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Sexual Harassment Widespread in High Schools, Study Finds

January 04, 1987|United Press International

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Parents and teachers may be reluctant to admit it, but a large percentage of high school students are victims of sexual harassment, according to researchers at the University of Michigan's School of Education.

In a study that involved students in 15 school districts, teen-agers described incidents in which they or their friends had been harassed, although most students were not aware that their problem had a name.

According to Eleanor Linn, associate director of the University's Center for Sex Equity, most of the harassment that teen-agers experience is in the form of inappropriate touching or sexual remarks and comes from their peers. Students in untraditional situations--such as a girl in an auto mechanics class or a boy in a child-care class--frequently are targets.

One of the obstacles to combatting harassment, Linn said, is that the victims are frequently but erroneously blamed for instigating the harassment. To help students recognize and deal with sexual harassment, the researchers have written a handbook titled, "Tune In to Your Rights: A Guide for Teen-Agers About Turning Off Sexual Harassment."

The handbook suggests that teen-agers take an active approach to fighting harassment. Students should keep a record of the incidents, tell the harasser firmly and directly that they don't like this, get a friend to intervene, or, as a last resort, complain to a school administrator.

"A school district that consistently supports the 'he's only joking' or 'that's the way it's always been' (attitude) is making a mistake," Linn said. "We can prevent the problem through awareness and education. Victims must learn that they have rights, and harassers must be held accountable for their behavior."

For more information, write to Charles D. Moody, Center for Sex Equity in Schools, 1033 S.E.B., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48109-1259.

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