This is from an Associated Press story today. The numbers, like 1 in 10 students harrassed/abused by school employees (including teachers) between kindergarten and 12th grade, seem plausible. Still, some researchers believe this actually understates the case.
The report they're discussing is online at
The Educator Sexual Misconduct report is itself online at http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/misconductreview/index.html
This news release is available at http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/S/S...EMPLATE=DEFAULT
Jun. 30, 2004 - 11:34 AM
Study: Sex Abuse Prevalent in Schools
By BEN FELLER
AP Education Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 4.5 million children are forced to endure sexual misconduct by school employees, from inappropriate comments to physical abuse, according to an exhaustive review of research that reads like a parent's worst nightmare.
The best estimate is that almost one in 10 children, sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade, are targets of behavior ranging from unprofessional to criminal, says the report for Congress by Charol Shakeshaft, a professor at Hofstra University's School of Education.
"Most people just don't think this can really happen," said Shakeshaft, hired by the Education Department to study the prevalence of sexual abuse in schools. "We imagine that all teachers are like most teachers, in that they've gone into teaching to help children. Most do, but not all. We need to acknowledge that's the case and do something to stop it."
The report, required under the No Child Left Behind law and delivered to Congress on Wednesday, is the first to analyze the field of research about sexual misconduct at school.
Some educators immediately took issue with its approach, mainly the combining of sexual abuse with other behavior, such as gestures or notes, into one broad misconduct category.
But another prominent researcher supported the findings, suggesting, as Shakeshaft did, that they may even understate the problem. And the American Association of University Women, whose surveys of students were at the core of the new report, stood by its research.
There have been no nationally financed data collections of how common sexual misconduct is in school, one of many areas Shakeshaft suggests must be addressed. Her analysis covered almost 900 documents and reviews that have dealt with the topic in some way, from private research and newspaper stories to reports for government agencies.
The most accurate estimate of misconduct came from surveys in 2000 of students in grades eight to 11, Shakeshaft said. That research, commissioned by the AAUW Educational Foundation, found nearly 9.6 percent of students had been sexually harassed or abused by workers during their school lives. Shakeshaft reanalyzed the data and said it could be applied fairly to the broader school population, meaning more than 4.5 million students are affected.
What she described portrays a problem that, no matter how uncommon, united groups of teachers, superintendents, parents and education leaders in concern - and disgust.
The report describes schools as places where abusers come to prey, targeting vulnerable and marginal students who are afraid to complain or unlikely to be believed if they did. It describes adults who trap, lie and isolate children, making them subject to unwanted behavior in hallways, offices, buses or even right in front of other students in class. And the offenders work hard to keep kids from telling, threatening to fail or humiliate them.
Misconduct is defined in the report as physical, verbal or visual behavior, from sexually related jokes or pictures of sex to fondling of breasts and forced sex. Shakeshaft did not limit her review to sexual abuse because, she says, that would exclude other unacceptable adult behaviors that can drive kids from school and harm them for years.
Yet spokesman Michael Pons of the National Education Association, a union of 2.7 million education workers, said: "Lumping harassment together with serious sexual misconduct does more harm than good by creating unjustified alarm and undermining confidence in public schools. Statistically, public schools remain one of the safest places for children to be."
The NEA, he added, takes any sexually inappropriate behavior seriously, training teachers and working with the Education Department on rules banning harassment in schools.
The other large teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, also found fault with the report's de>