By Catherine R. Guttman-McCabe
Partner, Potomac Law Group
Sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual abuse by an educator, is a significant safety issue for elementary and secondary schools, where students are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and abuse of authority by educators. The United States has been gripped by reports of sexual violence on college campuses. Congress, the White House, administrative agencies, and the courts have all been grappling with this issue and responding with legislation, regulations, investigations, and guidance.
Many important lessons can be learned from the experiences of colleges and universities in addressing sexual misconduct. School districts, which are vulnerable to enforcement action by the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), have a window of opportunity now to establish compliance procedures, while the focus of government investigations is on post-secondary institutions. Using a methodical approach, school districts can take steps to prevent sexual misconduct, address it, and ensure a safer community.
Establishing compliance procedures takes time, and the culture of an institution plays a big part in establishing what behaviors will be tolerated. Policies, procedures, and training can make a difference. And the lessons we teach our primary- and secondary-age students about sexual harassment, sexual violence, and prevention will have a lasting impact on the college and university cultures they will help shape.
- Sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual abuse by an educator or peer, is a significant safety issue for elementary and secondary schools, where students are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and abuse of authority by educators.
- It is imperative that institutions keep in mind the following question at all times: How do we keep this student and all students safe from harassment, abuse, and violence?
- Every time you respond (or fail to respond) to an allegation of sexual misconduct, you are affecting the culture of your institution.
- There is an abundance of guidance that has a profound impact on schools’ obligations to prevent, investigate, address, and train regarding sexual misconduct.
This article is an excerpt from Emerging Issues in K-12 Campus Security Chapter 1, 2015 ed. This excerpt was provided by Aspatore Law Books, part of Thomson Reuters. Aspatore books were originally created for a legal professional audience, but have since become popular with non-attorneys thanks to easy-to-understand writing and smart, real-world insights. You can find the entire book available for purchase on the Thomson Reuters Legal Solutions website by clicking the book title linked above.