LEGAL RIGHTS BULLETIN: Students have the right to be safe at school

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Education is of fundamental importance in the life of a young person. It provides opportunities for personal, social and academic development. A student’s experiences in school are the building blocks that allow that student to reach their full potential in life.

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But when a student is sexually harassed at school, these incidents affect their sense of personal safety and dignity and can disrupt their education.

A student who is sexually harassed at school may stop doing homework, skip class, or even drop out of school.

The student may experience psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems (too much or too little), loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, loss of interest in ordinary activities of everyday life, social isolation and feelings of shame and guilt.

Using drugs or alcohol can become a coping mechanism. In some cases, the student may contemplate or attempt suicide.

The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits sexual harassment in education.

Education includes primary, secondary, and post-secondary school as well as other school-related activities such as sports, arts, and cultural activities, school functions, field trips, tutoring, and rituals involving new students.

Here are examples of sexual harassment that can be found in schools. It is only when we name the act that we can take action and begin to stop the behavior.

Unwanted/unwelcome physical contact, such as touching, bumping, grabbing or patting.

Sexually offensive remarks about race, gender, ability, or class.

Brag about sexual experiences, real or made up, for others to hear.

Bullying behavior in hallways, which may include degrading nicknames, homophobic slurs, chat calls, evaluating a person’s physical appearance, or embarrassing whistles.

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Graffiti with names written on walls or desks. A common example is “To have a good time, call…”.

Being followed by another student or being harassed by another student.

Taking or sending photos or videos of a sexual nature or asking someone to “naked” themselves.

Technology, such as email, blogs, chat rooms, text messaging, and other social media sites, is creating new and evolving ways to sexually harass students online.

What should our children/students know?

Being sexually harassed is not your fault. You didn’t “ask” for it either. It doesn’t matter what the stalker may tell you.

There is no one right way to deal with harassment or bullying. Every situation is different.

Talk to a trusted adult. Talk to someone. You don’t need to handle harassment alone.

Report and document what happened.

Most schools have a sexual harassment policy or an anti-bullying policy. Ask for a copy of the policy.

If you witness harassment, you may be able to intervene by stopping the behavior. You can report the incident to an adult.

Let’s provide our children/students with the education and awareness they need to make a difference for themselves and others.

If you have any questions about sexual harassment in our schools or need more information, contact Carmen Titus by phone at 226-881-0874 or by email at [email protected]

Carmen Titus, Senior Counsel CKLC SHIW (www.cklc.ca, 519-351-6771)

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