The U.S. Government Accountability Office said the nation’s K-12 schools lack a systemic approach to preventing and reporting educator sexual abuse of students, despite a problem that a (2004) report said affects an estimated 9.6 percent of students—nearly one in 10—who are subjected to sexual misconduct by teachers, coaches, principals, bus drivers and other personnel during their K-12 career. (Even in 2014, that 2004 estimate was the most recent available.)Just to be clear, the report carefully draws a distinction between “sexual misconduct” and “sexual abuse,” which is significant both legally and in terms of impact. "Sexual misconduct" covers physical, verbal and visual behavior—sexual abuse, sexual harassment, suggestive comment or letters, jokes, inappropriate photos and dating students. The report also cautions that this study is based on an exhaustive review of research literature and publicly available documents, but is not a rigorous scientific study. So the report offers a projection of its impact. Still. Ten percent of America’s school children equals five million children. Yes, there is a difference between sexual abuse and sexual misconduct, but as a parent and former educator I care about it all. It can’t be happening in schools.
Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. She has served on her local school board in Cumberland, Rhode Island, advocated for fair school funding at the state level, and worked on campaigns of candidates she considers to be champions for kids and true supporters of great schools. She is currently a Fordham senior visiting fellow.
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