. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Interested in Learning More?

Students face many different stressful situations in school, from choosing prom dates to acing the SATs. Dealing with sexual harassment shouldn’t be one of them.

Sexual harassment in schools is a national issue that needs to be addressed on every level of authority.

To learn more about student life, dealing with stress, and achieving your goals, check out our blog.