Fear or Freedom: The Untold Story of Assault in Schools


Stella Brewer, Social Media Editor

Fear or Freedom: The Untold Story of Assault in Schools


     Everyday when a child goes to school, they should be benefiting from a safe environment that will result in their wellbeing, but in schools in America, students as young as 5 years old are subject to the intimidation of harassment and assault. There is a dangerous power dynamic between the teachers and the students that can easily result in the harassment of students. According to RAINN, the assault and intimidation of those in power positions who are supposed to be taking care of them has resulted in the loss of education, leading as far as self destructive behaviors and escalating suicide rates among children and teens later in their lives. Students who should be benefiting from the education system are becoming victims of it instead. 

     According to AbuseLawsuit, schools are neglecting to report cases, and when schools aren’t reporting internal abuse, students are being traumatized as well as not receiving the justice they deserve. Cheer coach Lee Marshall at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Ridgeland, Mississippi, has had his own experience with a former student being assaulted and keeping it a secret for several years. 

     “One of the girls I coached had been assaulted by someone of higher power,” Marshall said. “She had kept it a secret for so long, and the only reason I knew about it was because she had started a blog many years after the fact.”

     Title IX is a federal civil rights law issued in the United States that was passed as a part of the Education Amendements of 1972, and it prohibits any sex-based discrimination in schools or other educational programs that recieve federal funding. Title IX holds that all students are given access to equal education opportunities, and requires that all schools to prevent and respond to reports of sexual violence. So, Title IX is currently being used in court cases to adress the issue of sexual assault. Title IX does not require that independent schools have a policy in place that would hold schools accountable for Title IX’s statutes. 

    According to the official document, “Title IX does not cover single sex elementary, secondary, (other than vocational schools), or private undergraduate schools.” 

     Although many schools do hold themselves to the standards of the federal law, independent schools are not required to abide by all parts of the Title IX statute. All schools in Mississippi follow the mandated reporter law, which is a law of the state of Mississippi that holds that if anyone who works with students sees anything that could be considered abuse, they are required to report it. At St. Andrew’s, student safety is a high priority. Upper school counselor Lauren Powell has explained that students are top priority when on St. Andrew’s grounds. 

     “At St. Andrew’s, every teacher is required to have training for recognizing any sort of abuse.” Powell said. “They must renew their training every three years in order to stay employed here.”

     According to RAINN, Students who have been part of an abusive high school student/teacher relationship live with the effects of it for the greater part of their lives. Harassment and assault can have long lasting psychological and physical effects for years after the incident. Harassment contributes to a hostile and unsafe environment at an institution. According to the American Association of University Women, students lose the capacity to learn in schools where they have been harassed. Additionally, Schools do not make it easy for students to come forward, and a majority of schools are failing to properly report incidents of violence. The lack of reporting negatively affects schools as well as their students. 

     According to the latest available statistics from SSOCS data, 71% os schools reported at least one incident of a violent crime during the 2017-2018 school year (this includes both sexual assault and other violent crimes). The number does seem to be decreasing, but by what cause are the numbers decreasing? Are schools neglecting to report cases, or are they working towards creating a safer environment for their students? St. Andrew’s head of diversity and inclusion, Sarah Spann, realizes that there is a large issue with the priority of sexual assault cases in highschool settings. 

     “I feel that there are big issues, but it stays under wraps. If a sexual assault is reported, is it faced head on, or does it take a long process to look into every report?”

     Changing the culture and spreading the message that sexual violence will not be tolerated is one of the most important things to do in order to keep children safe. It is everyone’s job to make sure that children feel safe in school! Sexual crimes in high school begin with a sense of entitlement and a craving for power and domination. 

     “It’s so so important,” Marshall says, “for administrators to create a safe space for their students so they can open up to someone if anything is going on” 

     If you or someone who you know has been sexually assaulted, confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.