Sexual harassment in any circumstance is no laughing matter.
That should be especially true in schools, though a recent forum hosted by the AAUW at Jefferson Middle School brings to light the disturbing results of a national AAUW study published in 2011.
According to the survey, 36 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys experienced some type of online sexual harassment. Another 30 percent of students experienced sexual harassment by text, email or social networking. Many students harassing their peers say they were trying to be funny or who don't realize how harassment can affect their peers. About one-third of harassed students in the AAUW survey said they did not want to go to school because of sexual harassment, including 37 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys. Another 31 percent of students said they felt sick to their stomach as a result of the sexual harassment while 30 percent of students said sexual harassment made it harder to study. Trouble sleeping was a problem for 19 percent of students. Twelve percent of students surveyed said they stayed home from school because of sexual harassment while 4 percent of students changed schools.
Local officials speaking at the Jefferson Middle School event had useful suggestions. Karen Briner Peterson, Jamestown Public Schools human resources director, said students need to be taught more about sexual harassment so they know the harmful effects of their actions. Jefferson Middle School principal Carm Proctor, meanwhile, tells her students to take three steps: ignore the harasser, tell the harasser to stop and then to report the harassment.
"Education won't cure (sexual harassment), but it can curb it," Proctor said.
Proctor is right. Education can help, but it won't stop the problem. While schools and, in the most unfortunate of circumstances, the police can deal with the aftermath of sexual harassment, it is up to parents to make sure their children abstain from such behavior in the first place.