How can we protect our students and provide them with support?
Before any other steps are taken to protect students from sexual harassment, schools must first look at their sexual harassment policy. Is it effective? Is it currently up to date? Has it been reviewed and revised recently? If the above questions can not be answered with a yes, then all efforts need to be made to improve the policy. While a sexual harassment policy in schools is required, it does not always mean that it is effective. In order to have a policy that is effective, many things are needed. Depending on the grade levels in every individual school, the policy needs to be comprehensible for students. Students should be able to easily understand the policy. It should be practical. The policy should clearly state what sexual harassment is, provide examples, and list disciplinary actions that could possibly be carried out. It should also be made clear that confidentiality will be ensured, along with assuring that retaliation will not be tolerated.
Once the sexual harassment policy has been deemed effective, schools should focus on making sure that reporting sexual harassment is easier on students. Very few students tend to report sexual harassment. It is most likely because they are either uncomfortable talking about, are afraid of retaliation by the harasser, or do not want other students to know that they went and told an adult . Schools should include how to report all incidents of sexual harassment in their policy. They should also consider creating a reporting form for students. The idea behind implementing a reporting form is to make it easier for the victim to come forward. Like it was mentioned above, a lot of students are uncomfortable reporting, verbally. By giving them the option to report it in writing, it could potentially make them less uncomfortable. The students would pick up a form (somewhere such as the main office, etc.) fill it out, and place it a secure area where it would only be accessible to the vice principal/ principal. The principal/assistant principal would become immediately aware of the incident that occurred. Therefore, the victim would not have to go through the whole process of explaining the incident again. Initially, it would have to be discussed, but it wouldn’t be as difficult to go through. The entire process would become more efficient. It would save time, be easier on the victim, allow disciplinary measures to be carried out in a timely fashion, and the matter can be resolved more effectively. Teachers should also let students know that they can report any incidents of sexual harassment to them as well because it might encourage the student to report it more, if they are comfortable talking to a teacher about it.