By Zach Winn · June 25, 2015
Hazing by a New York high school football team. Bullying and re-victimization of a sexual assault victim at a high school in Ohio. Sexual harassment of multiple girls who had been sexually assaulted at a high school in Oklahoma.
These were three examples presenter Jules Irvin-Rooney used to demonstrate actual Title IX implications K-12 schools face on a regular basis.
Irvin-Rooney, the president of Title IX and Clery Act Consulting, gave advice to security experts in her session titled Title IX and K-12 Schools: Understanding the Law and Implementing Best Practices, which was held at the Campus Safety National Forum in Washington, D.C.
Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination at educational institutions in the U.S., but the government and security officials alike have focused on how the law impacts universities more than lower levels of the school system.
Using real-world examples and hypotheticals, Irvin-Rooney made a compelling case that K-12 schools should be pooling more resources into Title IX compliance. She stressed that sexual harassment and sexual assault are problems in middle schools as well as high schools and shouldn’t be ignored even if we don’t want to believe it.
One of her presenting techniques involved getting attendees into groups to discuss the challenges they’ve faced dealing with Title IX issues at K-12 schools. Among the challenges was understanding the complex law.
Irvin-Rooney explained that Title IX offenses don’t necessarily even have to happen on campus. “If something happens on a field trip, that’s a Title IX issue,” Irvin-Rooney said.
One of the major points of the session was the importance of engaging with students. “Our students have an opinion,” Irvin-Rooney said. “They know what’s going on in the bathrooms and after school a lot better than we do.”
She also explained the importance of bystander intervention and teaching techniques. “We need to talk to our kids about what a healthy relationship looks like and what words like ‘consent’ mean,” Irvin-Rooney said.
Overall, Rooney-Irvin said changing the culture of sexual misconduct at the K-12 level involves a commitment from all levels of a school’s community.
Zach Winn is the Associate Editor for Campus Safety Magazine