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Sexual Violence in Schools

A U.S. Department of Education report found that sexual violence was on the rise in schools before the pandemic. As schools reopen, this trend may continue.

It’s unnerving and uncomfortable to talk about, but student-on-student sexual assault and harassment happens with alarming frequency in school bathrooms, on school playgrounds, and in the backs of school buses. It happens at every level of education from pre-K to college.

A student sits outside a school with her head down, looking upset.

According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, there were 14,938 incidents of sexual violence in K–12 schools in 2017 – 2018 compared with 9,649 in 2015 – 2016, representing a 55 percent increase. These include incidents of rape or attempted rape and sexual assault. Why the number of incidents jumped that much hasn’t been determined. Some experts attribute at least part of the spike to more awareness (the #MeToo Movement became well known in late 2017) and more effective reporting methods.  

Still, as Shiwali Patel of the National Women’s Law Center told the Washington Post, reports of sexual violence in school are probably still being undercounted. The problem will undoubtedly reemerge as the country slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and more students return to school. 

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