Survey: Schools “failing” to take sexual assaults on pupils seriously

TEACHERS may "brush off" incidents of sexual assaults or sexually threatening behaviour if pupils are young, a new survey has found.

The poll of 300 young people across the UK also found that many incidents go unreported because students are worried that victims will be punished as well as perpetrators.

As a result, the study concluded, schools were not all playing their part in recognising the pressures young people were under when dealing with matters of sexual harassment and sexual bullying.

The survey by the Westminster Government's Women and Equalities Committee was commissioned in advance of the first parliamentary inquiry into the scale and impact of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.

One pupil who took part in the survey said: “Lad culture is a big issue. It is really common. In my school lads would come up to girls and grab them inappropriately, try and push them into the changing rooms and stuff and then say "Don’t get upset, it’s just banter.”

Another student said: "Of your bra got undone teachers would give a warning and that would be the last of it. Teachers wouldn’t really bring it up, they’d tell them to sit down and then it wouldn’t get reported anywhere else.”

A third student said a female pupil was pressured into having oral sex with an older boy in school, but when they were caught they were both suspended for the same amount of time.

Maria Miller, chair of the committee, said: "It’s clear from the young people we’ve heard from that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is having a profound impact on their day to day lives.

"We need to address this issue now, and stop it from blighting the lives of another generation of young people – both male and female.

"We’re asking teachers, students, parents, youth organisations and anyone else with an interest in this subject to share their knowledge and experience with us and we’ll use this evidence to find the most effective measures to reduce levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools."

A spokesman for local authority umbrella body Cosla, said councils and schools took the issue of sexual harassment very seriously.

He said: "The provisions in the Children and Young People Scotland Act 2014 place great emphasis on children and young people’s rights which is not just about adults respecting their rights, but about everyone doing so and that includes the right not to be subject to sexual harassment.

"The government’s increased focus on child protection as announced in February this year seeks the responsibility of all those engaging with children and young people on a regular basis to secure their safety and well-being."

Figures published last year showed more than 5,500 alleged sex crimes in UK schools were reported to police between and 2013 and 2015 with nearly 4,000 alleged physical sexual assaults and more than 600 rapes.

At least a fifth of offences were carried out by children, but details of the rest of the assaults were not known. In some cases the victims and suspects were both five years old.

One pupil who spoke out at the time was eighteen-year-old Shannon Rooney, from Stirlingshire, who was attacked in a storeroom by a fellow pupil when she was 15.

Shannon's attacker pleaded guilty, but initially received an absolute discharge. On appeal he was put on the sex offenders' register for a year and given a year's community service.



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