As the summer season comes to a close, it is time to begin looking into the coming school year. While the start of a school year means new beginnings and exciting opportunities to learn, it unfortunately can bring with it unsafe learning environments. We Will is dedicated to helping ensure all can learn without a fear for their personal safety.
Studies suggest that over 15,000 instances of sexual violence occurs in K-12 schools each year, and these are just the reported numbers. (https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/sexual-violence-schools). Research shows that college-age students may be up to three times more likely to experience sexual violence than individuals outside this age range, which may be attributable to college campus sexual violence. (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence). We don’t share this information to scare anyone out of sending their child to school to have amazing growth and learning experiences, but we want to draw attention to the fact that this happens and encourage all to do better.
So how can we do better? Organizations like National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments have dedicated their entire mission to ensuring we create safe learning environments. (https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/safe-place-to-learn-k12). Their suggestions include:
Each school implementing Title IX training
Developing sensitivity for trauma by all who surround students
Creating a positive school climate (https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/sites/default/files/SP2L1_E1_ImplementationGuide.pdf)
We Will is fully on board with this organization’s messaging for schools, but as parents, students, and community members we still have a huge role to play. We can call or email our local schools to ask about their Title IX training programs and what steps they are taking to help students be safe. As a student, you can provide information regarding what you would like to see change. As a former student, you can provide your schools with feedback regarding what you would have liked to see and how you could have been better supported. Productive conversations alert schools that we want to do better.
Further, we can develop sensitivity for trauma by all who surround students. Parents and guardians can help create safe spaces of listening, and letting children know they are loved no matter what happens and that if there is an instance of assault, they are not at fault. Students can help fight against language that appears tolerant of assault or violence and can speak respectfully of others. Those outside of schools can continue to be a resource and positive role model for students who may not have support at home.
Finally, the effect that we can have on a school environment is incredible. As parents, students, and those outside of schools work in their communities to end sexual assault by advocating to schools, legislators, other parents, peers, community groups, and more, we will continue to grow our communities into those with a positive climate toward sexual assault prevention and survivor empowerment which will, in turn, permeate into how others view sexual assault and therefore, effect school environments as well.
We hope this helps you understand the critical role we play as everyday advocates. Remember that you never know the impact you can have through one phone call, email, conversation, social media post, or comment. Be involved and help create safe environments for student learning. #TogetherWeWill