A 1993 survey of 1,632 eighth to eleventh graders, conducted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), reported that 76 percent of males and 83 percent of females (WOW!)have been the victims of unwanted sexual confrontation at school (Fineran, 2002). The laws concerning sexual harassment are much stricter in workplaces than they are as they apply to schools (Grube, 2003), and many people may not realize that only in the last two decades was sexual harassment in schools even addressed by courts and lawmakers. Studies have shown that sexual harassment has detrimental effects in an educational setting. The same AAUW study reported that victims “feel threatened, depressed, even suicidal; dread going to school; have difficulty paying attention; are reluctant to participate in class; experience falling grades; and have considered changing schools” (Couch, 2004). Because a school can be held financially liable for sexual harassment on its premises, school counselors should do all they can to prevent and address this problem.
Where to even begin? First, please note that this article takes data from 1993, but was written in 2006. 1993 is before almost all students carried cell phones, Ipods, and laptops everywhere they went. I have no idea of the statistics now, but I can think of no solid reasoning to assume that those numbers are less. However, I can think of countless reasons why they would have increased. Scary.
I would like to focus on that last line that I have placed in bold letters: Because a school can be held financially liable for sexual harassment on its premises, school counselors should do all they can to prevent and address this problem. Financial reasons are why they should protect students from sexual harassment? Seriously? What about all those reasons listed in the previous few sentences? What about the horror of rape, or the trauma that can follow a young man his entire life because he was not raised to understand the value of himself and members of the opposite sex? I cannot imagine that a "study" was needed to assess that sexual harassment was indeed a detriment in ANY setting, including an educational one. I cannot imagine, as a parent, being willing to outsource my parenting to strangers who do not hold my values, nor believe in anything other than passing the test. But, I digress.
I lament the standards to which our society has fallen. I am horrified by the amount of sex and violence that our children are exposed to daily and I am saddened that any child must be sent off to an institute of learning while being horrified that they will be fondled, groped, made fun of, harassed and bullied to the degree that it actually affects their ability to learn and focus. I am also equally aware that many parents will defend the position of the school, as well as defend their position to send their children there. "Socialization" has become the goal and virtue that rings the loudest among those opposed to homeschooling. Perhaps they should look at that goal a little more closely before shouting it from the rooftops. It is a straw man arguement, at best.
However, the ruling in Monroe vs Davis, a well known sexual harassment case filed against a public school, wasn't so clear that they felt that way at all. They were much more concerned with a public institution being held responsible for...well, anything really. Here was the first mandate from that court case that some actually view as "successful".
- Can a recipient of federal education funding be be held liable for damages under Title IX under any circumstances for discrimination in the form of student-on-student sexual harassment?
- Can a district's failure to respond to student-on-student sexual harassment in its schools support a private suit for money damages?
And here was the court's answer:
5-4, majority opinion by O'Connor. "A private Title IX damages action may lie against a school board in cases of student-on-student harassment, but only where the funding recipient is deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment, of which the recipient has actual knowledge, and that harassment is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school (Monroe v. Davis, http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/ed-online/cter/EOL469/mvd.html )."
In terms of the first issue presented above, the ruling of the Supreme Court was "yes", a recipient of federal funding can be held liable for damages under Title IX. In terms of the second issue presented above the answer is again "yes". The Supreme Court decision reinstates Aurelia Davis' suit. The next step in the process is for a jury to determine whether LaShonda's specific allegations justify an award (James J. Kilpatrick, "Ruling opens door to school lawsuits," Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, 6-22-99, p. A-4).
Please note that I took the liberty of making that "and" bold print. So, they must prove that the school has been indifferent AND that the harassment has been so pervasive that they literally feel deprived of their educational opportunity. Those are some BIG words for a 5th grader, huh? By the way, the plaintiff was a 5th grade child who had complained for THREE months to her mother AND her teacher that the boy next to her was "grabbing her breasts and crotch". The school finally decided that perhaps they would move her to the other side of the classroom from the 10 year old little boy who was fondling and groping the 10 year old little girl. When the harassment continued is when the suit was filed. And yes, my heart aches for both of them. Ask yourself what we're coming to when a 10 year old child must put with being being fondled for 3 months before action will be taken, and then ask yourself what we're coming to when a 10 year old little boy understands the concept and employs sexual harassment upon another. There is much to be sad about there, people.
Back to our point that the primary concern all along was whether a publicly funded institution should, or could, be liable for sexual harassment. Are publicly funded buildings not, by definition, paid for by the people? Oh, how we have lost our way. Again, I digress. The entire point of this post was to simply shine some light on a little discussed topic of the public school system. There are countless more, and I will get to those on some other days, but here is one we should all pray about and discuss. Children should not be outsourced from their parents, and on top of that, be forced to endure sexual harassment in ANY situation, most certainly a publicly funded one that they are forced into.
The Bible is clear on the dangers of harming the most innocent members of our society:
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
(Matthew 18:2-6 ESV)
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 10:13-14)
Jesus was quite clear on His expectations of how these little ones were to be treated and how they reflected the heart and attitude of true believers that would inherit the Kingdom of God. So when people ask me if I'm depriving my children by not sending them to public institutions to learn or if I feel as though the are "missing out", my answer is a firm, "No, we do not." This article is merely a tip of the iceberg on all the reasons why we are convinced this answer is truth.