What's the Law Got to Do with It?: Talking and Teaching about Sexual Harassment, Bullying and Gender Violence in K-12 Schools

  • Nan Stein, EdD

    Sexual harassment and gender violence in schools is often hidden by the use of other terms. “Bullying,” a popular and more palatable term is frequently used to describe these sexually harassing, sexually violent incidents. Whether used innocently or as shorthand, when educators or clinicians call sexual harassment and gender violence behaviors as “bullying,” the violent and illegal (either under civil law or under criminal law) nature of these incidents is obscured and the school’s responsibility and potential liability is deflected. Unfortunately, the bullying framework tends to conflate and subsume harassment as a sub-set, as it elevates bullying, and moves us away from the discourse of rights, rights that schools must provide to all students – an education environment that is free from sex discrimination and sexual harassment under Federal Civil Rights law, Title IX. The talk will also include the use of a case study from the US Supreme Court (1999) that helps to illuminate these points.