Public high schools in Norfolk, Virginia faced federal investigations for neglecting sexual harassment and bullying complaints. Cherise M. Newsome reports that, “The school division failed to ‘respond promptly and effectively'”. The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights interviewed students who claimed students were frequently grabbed and harassed on campus.
Students created mock holidays such as “National Grab Ass Day” and “National Grab Titties Day” for occasions to harass other students. There were also reports of harassment towards students with disabilities that included laughing, pushing and name-calling.
A student who was a victim of these incidences tried “…repeatedly to tell teachers, but they were ‘too busy’ and, eventually, the student had a ‘mental breakdown’”. Too often teachers turn a blind eye to this student behavior, telling them to “suck it up” which students often do creating a tolerance for inappropriate behavior.
Beth Cross, director of Portsmouth’s H.E.R. Shelter, which advocates for domestic and sexual assault victims, claims that “dehumanizing” words like ‘retard’ and ‘ugly’ and sexual terms are in this generation’s language as defaults. Cross believes that teachers need to incorporate anti bullying behavior into their curriculum to teach these students manners and authority.
Superintendent Samuel King and the school board had a closed discussion regarding the issues that resulted in a letter home to parents, addressing bullying and harassment and how to report incidents to the school as mandated by the Education Department. Prior to the investigation, administration and teachers did not consider one-time incidents as harassment.
Ruth Jones, executive director of the YWCA, South Hampton Roads, who stands for positive changes in schools, said, “We need to have open conversations with young people…” and “…make it OK for them to tell us” without making them feel embarrassed or guilty for doing so.
Source: Cherise M. Newsome, “Feds: Norfolk schools ignored bullying, harassment”, The Virginian-Pilot, September 27, 2014, http://hamptonroads.com/2014/09/feds-norfolk-schools-ignored-bullying-harassment
Student Researcher: Megan Schweitz (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Erica Bosque (Roseland University Prep)