Analysis shows thousands of sexual assaults by K-12 students

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Chaz Wing was 12 when they cornered him in the school bathroom. The students who tormented him were children, too, entering the age of pimples and cracking voices.

Eventually, he swore under oath, the boys raped him and left him bleeding, the culmination of a year of harassment. Though Chaz repeatedly told teachers and administrators about the insults and physical attacks, he didn’t report being sexually assaulted until a year later, launching a long legal fight over whether his school had done enough to protect him.

Chaz’s saga is more than a tale of escalating bullying. Across the U.S., thousands of students have been sexually assaulted, by other students, in high schools, junior highs and even elementary schools — a hidden horror educators have long been warned not to ignore.

Relying on state education records, supplemented by federal crime data, a yearlong investigation by The Associated Press uncovered roughly 17,000 official reports of sex assaults by students over a four-year period, from fall 2011 to spring 2015.


“No principal wants their school to be the rape school,” said Dr. Bill Howe, a former teacher who spent 17 years overseeing Connecticut’s compliance with a federal law that helps protect student victims of at-school sexual assault. “It’s the courageous principal that does the right thing.”


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#MeTooK12: New campaign raises awareness about rights at school

Launched this month, #MeTooK12 aims to broaden the discussion about sexual harassment and violence to include elementary, middle, and high schools. Enforcement of Title IX at that level needs a major boost, students and advocates say.

” Enforcing Title IX

Among K-12 schools, “Title IX is perhaps the least enforced of the education laws,” says Bill Howe, who oversaw Connecticut’s Title IX compliance until 2015 and is now an education consultant in Hartford, Conn.

Some of the systemic problems he has identified around the country:

  • An attitude that since Title IX doesn’t come with extra federal funding, it’s a low priority to enforce it.
  • A lack of training and a practice of having people who are Title IX coordinators “in name only.”
  • Title IX coordinators who are also attorneys for school boards or hold other roles that create a conflict of interest, because they have incentive to protect the reputation of the district.

He hopes more schools will become proactive, instead of reacting to incidents or monetary motivations. He recalls a mayor asking for his help to improve practices in the school district when housing values were going down “because of the reputation for sexual assault at the high school.”


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