Sexual Assault in Montgomery County Public Schools
Over the past few years, MCPS has seen a substantial increase in reports of sexual assault. MCPS must foster a safe environment for students not knowing what steps to take after facing a traumatizing event. Safety should be the number one priority.
MCPS reported 162 cases of sexual misconduct this past school year in just 59 days, making over 420 cases in total. In the 2018-2019 school year, 320 cases were reported. Socioeconomic factors play a significant factor in reported cases of sexual assault. Teenagers perceiving their families to be less well off than others were twice as likely to report sexual abuse as those of ample or medium family affluence. Additionally, the Education Department found that reports of sexual violence at schools rose from about 9,600 in the 2015-2016 school year to nearly 15,000 in the 2017-2018 school year. That's an increase of more than 50 percent. It is MCPS's responsibility to provide an environment where all students, no matter their backgrounds or school, should be able to speak up.
Students are encouraged to resort to Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program (VASAP). However, it is generally hard to reach. As an organization, it can be intimidating to look to as a support system. MCPS has also implemented "Let's Talk Respect." While helpful, it is mainly overlooked or seen as a burden to complete. Students need these issues to be addressed through more than an educational lesson.
Students lack the proper resources to achieve comfort and justice for what they have experienced. These support mechanisms must be established and made public, and MCPS must increase resources in every school. Students find town halls a crucial way to talk about issues they face. These town halls must be held in places accessible to everyone, including those in the DCC area. Students surrounded by other students with similar experiences can help increase the number of students who come forward. De-stigmatizing the subject of sexual assault and harassment is necessary to encourage more student discussion with their peers.
Setting a proper response to reports and investigations is crucial to encourage more students to speak up about their experiences. It is common to see perpetrators continue engaging in extracurriculars and sports with no consequence. This discourages reporting and can provide a sense of relief to perpetrators by encouraging the idea that they can get away with their offense with no outcome. MCPS must ensure that students are held accountable for their actions to prevent future incidents.
Sexual assault is a prevalent issue in our educational system. Response and encouragement to speak up are needed to prioritize student safety within our county. MCPS leaves students' mental and physical well-being at stake without a proper answer. Every student should feel comfortable talking about incidents and dealing with them firsthand.
Balingit, Moriah. "Sexual assault reports sharply increased at K-12 schools,
numbering nearly 15,000, Education Department data shows." Washington Post,
Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.
Runarsdottir, Eyglo et al. “The Effects of Gender and Family Wealth on Sexual Abuse of Adolescents.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 16,10 1788. 20 May. 2019, doi:10.3390/ijerph16101788
Dempsey, Tom. "'Yes means yes' | As sexual misconduct cases rise, Montgomery Co. holds special discussion with students." WUSA9, 14 Dec. 2021, www.wusa9.com/article/news/education/montgomery-county-sex-crime-harassment-assault-webinar-discussion-school/65-9b651834-6b4c-4b0d-a2bd-4d97e78b5891. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.
“Mental and Sexual Health Outcomes Following Sexual Assault in Adolescents: a Prospective Cohort Study.” Define_me, National Institute for Health Research Policy Research Programme Grant (115/0001), 18 July 2018, www.thelancet.com/journals/lancah/article/PIIS2352-4642(18)30202-5/fulltext.
Written by Pankhuri Malayanil
Written by Educational Policy Department
Published by PR Department