Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is considered a form of gender-based discrimination. Federal provisions addressing sexual harassment may, as a result, be found accompanying laws that address gender discrimination (see Gender Equality). The laws described below prohibit sexual harassment and provide a remedy to victims. Federal case law has recognized two forms of sexual harassment claims:  (1) the quid pro quo (this for that) claim, where someone in a position of authority explicitly or implicitly demands sexual favors in return for providing some benefit (such as a promotion or better grades); and (2) the hostile environment claim, where someone engages in unwelcome sexual behavior that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment, or unreasonably interferes with a victim’s performance (whether work or school related). The range of prohibited conduct includes verbal, nonverbal, and physical conduct.
·   Harassment in the Workplace, Title VII:  This law, in addition to addressing gender-based discrimination generally, specifically prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. The EEOC is the agency responsible for investigating complaints and enforcing Title VII. Title VII also makes certain employers responsible for preventing and stopping sexual harassment. While there are no particular actions that employers are required to take under Title VII, the EEOC normally releases guidelines that suggest appropriate measures for employers to take.
·   The Congressional Accountability Act, 2 U.S.C. §§ 1301-1438:  This act requires Congress itself to comply with workplace standards that are imposed on other employers. The act also creates an office responsible for investigating compliance.
Harassment in Schools:

Sexual harassment in educational settings is conduct that is sexual in nature, is unwelcome, and denies or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a school’s education program. Harassment of this nature is prevalent throughout the United States and has serious consequences for students’ academic well- being. Fellow students, school officials, or teachers can conduct sexual harassment and both male and female students can be victims. Sexual harassment can occur in any educational setting, including school facilities and off-campus locations such as school buses, field trips, or training programs at another location and can be verbal, non verbal, or physical. From Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic.
Sexual conduct includes, but is not limited to, pressuring students for sexual favors, making sexual prepositions, sexual touching, displaying or distributing materials of a sexual nature such as explicit drawings or pictures, telling sexual jokes, and spreading sexual rumors. From Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic
There are generally two types of sexual harassment that occur in school settings. Federal courts and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education recognize these forms of harassment as quid pro quo harassment and hostile-environment harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a school official bases a student’s participation in an education program or activity or a student’s grade on the student’s submission to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature. It is equally unlawful whether or not the student resists and suffers the threatened academic harm or submits and avoids the threatened harm. Hostile-environment harassment occurs when an employee, another student, or third party makes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors that are so severe, persistent, and pervasive that a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity is limited. The majority of sexual harassment in school settings falls under the hostile-environment category. From: Sexual Harassment in Schools, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School.
Sexual harassment through cyberbullying occurs at a high rate as well, and can be difficult for schools to handle since much of it occurs away from school settings. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication as means to harm, threaten, or otherwise victimize a person. This can include sending text messages or emails, posting videos to sites such as YouTube, and the use of social networking sites like Facebook to harass students. Cyberbullying is especially daunting, as it allows the harasser to reach the victim at any time of the day or night and from any place. It facilitates a faster, more widespread dissemination of rumors and other misconduct.
Schools are obligated to respond to all sexual harassment and cyberbullying since is often severe and pervasive enough to interfere with a student’s learning environment. However, there is controversy over whether schools can regulate students’ off-campus First Amendment rights to free speech; even if speech is hurtful or offensive, it is still protected. However, language that is defamatory or harassing is not protected under the First Amendment and educational institutions have the right to limit this type of communication. Many schools maintain policies to protect students from hostile educational environments and from cyberbullying that occurs off campus. From Cyberbullying and Sexual Harassment: Frequently Asked Questions, Cyberbullying, Sexual Harassment vs. Free Speech – Where’s the Line?(For resources on cyberbullying prevention see: National Crime Prevention Council and the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Protection.)  
Sexual harassment in educational settings is widespread in all levels from primary to higher education. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) conducted a survey of 1,965 students in grades 7-12 in May and June of 2011. 48% of the students who were surveyed reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in the 2010-2011 school year. The most common form of harassment was verbal (unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures) followed by electronic means including text, e-mail, and Facebook, which affected nearly one-third of students. The study indicated that girls were more likely than boys to be sexually harassed (56 percent of girls versus 40 percent of boys). Girls were also more likely to be sexually harassed in person (52 percent versus 35 percent) and by electronic means (52 versus 24 percent). Both girls and boys in equal numbers, about 18 percent of students, reported being called gay or lesbian in a negative way. From: Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School.
Another study published by the AAUW in 2005 called “Drawing the Line” examined sexual harassment on college and university campuses. The study found that 62 percent of female and 61 percent of male college students experienced sexual harassment, with 80 percent perpetrated by other students. Most sexual harassment on campus occurs in student housing or dorms (39 percent), but 18 percent of students say that faculty and staff such as professors and teaching assistants engage in sexual harassment. 51 percent of male students admitted sexually harassing someone in college. 22 percent of them admitted to doing it often or occasionally. 31 percent of women also admitted to perpetrating sexual harassment. The AAUW reports that 81 percent of students in the U.S. have experienced some kind of sexual harassment during their schooling.
Sexual harassment in schools also happens worldwide. A report issued by Human Rights Watch in 2001 documented how widespread and routine sexual harassment by teachers and male students against girls is in South African Schools. In Malawi, 50 percent of girls surveyed reported experiencing sexual harassment. Another study in the Czech Republic shows that 75 percent of Czech university students have been harassed at some point during their education. From: Just What IS Sexual Harassment, Scared at School: Sexual Violence against Girls in South African Schools, UN Women, Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus.
Sexual harassment in educational settings can have devastating effects on a student’s education and on his or her ability to participate in school-related programs and activities. The report conducted by the AAUW on grades 7-12 indicated that 22 percent of girls indicated that sexual harassment caused them to have trouble sleeping, 37 percent did not want to go to school, and 10 percent said they changed the way they went to or from school. In almost every case, girls reported that they felt that way for “quite a while.”  Both boys and girls experience sexual harassment at school, but according to Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School., it is a “highly gendered phenomenon that is directly and negatively associated with outcomes for girls.” In fact, James Gruber, PhD, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, says that sexually harassed students are more alienated from school than bullied students in terms of thinking about quitting or transferring schools, and sexual harassment, more than bullying, diminishes students’ trust of teachers. From: Hostile Hallways, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School.
At the college level, 68 percent of women reported feeling upset about sexual harassment. 57 percent reported feeling embarrassed or self-conscious, 55 percent reported feeling angry, and 32 percent feel afraid or scared. These feelings cause difficulty at school, with students experiencing effects including trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, avoiding study groups, decreased participation in class, avoiding the library, changing majors, thinking about changing schools, and refraining from utilizing professor or teaching assistants as resources. From: Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus.
Law and Policy
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a U.S. Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Any school that receives federal funding, whether it is public, private, secondary, or a college or university, must comply with Title IX. Title IX prohibits harassing conduct that is of a sexual nature if it is unwelcome or denies a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a school’s program. It is immaterial whether the harassment is aimed at gay or lesbian students or is perpetrated by individuals of the same or opposite sex. Schools are obligated to institute policies against sexual harassment which have extensive grievance procedures for the resolution of sexual harassment incidences. At the higher education level schools are required to retain a Title IX officer, usually someone in the Human Resources department, who must be knowledgeable about Title IX and necessary steps to take corrective action. In 2001, the U.S. Department of Education issued Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students, or Third Parties, which reaffirms the policies of Title IX to serve as a guide for schools on recognizing and responding to sexual harassment. From: Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic, Sexual Harassment and Title IX.
In April of 2011 the Safe Schools Improvement Act was introduced in the U.S. House (H.R. 1648) and Senate (S. 506). If this law is enacted, it would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require schools that receive federal funding to adopt codes of conduct that specifically prohibit bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity (Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School.). Congress passed the Women’s Educational Equity Act in 2001 to promote equity in education for women and girls who suffer from multiple forms of discrimination based on sex, race, ethnic origin, limited English proficiency, disability, or age and to provide funding to assist schools in meeting the requirements of Title IX.
Most states also have civil legislation dealing with sexual harassment in education issues. They can be found by contacting a local branch of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
Reporting Procedures
Students who experience any form of sexual harassment are encouraged to report it to school administrators or Title IX administrator immediately. At this time, the school will inform the harassed student of options regarding formal and informal reporting and begin an investigation to determine the nature of the occurrence before taking steps to resolve the issue. When the investigation is complete the victim must be informed of its outcome and what methods the school will employ to protect the student and to prevent further harassment.
Schools are responsible for actions committed by employees if the harassment occurs while the employee is acting in the realm of their occupational duties. In this case, the school must remedy the harassment regardless of whether or not the school knew or should have known it occurred. When the harasser is a student or a third party, the school is responsible for investigating and correcting the situation only when it is reported or it should have known the harassment was occurring. 
Depending on the situation, schools may need to adopt new policies or conduct additional staff training to remedy the harassment (See the U.S. Department of Educations pamphlet, Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic).
Government and NGO Response
The United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is responsible for investigating and resolving complaints that allege sexual harassment in an educational institution. In 2001 the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education issued the Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students, or Third Parties, which replaced the 1997 guidance. The guidance applies to students at every grade level. Through the revised guidance the government continues to enforce adherence to sexual harassment policies in schools receiving federal funds and provides protocol for schools to effectively respond to cases of sexual harassment. The guidance also emphasizes well-publicized and readily available grievance procedures for students under Title IX.
Additionally, the United States Supreme Court has issued two decisions in regards to when a school is liable for monetary damages under Title IX for incidences sexual harassment. In Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District, 524 U.S. 274 (1998) the court held that, “Damages may not be recovered for teacher-student sexual harassment in an implied private action under Title IX unless a school district official who at a minimum has authority to institute corrective measures on the district’s behalf has actual notice of, and is deliberately indifferent to, the teacher’s misconduct.” In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629 (1999) the court ruled that a school may be liable in cases of student-on-student harassment where the recipient of the federal funding is deliberately indifferent to the sexual harassment but has actual knowledge of harassment that is so severe, pervasive, and offensive that it can be said to deprive victims of educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school. From U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
There are many NGOs that work with sexual harassment in education in the United States. The American Association of University Women is responsible for such reports as Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School and Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus. The organization seeks to advance the position of women and girls through research, advocacy, and philanthropy. The National Organization for Women published a toolkit, Take Action against Sexual Assault, for designing campaigns to raise awareness of sexual harassment on campus. The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) project, Women's Rights Project and Human Rights Project, addresses issues of gender-based violence. The ACLU’s website is host to articles such as Sexual Assault and Campus Housing: Know Your Rights and Title IX and Sexual Violence in Schools. Another organization, Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) facilitates student efforts to encourage their schools to implement strong sexual assault policies and to fight rape and sexual violence culture. For a comprehensive list of NGOs, see the Duke University Libraries’ NGO Research Guide.
Compiled From:
"Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic." U.S. Department of Education. Office for Civil Rights, 01 Dec. 2008. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. .
Hill, Catherine, and Elena Silva. "Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus." Breaking through Barriers for Women and Girls. American Association of University Women, Dec. 2005. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. .
Hill, Catherine, and Holly Kearl. "Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School." Breaking through Barriers for Women and Girls. American Association of University Women, Nov. 2011. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. .
"Cyberbullying and Sexual Harassment: Frequently Asked Questions." National Women's Law Center. 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. .
Meyer, Ph.D, Elizabeth J. "Cyberbullying, Sexual Harassment vs. Free Speech – Where’s the Line?" Gender and Schooling 30 Dec. 2010. Psychology Today. Web. 5 Mar. 2012.
Munsey, Christopher. "Hostile Hallways." Monitor on Psychology Feb. 2012: 58. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. .
"Sexual Harassment and Title IX." NCAA. NCAA. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. .
Kauffman, Susan W. "Just What IS Sexual Harassment." Center for the Education of Women. 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. .
Stein, Ph.D, Nan. "Sexual Harassment in Schools." National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center. Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesely College Stone Center. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. .
"Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students, or Third Parties." Office for Civil Rights. U.S. Department of Education, 19 Jan. 2001. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. .
Additional Resources:
Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing and Sexual Harassment In School is available through the AAUW Educational Foundation,
Wellesley Centers for Women, various projects and reports on sexual harassment in schools.