Sexual Assault in K-12 Often Overlooked Aspect of Title IX by Hermina Garic
College campuses receive the most attention concerning Title IX, even though the law applies to all educational institutions provided with federal funding, including K-12 schools. Title IX administration and compliance in K-12 schools is an often overlooked problem.
According to the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “childhood exposure to violence, crime, and abuse can lead to serious consequences for health and wellbeing of those exposed, both during childhood and throughout adulthood.”
10 percent of youth have experienced “sexual victimization.” This rises to 27 percent for minors age 14 to 17, 10 percent of whom have experienced “sexual assault.” Sexual abuse disproportionately impacts girls, 20 percent of whom are victims of sexual abuse, compared to 5 percent of boys.
In a particularly emotional case, a student from Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia came forward about an act of sexual assault that she experienced. What followed was a direct attack towards her right to a safe educational environment.
The student, referred to as T.M. for privacy reasons, confided in her first period teacher about the incident. The situation was then brought to the attention of a resource officer who asked harmful questions, such as why she did not fight the perpetrator and what she was wearing.
T.M. and the assailant were both suspended for what the school determined to be an act of engaging in consensual sexual activity on campus. T.M. was later diagnosed with PTSD. She had become a victim of bullying as well once her situation went public.
In a statement, T.M. said, “What has hurt the most is that I have suffered for something I didn’t do. My school punished me and made it seem like the attack was somehow my fault. For a long time, I thought maybe it was.”
T.M.’s experiences highlights a wider problem with the administration of Title IX in K-12 schools across the nation. Students and parents do not know their rights regarding Title IX. School administrators and officers are not always equipped to act on reports of sexual violence brought forth by brave victims.
K-12 schools can develop better Title IX guidelines and make sexual violence a topic that is discussed before students enroll in college. It is not an issue that is college specific and can happen to anyone. With stronger processes and more conversation around the issue, victims can feel safer seeking the support they need.
Hermina Garic is a government student at Utica College and an intern for the K. Della Ferguson Womyn's Resource Center