Sexual Harassment in Schools

Sexual harassment is any word or action, sexual in nature, that makes the recipient feel embarrassed and degraded. While the gesture may be sexual, the harassment is all about power. The harasser aims to put down the other person and make himself feel more powerful. A young woman on the receiving end of these comments or gestures will not be flattered by the attention. Instead, she is likely to become depressed, feel self-conscious and resort to wearing baggy clothes, hoping to become less conspicuous.

An estimated 33 to 49 percent of the harassment, threats and physical violence is aimed at students thought to be homosexual. In one case in Wisconsin, a gay student sued his school district after being regularly spat on, kicked in the stomach, urinated upon and having had his head thrust into a urinal. He sued only after his complaints to school officials were ignored. Ultimately, he accepted a $900,000 settlement.

LaShonda Davis, the young woman whose case brought about the Supreme Court decision, had for months complained to school officials about being harassed by a fifth-grade boy. Her mother, Aurelia Davis, hired a lawyer only after those complaints were ignored and she watched her daughter grow more upset and depressed.

"It should never have had to go all the way to the Supreme Court," Mrs. Davis told the press. "They (school officials) should have done something right from the start. But they didn't have any kind of respect for my child, and they didn't want to admit that they were wrong in what they did."

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