Area students have been back to school for several weeks now and, unfortunately, some of them are already experiencing harassment from their peers. Studies indicate that 81% of students experience sexual harassment by the time they finish college. And according to a study by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign released in 2014, harassment starts early with about 25% of middle school aged students experiencing sexual harassment at that young age.
Experiencing harassment can lead to decreased interest in school, poor grades, depression and other serious concerns. Neither students nor parents need to accept harassment at school as a normal experience. Schools have a legal obligation to provide a learning environment that is free from harassment.
So what should you do it your child reports that he or she is being harassed? Look at the school’s handbook and figure out exactly who to report the harassment to and then make a report. A phone call or in person meeting is fine, but follow it up with an email message or letter (and keep a copy), that repeats the report. Be specific about what happened (even if it is embarrassing) and who was involved. This is not the time to be vague or sugarcoat the issue. And be sure to use the word “harassment.” The school should take action to correct the situation. If it doesn’t, report it again. It is important to report every incident of harassment to the proper school authority.
The school might suggest that your child has to make a change to avoid being a victim. For example, the principal might suggest that your child change schools or change programs. If a significant change like this is required to fix the problem, we take the position that it is the harasser, not the victim, who must change schools, programs, or classes. Even worse, a school might take the position that “kids will be kids” and there is nothing that can be done. This is an unacceptable response.
Craig Henry currently represents students in several Kentucky school districts who were harassed by their peers. In one case, we allege that a boy repeatedly touched our client in a sexual manner – including once in front of her teacher – and the district failed to take action to stop him. In another, we allege a girl was violently assaulted on the bus on her way home from school, even after she reported to school personnel that she had been threatened. In each of these cases, the district failed to take any action to stop the problems, even when made aware of the situation. If your child is having issues like this, please contact us to discuss your situation and possible solutions.