School's obligation to handle sexual harassment

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School's obligation to handle sexual harassment

When we think about a schools obligation to prevent sexual harassment, it's very clear. We have a Supreme Court decision that requires all K through 12 schools to educate kids about what sexual harassment is and how they are to report to a teacher or administrator when they are being harassed. Kids should be told that; whether they are comments, whether they are verbal, whether they are posted on Facebook or put on a bathroom wall. If they are unwanted, it's sexual harassment. They should know and understand their boundaries around their personal space. If someone touches them repeatedly and inappropriately when they do not want them to, that's sexual harassment. The schools responsibility is to educate, but also, when there is an incident of sexual harassment, either reported by the student or the parent, the school is responsible for a speedy investigation and to make sure that a child that reports sexual harassment is not a target of harassment by the people who were accused of being the perpetrators. It is the Supreme Court's decision that parents should have them on their side. If their child comes home and reports that someone is spreading a sexual rumor or calling them "gay," or writing things on a Facebook wall that are inappropriate, or posting sexually explicit pictures of them; that can be viewed as sexual harassment and the school is responsible for following through and investigating and punishing those kids that are involved.

Watch Dorothy Espelage's video on School's obligation to handle sexual harassment...


Expert Bio

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Dorothy Espelage

Professor of Child Development

Dorothy L. Espelage, PhD, is a Professor of Child Development in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  She is a University Scholar and has fellow status in Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.  She earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Indiana University in 1997. She has conducted research on bullying, homophobic teasing, sexual harassment, and dating violence for the last 18 years. As a result, she presents regularly at regional, national, and international conferences and is author on over 90 professional publications.  She is co-editor of four published books including Bullying in North American Schools: A Social-Ecological Perspective on Prevention and Intervention and International Handbook of Bullying published by Routledge. She is Associate Editor of the Journal of Counseling Psychology. She has presented thousands of workshops and in-service training seminars for teachers, administrators, counselors, and social workers across the U.S.  Her research focuses on translating empirical findings into prevention and intervention programming.  She is currently funded by the CDC for a randomized clinical trial of a bullying prevention program in 36 middle schools. She authored a 2011 White House Brief on bullying among LGBTQ youth and attended the White House Conference in 2011. She is also funded by National Science Foundation to develop better methods to assess bullying among adolescents and CDC and NIJ are funding a longitudinal study of predictors of bullying and dating violence among adolescents. Dr. Espelage has appeared on many television news and talk shows, including The Today Show; CNN; CBS Evening News; The Oprah Winfrey Show, Anderson, Anderson 360 and has been quoted in the national print press, including Time Magazine, USA Today, People, Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal. Her dedicated team of undergraduate and graduate students are committed to the dissemination of the research through various mechanisms.

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