WICHITA, Kansas – Sexual harassment has always been an issue schools take seriously, and now new research suggests the problem may be more widespread.
A study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign released Sunday says overall 27 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys reported they had experienced sexual harassment of some form while at school.
KSN spoke to parents at a local middle school, and they were caught off guard.
“I didn’t expect it to be anywhere as high as you said they were,” said Peter Smith.
While a lot of this may come as a shock, the bigger issue could be how students are responding to it.
Some students are choosing to simply brush off the incidents.
Researchers say that of the nearly 1,400 students they interviewed from four midwestern middle schools, many were dismissive of the issue, some referring to the actions as jokes.
“I think they do see it on those joke levels as a joke,” said Terri Moses, supervisor of school safety for USD 259. “We need to again reinforce that that is not appropriate and set those boundaries.”
The four most commonly reported forms of harassment were unwanted physical touching (21.6 percent), rumor spreading (18.9 percent), verbal sexual commentary (18.2 percent), and homophobic name-calling (17.9 percent).
Nearly 23 percent of the incidents reported took place in school hallways and a little more than 21 percent took place inside classrooms. School gyms followed with 13 percent and areas near school lockers came in at just under 10 percent.
School officials say the best thing they can do is work to keep students informed about their rights and keep the dialogue open.
“It’s gotta be a team environment,” said Moses, “they need to hear that at home and they need to hear it at school as well.”