Teachers, students and sex

One in 10 students are targets of sexual misconduct by school employees, according to a report for Congress by Charol Shakeshaft, a Hofstra education professor. But Shakeshaft’s definition includes everything from rape to inappropriate jokes.

Misconduct is defined in the report as physical, verbal or visual behavior, from sexually related jokes or pictures of sex to fondling of breasts and forced sex. Shakeshaft did not limit her review to sexual abuse because, she says, that would exclude other unacceptable adult behaviors that can drive kids from school and harm them for years.

No national study has collected reliable data on sexual abuse or misconduct in schools. Shakeshaft is guessing about the extent of a problem defined so broadly as to be meaningless.

Precinct 333 worries about a witch hunt targeting teachers.

About Joanne


  1. Bob Diethrich says:

    As a male teacher in a high school I am extremely careful as to how I praise my female students in terms of their appearance. A nice outfit, a new haircut gets a generic “________ you look nice today.” I avoid potentialy loaded words like “pretty.”

    A friend of mine at another school got a talking to by a principal for directly commenting on a girl’s toenails, which she had just had done.

    Its a shame, but these are the times we live in.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    In my life as a substitute teacher, I once had a student (male) who felt the need to yell, “Penis” several times during class. I finally walked over to him and asked calmly, “Are you looking for one?” The class laughed and that was the last “Penis” heard.

    Have I gone over to the 1 in 10 dark side?

  3. Jim Thomason says:

    I remember the name Shakestaff from another article posted here several months back. I think that it also involved a rather shoddily constructed “study”.

  4. 1. “Teachers” isn’t the same as “school employees”

    2. 1 in 10 isn’t exactly an epidemic when the criteria for “sexual misconduct” is so broad as to be almost meaningless

  5. Yeah, if you have an agenda you just make the loop so wide that almost everything fits, and surprise, your data ‘proves’ whatever it was. A study like this gets a big F.

    Anyway, when I started teaching in 1962 I had sixth grade girls holding my hands all the time at recess. We touched kids all the time. Younger teachers now rarely touch kids. We are told that very explicitly now. Never touch a kid. It’s a real shame.

  6. I wonder what the makers of this study would say to my friend who was a substitute. Once, he was greeted with “Hi, sexy substitute” from a third-grader. Uncomfortable, and not worth the seventy bucks.

    He teaches adults now (at a community college). And he is grateful.

  7. It’s the exact same definition of sexual harrassment that applies in the private sector these days. Anything that could make somebody else uncomfortable, no matter how ridiculous, is forbidden. Private companies worry about litigation and take proactive steps. Govt institutions get to ignore it until somebody presents a report to Congress.

    Note – I’m not saying saying I agree with the findings, just that they are not at all inconsistent with what has been going on in the private sector since the late 80’s.

  8. Richard Brandshaft says:

    I propose the term “category creep” for these studies that inflate numbers by broadening categories to meaninglessness.

    No political tribe holds a monopoly on this, but victimhood feminists are particularly fond of it. I remember a report some time ago saying that something like 10% of women will or have been “stalked.” No definition of “stalked.”

    There was the one about 1/3 of girls being “abused” before they reach adulthood.

    There was the one about 1/4 of all coeds having been raped. In that one, a minor fuss ensued when it turned out 3/4 of the “victims” were too stupid to know they had been raped. (Which leaves 1 in 16 as a real victim, which I would have thought is bad enough not to require inflating.)

    Reporters fall for it almost every time. The story linked to here is typical. The first paragraph gives the horrible news. Paragraph 5 suggests there may be a problem with the definition of “misconduct.” Paragraph 10 finally gives the definition that renders the study meaningless. This story is better than some; sometimes, the definition is left out entirely.

    No one reads every word in the newspaper. Many who see this story will read the headline and first 1 or 2 paragraphs and be misled.

  9. My best friend complained in high school of not one, but two teachers “sexually harrassing” her. One was a gym teacher who touched her leg while trying to indicate the proper stance for some dumb sport or another. She felt this was inappropriate, but I wonder if he wasn’t just trying to adjust her stance. Another was a history teacher and she was even less specific about what he did, I wasn’t clear if it was actual comments made or she just felt he was creepy. I learned early on not to discuss this with her because to this day she feels she was victimized.

    I didn’t keep my mouth shut when another, less-close friend accused a history teacher I had of “picking on” the girls. It turned out her definition of being “picked on” was being called on to answer questions in class, because girls should have the inalienable right to be able to sleep through class, apparently.

  10. Rita C. says:

    Well, just like everywhere, some kids are nuts and will accuse you of stuff. It happens whether or not you touch them. Remember these are kids trying to figure out what *is* sexual in the first place. A casual bump can send them into swoons for the rest of the day when it is with a person they have a crush on. I’m careful to some degree, but I don’t worry about it too much. If I have kids in my room after school, I leave the door open. If I have one kid only — especially a boy — in my room after school, I make sure somebody is aware of it in casual conversation. But my kids touch me all the time. I’ve had large, male, ebullient children race into my room, grab me in a side hug, and lift me off the ground. I think if I were very young and attractive (like some of the teachers in the building), I wouldn’t get touched as much. Being a little older and projecting a very definite motherly vibe makes a difference. Like in all things human, what you can do and not do just depends.

    This isn’t to say some school staff doesn’t do inappropriate things. I think it does happen. But not on nearly this large a scale.

  11. Bob Diethrich says:

    Sorry I have to do this. πŸ™‚

    “SHAKESTAFF?” (Beavis voice: “Shakestaff, heh heh”)

    And a research study having to do with sex?

    Paging Dr. Freud! Paging Dr. Freud!

    Okay, I feel better now! πŸ™‚

  12. Tim from Texas says:

    Let’s see now. A school district with 2 high-schools, each with 1800 students, 4 middle- schools, each with 900 students and a total work staff of say 500 and sex happens? I’m astonished.

  13. Now teachers know how Catholic priests feel. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the barrel.

  14. Perhaps most of the abuse is perpetrated by Catholic Priests who work in schools….

  15. Richard Brandshaft says:

    No, it did not take one (or a dozen) bad apple(s) to spoil the barrel. It took a whole organization not only covering up the crimes but deliberately putting known child molesters in a position where they could do it again.

  16. Richard, read the posts on this thread. Almost every one has written off this “study” because they didn’t like the results. Covering up bad behavior is wrong, whether it takes place in a Catholic church or a public school. And as for a whole organization covering up for the misdeeds of a few (as you described the Catholic church), look at teachers’ unions and schools themselves. They make it next to impossible to get rid of bad teachers. (Note – I am not talking about incompetent ones.) I should know. I have worked in two school districts where teachers had sexual contact with students. There was no doubt as to their guilt, yet the school districts had to walk on eggshells in getting rid of these teachers. The unions threatened all kinds of retaliation. I never once heard a “higher-up” in the union coming to the defense of the students. The school districts (which in many ways were just as culpable) did everything they could to “quietly” take care of the situation. I know for a fact that in one of the cases the teacher went to work in another state as a TEACHER!!! He was stripped of his teaching credentials in this state, but he has managed to find a loophole or a helping hand in order to teach in another state. Explain that one to me.

  17. Rita C. says:

    Right. And I know the UAW often comes to the defense of Ford Motor Company.

  18. Roger Sweeny says:

    In my town, a popular junior high science teacher was found to have had sex with two high school students. He was immediately suspended, and later accepted a plea bargain which resulted in a year plus in jail and termination of employment.

  19. Roger Sweeny – I don’t know all of the facts of your case, but it sounds to me like he got what he deserved. When you break the law, you need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I honestly believe that is one of the things that deters others from making the same mistakes or committing the same crimes. My point, when I entered Catholic priests into the mix, wasn’t to stir up trouble or defend the Catholic faith. It was to show that in a “sorta, kinda” way priests and teachers are in the same category. Both are expected to be helpful, caring individuals who offer guidance/education to their followers. They are supposed to be “better” than other people. (I don’t mean that in a snobby way either.) When that trust is broken – especially in such an egregious manner – it needs to be pointed out. The only catch is that allegations against a priest, teacher, etc. have to be PROVEN, not just made.

  20. Roger Sweeny says:

    Yes, yes, yes, and yes.