Responding to the publication today (9 August) of new Freedom of Information research by the Press Association which has revealed that children as young as 5 have been excluded from school for ‘sexual misconduct’, which might include accessing internet pornography, creating and sharing their own sexual images or pressuring others to do so, sexual harassment and sexual assault, Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
“These figures, which reveal really alarming behaviour in schools, show that girls and boys are being failed by those who should protect them and prevent this. Children and young people have access to extremely explicit online content, and many boys are forming ideas about what it is acceptable to do with what they have seen – send it to others, create their own imagery, pressure girls to send images and sharing those images on, and even sexual harassment and sexual assaults.
“But, young people are not receiving the guidance and protection they need, nor the frank conversations about respect, equality and acceptable behaviour that good ‘Relationships and Sex Education’ would deliver to older children.
“Girls are clearly disproportionately on the receiving end of most of this harmful sexual behaviour in schools, but all children and young people are affected when we allow them to develop their ideas about what is normal and acceptable in an environment saturated with pornography but a vacuum regarding conversations with trusted adults.
“The Department for Education, and school leaders and parents, need to take responsibility now for ensuring better child protection, better policies on bullying which recognise sexual bullying, and good relationships and sex education. We can change this if we prioritise it and set about doing so.
“We need to get everyone in schools working on recognising this behaviour and deterring it and responding to what young people are saying about it. This would include new child protection guidance for schools which is much more detailed on what schools should do in the event of sexual harassment and sexual assaults by other pupils (not just adults as the current guidance is mainly framed around); new bullying guidance which is very explicit about and names sexual bullying and what should be done; as many schools as possible delivering good quality relationships and sex education before it becomes compulsory in September 2019; and the involvement of parents in all these discussions.”
EVAW’s report on how schools fail to protect girls from sexual harassment and sexual assaults is here – we say that schools already act unlawfully when they do this as they fail to uphold girls’ human rights. Read more about our schools campaigning here.