Britain’s Education Department just issued “advice” to colleges and universities on how to handle sexual harassment and violence between children, saying that adults on campus must make clear that neither will ever be tolerated and are “not an inevitable part of growing up.”
The 41-page document published on the department’s website (see below) says that schools and colleges should never tolerate or dismiss sexual violence or sexual harassment by children as “banter,” “just having a laugh” or “boys being boys.” It says that “dismissing or tolerating” behaviors such as “grabbing bottoms, breasts and genitalia” risks “normalizing” them.
The advice is aimed at governing bodies of public schools and colleges, owners and directors of independent schools, head teachers, principals, senior leadership teams and other adults with leadership positions on campuses. Offering best practices through case studies, it says it is intended to help individual schools should develop their own policies on how to handle incidents of sexual violence and sexual harassment against children, who are under age 18.
The document notes that children with disabilities and special needs “can be especially vulnerable,” and that children who have disabilities or are deaf are three times more likely to be abused than their peers.
The Women and Equalities Committee in Britain was quoted by the BBC as calling the guidance a “belated, but critical, step in the right direction.”
The advice says that harmful sexual behavior can “progress on a continuum,” so that addressing inappropriate behavior can be an important intervention that helps prevent problematic, abusive and/or violent behavior in the future.” It notes that children displaying harmful sexual behaviors “have often experienced their own abuse and trauma” and that “they are offered appropriate support.”
It recommends that schools take a “whole school approach” in addressing the issues, involving everyone in the school to prepare students “for life in modern Britain.” It says:
The school will have a clear set of values and standards, and these will be upheld and demonstrated throughout all aspects of school life. This will be underpinned by the school’s behaviour policy and pastoral support system, and by a planned programme of evidence-based content delivered through the curriculum. Such a programme will be developed to be age and stage of development appropriate, and may tackle such issues as:
*healthy and respectful relationships;
*what respectful behaviour looks like;
*gender roles, stereotyping, equality;
*body confidence and self-esteem;
*that sexual violence and sexual harassment is always wrong; and
*addressing cultures of sexual harassment.
And here’s one of the case studies in the document:
Here’s the full guidance: