Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Combating bullying and sexual harassment in schools

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Combating bullying and sexual harassment in schools
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Whether it's through a text message or on the school bus, bullying and sexual harassment is becoming more and more prevalent in schools across the US. Jefferson County parents, teachers and community leaders met Saturday to take a look at what they can do to help our children deal with these issues in school and create a safer environment. Our Amanda Kelley reports.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- For many students, bullying and sexual harassment has just become another part of their school day.

American Association of University Women Program Manager Holly Kearl said, "Nearly one in two of them, 48% had experienced sexual harassment just during that one school year, and almost one-third of them had witnessed it happening to someone else."

A national study in 2011 done by the American Association of University Women exposed just how prevalent bullying and sexual harassment has become. Saturday leaders from across Jefferson County came to discuss the issue as well.

Watertown School District Board of Education Member Yvonne Gebo said, "I think it's a real relevant topic in our district and I think any district. I think we're updating our laws, updating our policies and really I think all of our board members are trying to figure out what's the best way to address it."

From Facebook, to YouTube to text massaging, bullying has taken on many forms and is becoming harder to prevent. Many said education is the key to beginning to stop this problem.

Kearl said, "I think that it's just so important for them to realize that this is a pervasive problem. Only nine percent of the students said that they reported it to anyone at the school, so I think a lot of the harassment is happening when the adults aren't around."

Students at JCC also helped bring this issue to life by creating a video coinciding with the AAUW's recent research exposing these problems right in local school districts.

Jefferson Community College AAUW Advisor Katherine FitzGerald said, "The film talks about the definition of sexual harassment, the prevalence of it in our schools, the toll it takes on the students that experience it. And the film hopes to effect change."

But education is only the beginning. Many students have expressed the need for appropriate action against bullies and harassers, making the environment safer when they do report the problems they are facing.

Kearl said, "Making sure that their harassers that there was actually a punishment for them and that it was enforced, because what's the point of actually reporting it if nothings then done."

Making children feel just a little safer at school, one step at a time.

To read the American Association of University Women's entire report on bullying and sexual harassment in schools visit their website, ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP