Sexual harassment is any unwelcome or unwanted behavior that is sexual in nature directed towards a particular individual. Such behavior may lead to the development of fear, shame, embarrassment, and other psychological problems according to Young et al. (2004).
Such behaviors interfere with an individual’s right to equal opportunity in education. Harassment can occur in a variety of forms. For instance, the use of written or spoken language with sexual intentions is inappropriate. According t the Supreme Court of the United States (1986), Fraser a student at Bethel High School faced charges for the use of sexually explicit language in his speech during a school gathering. He used inappropriate expressions in his nomination speech, in reference to the candidate he sought to nominate. This was not taken lightly by the teachers and school authority that ensured disciplinary action. The charges were based on the school rule which prohibit the use of vulgar language within the school premises.
Sexual harassment can also be in the form of gestures such as winking and other sexually suggestive actions. This can also be in the form of physical contact where the perpetrator touches the victim in an offensive manner without the victim’s consent. This can range from grabbing, touching, pinching, snapping of bra straps, assault, rape and child abuse according to Stein (2000).
Statistical data reveal mild cases of harassment are more common in schools, in comparison to the serious ones such as assault and rape. A study known as Hostile Hallways, done on students of 8th – 11th grade in different schools, showed a higher number of girls reported cases of sexual harassment in comparison to their male counterparts. Though the overall number was high, a ratio of boys to girls was 3:4. Subsequently, a study by Connecticut Department of Education revealed 78% of the student had reported such cases at least once. Forms of harassment such as sexual jokes, gestures, touching and grabbing were most prevalent (Stein, 2000).
Young et al. (2004), states that harassment can be done in various, parts and of the school by different people. Most of the reported cases had occurred in classrooms, school halls, pool areas, and the gymnasium. The attacks were by; friends, boyfriends and teaches. Few of the attacks were by strangers and the support staff.
This behavior is illegal within and outside the school environment and is punishable by law. According to Wright’s Law (2013), Mrs. Davis filed a petition against her daughter’s school board seeking payment for damages on the grounds of sexual assault of her fifth grade daughter by a classmate. She blamed the school for ignoring the advances made by the perpetrator even after several reports made by the victim within the period the assault occurred.
This case highlights the law’s role in protecting individuals from sexual harassment. The Federal Courts and Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education provides for two forms of assault. Fits, we have the Quid pro quo which involves influences on a student’s involvement in educational activities based on sexual submission or favors to the teacher or staff. An employee may force a student to comply with sexual demands for grade improvements or participation in other activities (Stein, 2000). Secondly, the Hostile-environment harassment caters for the cats done by employees or other parties towards other employees, students, and individuals within the school system.
The school has a responsibility of stopping and preventing sexual harassment in order to ensure a safe and productive educational environment. How is this possible? According to Title IX of Education Amendment of 1972, all educational institutions should ensure all kinds of sexual discrimination and harassment are eliminated. A school can do this through the establishment of well-publicized policies against the act (National Women’s Law Center, 2007). This should include guidelines written in clear and comprehensible language on how victims can make a formal complaint. They cater for the how, where, and whom to report to followed by an outline of the processes after reporting.
The students should be sensitized on what constitutes sexual harassment and its consequences through; talks, posters, and resource persons. When reports occur, they should be taken seriously by the administration instead of lightly like in the Davis case (Wright’s Law, 2013).
Sexual harassment is a reality individuals have to deal with every day at; work, home, school and other places. Everyone is at a risk despite the differences in age, race, or gender. In schools, students and staff should be protected from the vice which has a negative impact on their educational performance as well as overall psychological health. Through this, the healthy development of all individuals in a safe environment occurs.
National Women’s Law Center (2007). How to Protect Students from Sexual Harassment: A primer for schools. Washington, DC, Retrieved April 4, 2013 from http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/Final%20Fact%20SH%20Sheet-Schools.pdf
Stein, N. (2000). Sexual Harassment in Schools. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, Retrieved April 3, 2013 from http://www.musc.edu/vawprevention/research/sexharass.shtml
Supreme Court of United States (1986). Bethel School District, No. 40 3 et al. versus Fraser, a Minor, et al. No. 84-1667, Retrieved April 4, 2013 from http://www.law2.umkc.edu/faculty/project/ftrials/firstamendment/bethel.html
Wright’s Law (2013). Davis versus Monroe Board of Education. Wright’s Law, Retrieved April 4, 2013 from http://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/case_Davis_Monroe_SupCt_990524.html
Young, E. L., Allen, M., and Ashbaker, B. Y. (2004). Sexual Harassment. National Association of School Psychologists, Retrieved April 4, 2013 from http://www.nasponline.org/educators/Sexual%20Harassment.pdf