Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 16
25% of Women Say #MeToo in K-12
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much of their day in a classroom,
isolated from their coworkers.
Six percent of male educators say
they have been sexually harassed or
assaulted at work, according to the
Permissive school cultures where
abusers are not punished, as well as
power differentials between earlycareer teachers and their superiors,
create situations that can be ripe for
abuse, experts told Education Week.
Nearly 60 percent of teachers and
administrators who said they had
either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or assault said they
did not report it to any authority.
But while enduring abuse in silence can be emotionally fraught for
educators who do not report it, coming forward doesn't always bring
Reluctant to Go Public
Rachel Man, a teacher in Prince
George's County, Maryland, said
she has often second-guessed her
decision to formally accuse a fellow
teacher of groping her in an empty
classroom after school hours.
It happened in 2013, near the
end of Man's first semester as a
teacher. Initially, Man said she
told no one because she was afraid
she was being "dramatic." But she
eventually reported the incident to
the school's principal and then to
the police. The male teacher was
charged with first-degree assault
and fourth-degree sexual offense.
The case went to trial and he was
found not guilty.
Man, who eventually transferred to
another school in the same district,
says the experience continues to affect how she interacts with people.
"I am that much more nervous
around people, that much more
cautious about how I act or what
I do," she said. "I have to get out
of my own head, because if I was
talking to any other woman, I'm
like, 'You can wear what you want,
say what you want, and no one is
allowed to touch you.' "
While Education Week interviewed more than a half dozen
other women for this story who
said they had been harassed or assaulted on the job, none would go
on the record with their stories or
were willing to share enough information that we could independently corroborate. Even in this extraordinary #MeToo era, ordinary
women who've experienced harassment at work are often reluctant to
share their stories publicly, much
less report the incidents to managers or other authorities.
It is not uncommon for women to
choose to remain silent about sexual
harassment and assault that takes
place at work or among colleagues,
said Linda Seabrook, the general
counsel for the advocacy group Futures Without Violence. To do otherwise could put their job, career, and
even their safety at risk, she said.
Seabrook said it's both incumbent
on-and imperative for-workplaces to make sure victims feel safe
to report misconduct, because when
sexual harassment goes unchecked,
it exacerbates the problem by encouraging the abuse to continue.
"Most harassers are not singlevictim harassers," Seabrook said.
"Workplaces generally know who
those people are. To see that person
get promoted, get the best office,
move up the chain unfettered and
without consequences, it's just demoralizing to the entire workplace."
Still, some women in K-12 have
come forward recently with charges
A lawsuit filed by two teachers
this month in New York City alleges that for years an assistant
principal demanded sexual favors
from multiple teachers and would
punish those that did not acquiesce. The school's principal, the
lawsuit contends, promoted the
assistant principal over objections
from several staff members and
was aware of multiple complaints
against him but did nothing.
And a complaint filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission in May claimed that the
superintendent in Fayetteville, Ark.,
sexually harassed a female employee
who did not report the harassment
for a long time for fear of retaliation, according to local media reports.
The superintendent was fired by the
school board in June.
When teachers and school administrators do report problems, the
vast majority of the time they do so
to their direct supervisor, according
to the Education Week Research
Center's survey. Employees were
the least likely to report an issue to
their union or to a state or federal
agency, the survey found.
Less Common in K-12?
It's hard to say if sexual harassment and assault happen in K-12
education less often than in other
fields. Research on the frequency
of sexual misconduct in the general
workplace varies greatly.
"Studies range between 25 percent
of working women and 90 percent,"
said Heather McLaughlin, a sociology professor at Oklahoma State
University who has researched
workplace sexual harassment. "It
really comes down to measurements
and our understanding of what sexual harassment means."
Gender, age, and industry all factor into people's perception of sexual
harassment, she said.
But K-12 education professionals
certainly think it's more common in
Ninety-one percent of those who
had worked in a setting outside of
education told the Education Week
Research Center that they felt sexual
harassment and assault happened
more frequently in other workplaces
than in schools and district offices.
A high percentage also said that
they felt confident that they knew
what to do if they were the target
of sexual harassment or assault, or
saw it happening to someone else.
Sixty-two percent indicated that
they were either "extremely" or "very
knowledgeable" about protocol, and
16 | EDUCATION WEEK | July 18, 2018 | www.edweek.org
an even greater share, 67 percent,
said they had received training on
preventing or responding to sexual
harassment and assault. Again-
over half of those respondents rated
their training as either "extremely"
useful or "very" useful.
Charol Shakeshaft, a professor
who has studied teacher misconduct
at Virginia Commonwealth University, was struck by those numbers.
She pointed to the nearly 60 percent
of survey respondents who also said
they didn't report incidences of sexual harassment or assault.
"How useful was the training? If
it was so useful, then why didn't you
report [the sexual harassment]?"
Shakeshaft said. "Their reports
don't bear out that they've internalized the training or the policies."
She said training that requires
participants to practice or act out a
scenario where they report someone
is most effective. But such training,
Shakeshaft added, can only do so
much without a corresponding critical look-and overhaul if need be-
of workplace culture.
Shakeshaft warned against believing that K-12 education is immune
from these issues. Some may falsely
assume that the kind of people who
want to become educators are less
likely to perpetrate such behavior
can lull school leaders and others
into complacency, Shakeshaft said.
"Oftentimes in a school setting we
say, 'We're not going to be like that.'
But that culture can grow up, and we
don't do enough to stop it," she said.
And that culture can do long-lasting
damage to victims and their careers.
"People who were sexually harassed were much more likely to
quit their jobs-forgoing opportunities for advancement there,"
said McLaughlin, the researcher
at Oklahoma State. "Women in
our studies had higher amounts
of financial stress, really operating
through that job change."
Many switch industries altogether,
according to McLaughlin's research,
and it can take years for women's income to rebound after leaving a job.
That's in addition to the physical
consequences of harassment which
can include depression and even
post-traumatic stress symptoms.
After the trial, Man, the Maryland
teacher, said she felt ostracized by
the rest of the teaching staff, which
is what pushed her to move to a job
in a different school. Although Man
feels as though she's finally found
her footing again as a teacher, it's
been a long recovery process over the
past five years. One that included a
lot of self-doubt and therapy.
"I handle it by asking myself what
would I tell my students to do?" Man
said. "I need to live the life I would
tell my students to live. But it's a
conversation I have to repeatedly
have with myself."
She added: "I don't think there is
a safe place for avoiding sexual harassment and assault."
Librarians Maya Riser-Kositsky and
Holly Peele contributed to this report.
SEXUAL ASSAULT AND HARASSMENT SURVEY
"Sexual assault" and "sexual harassment"
refer to a range of behaviors that are
nonconsensual or unwanted. These
behaviors could include remarks about
physical appearance or persistent sexual
advances as well as jokes about sex. They
also could include threats of force to get
someone to engage in sexual behavior,
as well as threats to their professional
standing or job status if they don't engage
in the behavior. These behaviors could be
initiated by people who do or do not know
each other, including those who are or
have been in a relationship.
In your opinion, how common is sexual harassment
in your workplace?
Not at all
In your career as an educator, which of the following
have you observed or experienced? Select all that apply.
I have never observed sexual assault or harassment at work
Sexual assault or harassment between co-workers
Sexual assault or harassment against me, personally
Only respondents who had experienced or observed sexual
harassment were asked to answer this survey question.
Males are more likely than females to report the sexual
assault or harassment they observe or experience:
School administrators are the most likely to report it:
DATA: For full survey results,
SOURCE: Education Week Research Center, 2018