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An estimated 10 percent of U.S. children will be victims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by school employees.

Our course, Preventing Sexual Misconduct, provides seminars, online training, and policy analysis to reduce the occurrence and litigation risk of educator sexual misconduct. Below we've compiled some answers to the most fundamental questions regarding this growing problem.

What are the numbers?

In a single day this year, the following stories made the news: A special education teacher in Indiana was arrested for molesting a 16-year-old girl; a high school band director in California admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old boy; and a former teacher and bus driver in North Dakota was arrested for sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl for more than a year. The vast majority of the 3 million teachers in the U.S. are caring, dedicated professionals who recoil at the idea of such abuse. Still, the headlines illustrate an alarming truth 1 out of 5 girls and nearly 1 out of 10 boys will be sexually abused by a school employee at some point during their academic careers. In the past five years, schools have sanctioned at least 2,750 educators for sexual misconduct with minors. Experts say that this is just the tip of the iceberg. A majority of sexually abusive educators never get reported, and many who are reported simply get shuffled to another school. Most perpetrators abuse more than one student.

What's the difference between:
"Sexual Misconduct, "Sexual Harassment" and "Sexual Abuse?"

Over the course of four years, researcher Charol Shakeshaft examined reports of educator sexual misconduct and abuse. "She determined that "sexual misconduct" between school employees and students typically comes in three forms: Visual, such as showing sexually explicit photographs to students, or exposing one's genitals, Verbal, such as commenting on a student's body parts or making sexually explicit jokes, Physical, such as fondling, touching, molestation, and even rape. Because these acts can be very upsetting, people often choose to use euphemisms when discussing them. In everyday discussions, the terms "sexual abuse," "sexual misconduct," and "sexual harassment" often get used interchangeably. Legally, however, the terms have distinct meanings:

"Sexual Abuse"

According to federal law, sexual conduct meets the threshold of sexual "abuse" when the perpetrator knowingly… "causes another person to engage in a sexual act by threatening or placing that other person in fear," or "engages in a sexual act with another person if that other person is a) incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct, or b) physically incapable of declining participation in, or communicating unwillingness to engage in, that sexual act."

"Sexual Harassment"

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the law recognizes two types of sexual harassment: Quid pro quo harassment: This occurs "when a school employee causes a student to believe that he or she must submit to unwelcome sexual conduct in order to participate in a school program or activity. It can also occur when an employee causes a student to believe that the employee will make an educational decision based on whether or not the student submits to unwelcome sexual conduct." Hostile environment: This occurs "when unwelcome sexually harassing conduct is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it affects a student's ability to participate in or benefit from an education program or activity, or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment."

"Sexual Misconduct" Who are the victims?

Making Right Choices Facts

Legally, sexual misconduct applies to a broader category of acts that fail to meet the threshold of "abuse" or "harassment." Commonly, however, "sexual misconduct" is used in press reports and non-legal documents as an umbrella term for acts of sexual abuse or harassment.

Victims represent all grade levels, ethnicities, family incomes and geographic regions, yet research indicates female students and students of color are disproportionately targeted. The effects of abuse are devastating; targeted students are more likely to skip school, less likely to participate in class, and often experience emotional and developmental trauma.

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