Moving beyond the “hush hush” of harassment in K/12 schools. (Mabel, Joe. Eckstein Middle School Hallway 02. 9 Feb. 2008. Wikimedia Commons.
The thought of spending an hour discussing touchy topics like sexual harassment and rape may make one uneasy, but at times, uncomfortable conversations can be the most impactful.
Columbus Academy has taken some active steps to bring sexual harassment closer to the forefront of our Upper School dialogue. To assess the scope of issues within our community, the administration recently administered two separate surveys – one for the entire Upper School student body and a separate focused-survey for the freshman class. Although some of these questions could have been surprising to some of us taking the survey, harassment and abuse in the K-12 educational setting is an unfortunate reality. According to the New York Times, the education department is currently investigating 652 Title IX violations (legislature preventing sex discrimination in education), 42% of which occurred in K-12 schools. Our school is making necessary efforts to determine if problems like this are occurring within our walls as well.
On Thursday, May 16, the school also invited student safety expert Katie Koestner to speak with the freshman class about sexual harassment and healthy relationships. Koestner used anecdotes and analogies to convey relevant messages regarding consent and taught listeners ways in which they could set a standard of behavior for our Columbus Academy community.
Koestner’s talk is profoundly relevant, for sexual harassment is an issue that is currently dominating our national dialogue. Whether it is in education systems, the government, or the workplace, this matter has permeated every generation.
College and workplace administrations have been addressing these issues for the past few decades, but K-12 schools are behind in this arena. That Columbus Academy is making visible attempts to address this disparity will both improve our community and teach us to push our comfort zones to make a change.