According to a yearlong Associated Press investigation, there were nearly 17,000 official reports of sexual assaults by K-12 students from 2011 to 2015.
Nearly 5 percent of this sexual violence involved 5 and 6-year-olds, and those numbers rose sharply when students hit middle school and puberty, declining again when kids entered high school.
Barring private homes, schools are the location where kids are most likely to experience sexual violence at the hands of peers.
Certain situations involving K-8 students raise particularly difficult questions about what qualifies as sexual assault. On the one hand, children can’t legally consent to sexual activity. But then there is a normal, maybe even expected, amount of sexual experimentation between kids. When does this cross the boundary into assault?
What can parents and school administrators do to keep kids from perpetrating or being subjected to unwanted sexual situations? How do we deal with the gray areas inherent to sexual incidents involving children?
Marc Ecker, lecturer in the College of Education at Cal State Fullerton and former superintendent of Fountain Valley School District; he’s worked in the California public school system for over 42 years
Betsy Brown Braun, child development and behavior specialist; best selling author of “Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents” (HarperCollins, 2008)