NJ’s K-12 schools are not immune to sexual violence
Sexual violence is a hot topic, as well as a problem, on college campuses everywhere, but it's not an issue that just magically appears after high school graduation.
In fact, acts of sexual violence occur in K-12 schools as well - perhaps not as often, but the numbers prove elementary, middle and high schools are not immune to the problem.
An annual report from the New Jersey Department of Education found that 192 sexual offenses, which can include sexual assault, were reported by New Jersey schools in the 2014-2015 school year, compared to 189 the year prior and 227 two years prior.
And these stats may not be telling the whole story.
"As staggering as these numbers are, what we should really be concerned about is these are still only the instances that have been disclosed," said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
In a 2014 study from researchers at the University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 21 percent of middle school students cited unwanted touching on school grounds.
According to Teffenhart, college campuses have recently made an unprecedented effort to address the issue of sexual violence prevention, as pressure mounted for colleges to bear such a responsibility. However, she said, if children have to wait until college to be educated on the matter, it may be too late by then.
Teffenhart insisted schools' anti-bullying programs and sexual education programs provide a solid foundation for building lessons on this sensitive topic.
"There's already some infrastructure in place," she said. "It's just a matter of perhaps fine-tuning our messages."
On the college front, legislation signed into law in December creates a task force designed to analyze sexual assault prevention methods and see how schools can improve how they respond to reported incidents.