Student-on-student sexual assault is not just a problem on college campuses. It threatens thousands of kids a year in elementary, middle and high schools across America. Rich or poor, urban or rural, no school is immune. AP journalists spent a year investigating sexual assaults in elementary and secondary schools. It found they occurred anywhere students were left unsupervised: buses and bathrooms, hallways and locker rooms. Sometimes, victims and offenders were as young as 5 or 6. This story is part of that reporting project.
What can parents do if they believe their child has been the victim of sexual abuse at school? Here’s advice from Adele Kimmel, a senior attorney at the Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization Public Justice who is an expert on school bullying:
• Discuss with their child what action the child is comfortable taking.
• Report it to someone in authority, such as the school or district’s Title IX coordinator, or a principal, assistant principal or superintendent.
• Push for a prompt investigation by the school, regardless of whether the abuse has been reported to police. Schools have an obligation to conduct their own investigations. In most cases, students are not required to report such abuse to police.
• Make sure the school provides accommodations so your child can continue their education in safety. This could include an order that the accused attacker have no contact with your child, as well as a change of class or schedule; counseling and health services, academic tutoring or homeschooling at no expense to you; and greater security. The burden is not on the victim to change classes or transfer schools.
• Document all conversations with school officials and save all related emails to preserve a written record of what happened, including your efforts to alert school officials and get them to take action.
• Consider contacting a lawyer if a school refuses to conduct an investigation, won’t make accommodations or punishes your child.
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