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Chris and James Welsh of Welsh & Welsh
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What Can Be Done About Sexual Violence in Schools?

Published on May 17, 2017 at 12:00 pm in Legal Information.

At Welsh & Welsh, we work hard to protect victims of accidents who feel powerless or overcome by circumstances they did not cause. In addition to helping victims of personal injury accidents, we’re also advocators of groups that make it their mission to educate the public about legal rights. Among these integral rights is Title IX, a federal law which protects students from being discriminated against in schools based on gender. As part of this law, institutions of higher education are required to “take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence.”

Title IX is essential to our nation’s colleges and universities, but it also plays a role in K-12 schools around the nation. Unfortunately, elementary and middle/high schools are not governed by the same requirement that governs colleges and universities regarding sexual harassment and sexual violence policies. In an educational series published by the Public Justice organization and the Associated Press, you can read just one example case of a Maine student who was sexually abused by other students and did not receive the necessary protection from his school officials.

Cases like this are more prevalent than many believe. The Associated Press ran a year-long investigation tallying cases of sexual assault and harassment among 50 million K-12 students in the U.S., and it was revealed that almost 17,000 reports of sexual harassment and violence were made by students over a four-year period from fall 2011 to spring 2015. The number of occurrences is most likely higher than this as well, given the fact that many assaults go unreported. According to the article, cases of sexual assault between students largely get swept under the rug by officials.

Colleges and universities have a legal duty to stop acts of sexual violence from occurring thanks to Title IX, but K-12 students are largely unprotected since each state governs K-12 schools separately. Some states require K-12 employees to keep records of sexual assault between students as well as require faculty members to receive training in how to deal with cases of sexual assault. Other states require one but not the other. Other states require neither.

If you’re a parent of a K-12 student and are wondering what your options are regarding sexual violence at your child’s school, you do have options. The Public Justice organization urges parents to read this article which states the steps any parent should take if they feel their child may be getting sexually or otherwise violently abused at school.