University of Phoenix
Sexual Misconduct in Schools on the Rise
Inappropriate sexual behavior among educators and students comes in various degrees – sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment. Sexual misconduct between a teacher and student covers a broader scope than sexual abuse and may include some forms of sexual harassment. Studies conducted on sexual misconduct revealed a continuing rise in cases as awareness and improved reporting methods were introduced. Some acts of the misconduct were attributed to insufficient hiring policies, inadequate awareness training, and lack of legislation addressing the problem. As more preventive measures and tougher legislation are established, increased cases of sexual misconduct should be prevented, thus affording a safer academic environment for students. Sexual Misconduct Defined
Whereas sexual abuse is the legal term used by the Department of Education (2004), Dr. Carol Shakeshaft, a Hoftstra University School of Education professor contracted by the Department to study the issue, reported the behavior as sexual misconduct. Her 2004 report examines sexual misconduct in order to encompass all sexually inappropriate behavior that may have eluded the legal system, such as gestures, notes, e-mails or text messages. According to an article by Shakeshaft and Cohan (1995), two levels of sexual abuse are identified.
Level I non-contact sexual abuse is visual and includes such actions as exhibitionism, showing sexually explicit pictures, or making gestures. Level II non-contact sexual abuse is verbal and includes making sexual comments, jeering or taunting, and asking questions about sexual activity. (p. 3, ¶ 1)
The act of contact abuse on each of these levels involves more serious behavior including touching, stroking, sexual affection, and intercourse. The non-contact levels of behavior have not fallen under a specific class of abuse. In Shakeshaft’s 2004 report for the Department of Education, she more clearly defines these cases as sexual misconduct.
Two types of sexual misconduct occur in the school environment. Quid pro quo, Latin meaning “this for that,” takes place when an academic employee approaches a student for sexual gratification – verbal, nonverbal, or physical – perhaps in return for better grades or a position on an athletic team. The student is warned against telling anyone. Hostile misconduct involves unwanted sexual verbal or physical contact that is persistent and affects the student’s performance in normal school and extracurricular activities (Goorian, 1999).
Robert Shoop (1999) writes that sexual misconduct usually begins with a teacher grooming his target by telling sexual jokes and making inappropriate sexual conversation. When the teacher’s behavior goes unreported, he then moves on to inappropriate hugging, touching, flirting, and even stroking the child’s hair as if comforting (¶ 4). Further tolerance or non-reporting by the student can lead to further misconduct and abuse. Who is Involved
Education Week (1998) conducted a six month study identifying 244 cases of sexual misconduct and concluded that “more than seven out of ten suspects were teachers, but principals, janitors, bus drivers, and librarians were also among the accused” (Data on Problem section, ¶ 2). Most suspects were men with up to 20% reported being women, all known to gain children’s trust easily. The highest rates occurred among coaches and band directors due to more one-on-one contact and added time spent with students in after school activities. Shakeshaft’s study (2004) indicates that upwards of 10% of the students from kindergarten to twelfth grade have been affected by some type of sexual misconduct, translating to over four million students across the country. Far more cases almost certainly exist due to non-reporting. Reasons for Occurrence
Many reasons exist that lead to the...