Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sexual harassment in schools  

There's short blog entry on the New York Times website about the increasing problem of sexual harassment in schools. Whether it's being a victim of crude language, kids being teased for their sexual orientation, or boys grabbing at girls' breasts in the hallway, it's a major issue that can lead to poor academic performance and emotional scarring. Recent studies show that more than a third of middle and high school students may be victims of sexual harassment.

The problem is that principals and teachers just aren't doing enough to stop it. Too often, sexual harassment is dismissed as "normal" teenage behavior, or is labelled as "bullying," when it's so different from "bullying." From the blog entry:

Overall, 35 percent of kids reported they had been victims of some form of sexual harassment. Boys and girls reported equal levels of harassment, but girls and sexual minorities were far more upset by it, suffering from lower self-esteem, poorer mental and physical health, and more trauma symptoms.

When I was in sixth grade, I was constantly harassed by a few pathetic and worthless boys. They felt the need to harass me because I had developed breasts sooner than most of the other girls. My self-esteem plummeted, and I started wearing baggy sweatshirts to school all the time... no matter how hot it was outside. They made disgusting comments about my body all year and it damaged me severely. Now, eight years later, I'm proud of my body, but I'm still scarred by their harassment.

I doubt they even knew what "sexual harassment" meant. I think schools need to implement educational programs about sexual harassment from elementary school to high school. They need to cover all grounds - boys calling other boys "faggots" in gym class, GLBT teens being teased for their sexuality, girls being the object of crude comments or gropes, etc etc. More needs to be done to stop it.

What next?

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