How Students Can Help Prevent Sexual Misconduct at School

by Dr. Glenn Lipson, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist,

In the insurance industry, SAM refers to sexual abuse and molestation incidents. It seems that every other day in the news there is another person in a school being accused of engaging in inappropriate intimacy with a student. One of these events is too many, but across the country and internationally, sexual misconduct keeps occurring.

It is a core belief, and demonstrated, that students know what is going on in their schools. They have a sense of the employees that stand too closely, who eye them down and undress them inappropriately with their gaze, and respond to them more like a peer than an adult with authority. Their senses inform them that there is something odd or creepy about this person. Students at school are also aware of the students who are taking advantage of their classmates sexually.

Students can lend a powerful voice if we listen to what they want to share. Amplifying youth awareness and voice helps deter these problems. Whether it is sexual harassment or protecting a fellow student from a predator on campus, there is a task to be accomplished. Rather than focusing on adults abusing children let’s look at child-on-child abuse. Examining federal crime data, and state education records, the Associated Press in a 2017 research article documented 17,000 official cases of sexual assaults of other students over a 4-year period from 2011 to 2015. With approximately 50 million K-12 students this number does not capture what is taking place because such incidents are vastly under-reported. Still the numbers suggest that student-on-student abuse happens 7 times more often than teacher-on-student misconduct.

Many states don’t even track when these events between students happen or if they are classified as sexual violence. What Community Matters demonstrates is this: if we want to curb and decrease these types of incidents, we need to tap into youth awareness and provide them with the skills to set limits, share information and resolve conflicts. Community Matters has tapped into the resource of students to address issues that often those in the administration have little awareness of in their schools.

Our children know, and it takes little guidance to recruit them and their natural desire to promote safety and healthy connections. These connections are the most rewarding. As an expert in this area, this author will continue to work with Community Matters because it is an integral part of prevention and change.