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The harassment double standard

As someone who has every plan of going into the field of education, I would like to point out a recent discouraging bit of news.

A thirteen-year-old student in Missouri went to her mother with complaints of sexual harassment while at school. The mother, enraged, called the school district to find out what could be done and was told that perhaps she should look into the possibility of her daughter undergoing breast reduction surgery.

You read that right. Rather than addressing the issue with those who are doing the harassing, they told her that she should instead focus on changing the way her daughter looks to end the harassment.

The school district is now investigating the issue to find the district employee who gave such a suggestion, though the superintendent himself claims that the mother simply heard incorrectly.

This is victim blaming in a way I have never seen it before. I have heard of bullied students being told to change themselves to end the bullying. We have all heard the phrases “boys will be boys” and “kids will be kids” when students, parents or even teachers stand up for a particularly bad case of bullying.

However, this should not be an acceptable answer, especially in our age of technology when students can no longer escape bullying by going home. More and more often, harassment is following students home in the form of texts messages and Facebook notifications. Students who are not afraid of the repercussions are not afraid to bully.

This brings to mind the issue some people have brought to my attention; male students are the ones favored by the education system. Of course, there is evidence that male students are being ‘left behind’ in more recent years, yet I think the favoring of male students is one rooted in the institution of not only our school system but also in our society.

When a girl is sexually harassed, she is given the suggestion to change her appearance. Girls even face much more strict dress codes while in school. Cleavage-baring shirts and short skirts are not allowed, though it is acceptable for guys to reveal their boxers and to wear shirts with the sides cut open. Should we loosen dress codes or tighten them? Is this a school issue or a societal issue? I don’t pretend to know the answers here, but I do know that this needs to change.

Victims are never to blame for what they have undergone. Never. The moment a person hears about a young girl being harassed because of the size of her breasts and responds by suggesting the girl undergoes plastic surgery, the blame for harassment falls onto the one who is being harassed. The problems here do not lie in what the victims are doing; the problems are in the reactions to the victims.

To fix this problem, we need to be aware of where the blame actually lies and hold bullies accountable for what they are doing. If any student makes an unwanted sexual comment toward another student, they need to be told that what they are doing is sexual harassment and is, in fact, a crime.

This article was written by Nicole Wagner, a contributing author for The Concordian.

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