By Sarah Krantz, Esq.
In a four-year period from 2011 to 2015, the Associated Press (AP) investigated, supplemented by federal crime data, sexual assaults that were occurring inside of schools and found almost 17,000 official reports.[i] While this number is alarming, it is may not be as high as the actual number of sexual assaults occurring on school campus, as some states do not track this data or even make reporting of sexual assault mandatory.
Currently, there is no national requirement for elementary or secondary schools to track or disclose any act of sexual violence. To the contrary, there is a push for schools to keep this information secret so that liability and requirements to act are not triggered. The biggest problem is that justice cannot be served for the students who are the victims of these crimes because of policies to protect school districts.
Schools are amongst the most likely places for a child to be sexual abused, second only to the child’s home.[ii] This abuse occurs in buses, bathrooms, hallways, and locker rooms—places where children are left alone. Socioeconomics do not play a part in the likelihood of a child being assault in a school. Middle schoolers seem to be the most targeted population of sexual assaults in schools.[iii]
Many victims of sexual assault are often told that they are just the victims of bullying or horseplay, when it is actually much worse. Thus, it is extremely important for parents and school staff members to keep an eye out for these types of behaviors. Signs to also look for in a victim also include excessive absences, sensitivity, depression, and anxiety.
If a child is alleging that a sexual assault occurred in school, it needs to be taken seriously. Reports must be filed; even it means that a parent will have to fight the district. Everything possible needs to be done to make sure a child in safe in school.
Reporting in Florida
Florida is one of 32 states that maintains student sexual assault information and will share this information when requested.[iv] However, Florida does not require training for educators that help prevent incidents, better report them, or how to best respond to student-on-student sexual assault.
Schools notify the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) of all attempts of sexual assault and battery that occur on campus. Over the four-year period, the state reported 16 incidents.[v] Individual schools or districts had fewer than 10 a year.[vi]
[i] Reese Dunklin, Robin McDowell, Justin Pritchard, and Emily Schmall, Hidden Horror of School Sex Assaults Revealed by AP, Associated Press , (May 2, 2017) Accessed at https://www.apnews.com/1b74feef88df4475b377dcdd6406ebb7/Hidden-horror-of-school-sex-assaults-revealed-by-AP?utm_content=buffere4266.