I am concerned about the recent media reporting of the increase of sexual harassment and sexual violence occurring within schools, not only in Scotland but across the U.K.. In 2016 both the Scottish and U.K. Governments held inquiries into the sexual harassment of children in school which revealed an alarming, epidemic rise of incidents. Specialists from Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG) sectors gave evidence showing that the victims in the vast majority of these sexual incidents are girls, and the perpetrators in the vast majority of sexual incidents are boys and men. There is a growing misogynistic culture within schools trivialising the violence against girls and justifies it as normal behaviour or even inevitable. VAWG groups called for urgent action including developing a zero tolerance approach, relationship education around consent, teacher training, a specific framework for teaching staff on how to recognise and respond to reports along with a robust system for the recording and monitoring of all incidents.
This week I read the article ‘Corridors of Fear’ on http://www.scottishreview.net Their investigation revealed that despite the findings and recommendations of the Equalities committee the Scottish Government’s Anti-Bullying ‘Respect For All’ approach does not include any reference to the sexual harassment affecting girls. A government issued guidance for every school in Scotland that does not name the sexual harassment and sexual violence of girls is a scandalous omission. It is difficult to imagine the reasons why these issues have been excluded from this school document, which claims to support the health and wellbeing of ALL children by providing them with a safe and respectful environment in which they can learn. The message this sends is that these serious issues, that affect girls in particular, were simply not a priority for the authors, revealing the reach of misogyny extends to the highest levels of our society.
The Scottish Government must take immediate action by either reviewing this Anti-Bullying approach to include specific guidance for schools to tackle the rising sexual harassment within schools, or create a separate new guidance that is 100% dedicated to these pressing issues. A government campaign planning to run in Spring 2019 is not a proportionate response to these urgent matters, as this continual delay to take any action only exacerbates the normalisation of sexual harassment and sexual violence of girls in our schools. This cannot be ignored any longer and I ask that you raise this issue in parliament requesting that ministers take urgent action.
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Thank you, Susan Sinclair