# School Too
We have heard a lot lately about sexual aggression at the recent hearings for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. Good thing we work in schools where that kind of thing doesn’t happen right? No, actually quite wrong.
It is easy to believe that the k-12 education profession, that is predominately female, is immune from sexual harassment. In fact, there is a phenomenon called vertical sex segregation. Have you ever noticed that even though the education profession in schools is heavily female in its professional staff, the principals in the higher-paid, higher-powered positions are often men. There are power imbalances between the lower status teachers and the higher status men. This situation often shows up with new, younger staff. Younger staff are very much aware of the power imbalance and want to do well and please their bosses.
Based on data collected by Education Week, one in four teachers has been sexually assaulted on the job! Sixty percent of those who witnessed the assault did not report it. When asked who they told about the misconduct, the union reps were least likely to hear of the situation. Usually teachers told friend and/or family members.
The three major reasons teachers did not report the assault were: they didn’t think they would be taken seriously, they didn’t think anything would be done, and, finally, they feared retaliation. Many women feared they would lose their jobs.
I remember in my days as an administrator in a local public school system that our supervisor for speech therapy never assigned young therapists to a particular principal. When I asked her why, she said that he came on very strong to young, attractive staff and they had no way to combat his aggressive behavior. I asked why this principal was allowed to continue this behavior, why wasn’t he called out. Her response was simple. He is a principal; he will deny it; everyone will believe him. Oh, and he was a married, upstanding man in the community. So young therapists went to other schools. Older more mature therapists went to his school. We had several psychologists who were also known for their sexually aggressive behaviors. The cure- just stay away from them.
In the survey of teachers, Education Week found that teachers were desperate to tell their stories to make the workplace safer for colleagues. But men held all the power. Men would deny. It would be her word against his. He had the more powerful position. She would be exposed, be retaliated against and nothing would change. The pain would not be worth the gain. Any of this sound familiar?
We talk a lot about making schools safer for our students. We do not think about how the power imbalance in the education profession mirrors the rest of the world. Sexual assault is happening #schooltoo and it is happening to the teachers of our kids.