I’ve been seeing a lot of articles posted lately about the damage that moving schools can do to students. All of those feel like efforts by worried parents to push back against the very real possibility of school redistricting. These articles talk about mental health, long term social-emotional damage, negative impact on school work, friendships, sense of community, and so on.
Then I saw this article:
Lake Elkhorn Middle incident involving two students violated Howard schools sexual discrimination policy, Jess Nocera for The Baltimore Sun
First of all, a big fat zero to the person who wrote that headline (not Ms. Nocera) and made it look like both students were culpable of violating something. The article says something else entirely. One student threatened another with sexual assault. The school investigated this and found it violated their own guidelines for behavior. The outcome?
The alleged victim’s mother said her daughter will transfer to a new Howard middle school for the upcoming academic year.
Wait, what? The victim has to move? How does this make any sense? Remember all those educational articles that talk about mental health, long term social-emotional damage, negative impact on school work, friendships, sense of community? Now imagine your child is the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault. That’s absolutely the worst possible time to separate them from community, friends, relationships with teachers, familiar routine. It must feel like additional abuse on top of what has already happened. Or punishment because they called out the abuse.
Image your next door neighbor breaks into your house, does damage, and steals things. There’s an investigation. The upshot? Your neighbor stays, your only recourse is to move.
Crazy, right? It’s almost as though the unwritten rule here is:
If you didn’t want to be a victim of crime, you shouldn’t have lived in this neighborhood.
Over and over again I see accounts of sexual assault/harassment in the Howard County Schools where the victim has to move. This is not okay. In the face of their child’s very real distress, parents may be persuaded that changing schools is a helpful accommodation being offered by the school system. Parents just want to help stop their child’s pain, assure their future safety.
But this is almost always the worst possible response. The victim has already experienced loss: of safety, of personal boundaries, of self-worth. Adding to that a loss of school community is not a solution. It looks a whole lot more like punishment to me.
Perhaps even a deterrent to reporting abuse.
If you knew that the end result of naming your abuse/abuser would be losing your school community, would you do it?
It is long past time for the school system to do better by these victims and their families.