Back to School

by Nan Stein, Ed.D.
August 2000

Going back to school this year is going to be unlike any other year; there are extra metal detectors, armed guards, extra security cameras, clipped on photo ids, missing lockers, and more restrictive dress codes. But, this school year also includes extra protection for students who have been sexually harassed by their peers.

Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Davis v. Monroe County (GA) Board of Education case which held that schools are liable for student-to-student sexual harassment. The facts of this case involved a 10 year old girl who was repeatedly grabbed and groped by one of her classmates. When she and her parents asked to have her seat changed, her teachers refused. Her grades fell and she became suicidal. Finally, her parents went to the police and the boy ultimately pled guilty to sexual battery. In addition, her parents filed a Title IX (sex discrimination/sexual harassment) lawsuit against the school district. That little girl is now a young woman, entering her junior year of high school, but this year, as she goes back to school, she knows that her lawsuit has made school a safer place for all students.

Here at the Wellesley Centers for Women, our research on sexual harassment and the classroom curriculum materials on sexual harassment in schools that we have developed should help schools to work with students in order to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment in schools. Our Flirting or Hurting? A Teacher’s Guide on Student-to-Student Sexual Harassment in Schools (by Nan Stein and Lisa Sjostrom), is a lively and engaging curriculum for grades 6-12 that allows students to come to terms with the definition of sexual harassment through ten lessons that involve case studies, classroom ethnographies, and writing assignments. Since its publication in the fall of 1994 by the National Education Association Professional Library, nearly 20,000 copies have been sold. It is available through our publications department at (781) 283-2510 for $19.95 plus postage and handling.

In addition, other academic articles and research studies on the subject of sexual harassment in schools are also available through the publications department. Three other teaching guides, two about bullying (Quit It for grades K-3; and Bullyproof for grades 4 & 5) as well as one about gender violence (Gender Violence/Gender Justice, for grades 7-12). Plus, Nan Stein’s book, Classrooms and Courtrooms: Facing Sexual Harassment in K-12 Schools, is also available through our publications department.

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