Nearly 12% of recent high school graduates report they’ve experienced sexual misconduct from teachers or coaches, a recent study found.
As high it is, that figure has increased over 2 percentage points from nearly two decades ago, according to 2004 estimate from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE).
According to Psychology Today, educator sexual misconduct can be defined as “verbal (sexual comments or jokes), visual (exposure of genitals or sharing inappropriate images), or physical behavior (kissing, touching, fondling, or intercourse) that occurs between an educator and student.”
The study surveyed 6,632 students from four states last year, and found “11 percent reported sexual comments, 0.6 percent reported that they were shown or given sexual pictures or photos or were sent sexual messages, 0.9 percent reported having been touched in a sexual manner, and 0.4 percent reported other sexual activity, including sexual intercourse or oral sex.”
The educators most commonly reported for the misconduct were teachers at 63.4%, followed by coaches and gym teachers at 19.7%.
Also, 89% of the alleged perpetrators were male and 72% of the victims were female.
This new data supports the findings of a 2020 review by the Office of Civil Rights division of the USDOE, which found 14,152 allegations of sexual assault and 786 allegations of rape or attempted rape in the 2017-18 school year. For the purposes of the review, the USDOE defined sexual assault as “threatened rape, fondling, indecent liberties, or child molestation,” and rape as “forced sexual intercourse–vaginal, anal, or oral.”
Those figures represented a 53% increase in sexual assaults and 99% increase in rapes or attempted rapes compared to the 2015-16 school year. What’s worse, these figures are typically thought to low since such incidents are underreported.
Carol Shakeshaft, the author of the 2004 USDOE study, found that only 6% of students officially reported the educator sexual misconduct they experienced, while the latest study also found low reporting rates.
Alarmingly, few of the reports resulted in disciplinary action taken against the educator involved, according to the study.
Meanwhile, students “who reported educator misconduct were significantly more likely than those who did not report educator misconduct to disclosure a variety of negative long-term negative consequences,” the study found. Those consequences include “poorer overall psychological well-being,” “a past suicide attempt,” “use of alcohol or drugs” and “coercive sexual intercourse.”
As reported previously by The Lion, hundreds of educators were arrested for child sexual crimes nationwide in 2022, the incidents are often handled “in-house” and those numbers are just “the tip of the iceberg.”
“We’ve been collecting Google alerts since 2014 on teacher arrests, just for sexual misconduct type of offenses,” Terri Miller, president of S.E.S.A.M.E. told The Lion. “95% of educator sexual misconduct cases are handled in-house and are never reported to law enforcement. The numbers of arrests are just a fraction of the problem. But there have been thousands just since 2014.”
S.E.S.A.M.E. is a national organization working to prevent the sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment of students by educators.