school districts include additional classes W r i t i n g
Shortly after he started sixth grade, 12-year-old Troy told all of his friends how much he liked the new girl at their school, Tonya, and he boasted that soon she would be his girlfriend. Troy spent a lot of time following Tonya around school, and he made sure he sat next to her in every class they had in common. When she would walk by him, he would stare at her and make comments about her body, which became increasingly sexually suggestive, especially if he was in the company of his friends. For her part, Tonya tried ignoring Troy and, on several occasions, including in the presence of his friends, she told him to “Stop it,” and to “Shut up,” but he just laughed and taunted her more.
When he started touching her, she complained to her teachers and she also told her parents. School officials said they would talk to Troy, but he remained undeterred. One day, in front of his friends, he came up behind her and began rubbing his genitals against her buttocks while explicitly asking her for sex. Tonya, who up to this point had always been a good student, started missing school and her grades dropped dramatically. Her worried parents noticed that she wasn’t eating and that she was spending most of her time in her room, isolating herself from family and friends.
Tonya’s parents’ alarm grew when they found what appeared to be a suicide note written by Tonya. They acted quickly to get her counseling, but they also filed a criminal complaint against Troy as well as a federal civil rights lawsuit against the school district. The grounds for the civil suit rested on the argument that school officials were aware of Troy’s behavior but did little to stop it, thereby violating Tonya’s civil rights. The court agreed with Tonya and her parents, emphasizing that the behavior of her male classmate was not “bullying,” but rather sexual harassment, which is a violation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act. By not responding appropriately, the court ruled that school officials had created a hostile and abusive learning environment, thus limiting Tonya’s ability to fully participate in, and benefit from, school.
- What should the school district have done differently in Tonya’s case? How can school districts protect students from sexual harassment and dating violence? What intervention methods could the school system have utilized in this particular case?
- What are some characteristics of sexual harassment offenders? What type of punishment should Troy receive for his actions against Tonya? Why?
- In your opinion, should school districts include additional classes or information on sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking? Why or why not?
- In your opinion, should the school district focus on ‘treatment’ or ‘punitive’ services for Troy? Why?
- Should Troy’s age be a factor in the type of consequences imposed by the school district? Why?