Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits schools from discriminating on the basis of sex. The Supreme Court has interpreted Title IX to cover sexual harassment or assault in schools. While sexual assaults at the college level have drawn media attention in recent years, assaults in K-12 schools often fly under the radar. Many schools react indifferently or with hostility to students who report being the victims of sexual violence. The government agency responsible for addressing these complaints is barely making a dent and is facing likely budget cuts under the current administration. Students are often left feeling like they have no recourse.
Schools owe their students more
A school cannot sit back and let the police handle reported incidents of sexual violence. The criminal justice system is not intended to protect a student’s right to an education free from discrimination. That is not their role and they are ill-equipped to perform that function. Discrimination can and does exist in situations where a criminal charge cannot be supported. Schools must conduct their own review, and that review must be comprehensive, to fulfill their obligations to students. The schools must take immediate action to address student sexual violence with an eye toward preventing it and dealing the effects of reported incidents.
A widespread issue
Sexual assault among students is a major problem. Roughly 19 percent of girls aged 14-17 report that they have been the victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault. Students, male and female, in middle schools and high schools are subjected to sexual violence every day. It is a school district’s responsibility to address these assaults and do what they can to put a stop to them.
If a New Jersey school fails to protect its students from sexual discrimination, whether it be in the form of sexual harassment or sexual violence, it is up to students and parents to take action. Contact an attorney familiar with harassment and violence in schools and make sure your rights are being protected.