Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (SSAIS) wants students to have all the necessary information to protect themselves from the impact of sexual harassment/assault on their education. Students need to know about their civil rights and the steps they can take to protect their education, emotional health, and well-being.
That’s why we created a free video called Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School! Watch it here and share it.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault take place in schools across the country at an alarming rate. It’s so common that most female and LGTB students feel that sexual harassment and sexual bullying are just normal parts of a school day. The rate of suicide among harassed youth is heartbreaking. Schools often fail to respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment.
No student or family has to accept this situation. Students have a right to an education free from sexual harassment and sexual assault, according to Title IX. Few students and families realize that they have this right and they have options if schools do not act responsibly. That’s why SSAIS is stepping in: to provide the information students need to protect themselves when their schools have failed to.
Title IX, a federal law, requires schools to respond promptly and fairly to sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual cyberbullying, sexual assault hazing, and other forms of gender-based discrimination. Title IX protects you from retaliation when you report incidents of unwelcome sexual contact. Your right to an equal education is protected whether the harassment/assault occurred at school or elsewhere. Schools must protect you in the aftermath of sexual harassment/assault and cyberbullying from peers or teacher.
There are many misconceptions about how Title IX protects students from ongoing sexual harassment. Here are a few we’ve heard:
- Title IX only concerns equality in athletics programs.
- Title IX applies only to females.
- Title IX legislation says nothing about sexual harassment or violence, so it has no bearing on sexual harassment/violence in schools.
- Schools should not investigate complaints of sexual violence; it’s a matter for the police.
- Police investigations of sexual violence must be completed before schools begin their own investigations.
- If no criminal charges are brought against an alleged perpetrator of sexual violence, Title IX does not apply, and therefore schools do not have to conduct their own investigation.
- The school is not responsible to take any action if the assault occurred off campus.
Fallacies such as these have destructive consequences. For example, when students are unaware of their civil rights and options in the aftermath of a sexual assault by a peer or school staff their education can be ruined. Grades drop in the face of ongoing harassment, students may be forced to change schools, and some drop out entirely. When a student reports sexual assault or harassment, school administrators typically ignore or downplay the harassment/assault. The emotional effect on the student and the student’s family is devastating.
For Parents and Advocates
When responsible adults or others hear that a student has been sexually harassed/victimized by a peer or teacher, they often do not know what safeguards and complaint options are available through the school system. For example, they might not know that under Title IX, a student is protected from retaliation for reporting sexual harassment/assault, that the district must promptly begin an investigation, and that the school must make efforts to prevent retaliation and recurrence. Families and advocates must know what steps they can take when a school violates any of a student’s Title IX rights.