Sexual Harassment in Schools: the UK Context
The issue of sexual harassment was raised first in the 1980s, linked to wider attempts to address sexism in schools, which spanned the curriculum and behaviours in schools (Duncan, 1999; Halson, 1992; Herbert, 1999; Spender and Sarah, 1980). Initially sexual harassment was understood as a gendered issue, but was later eclipsed by a focus on bullying, promoted by children’s charities and several high profile organisations such as Kidscape, which developed and promoted interventions. The term ‘sexual bullying’ emerged as a way to reclaim a gendered focus. A number of feminists entered education studies, establishing the journal Gender and Education and within the academic field there are a number of key texts which explore gender in schools (Fulton, 1992; Jones and Mahoney, 1989; Paechter, 1998; Weiner and Arnot, 1990), and a smaller but strong literature on school based masculinities (Mac on Ghail, 1992; Skelton, 2001). There was more focus in the last two decades on the harassment of lesbian and gay young people (now widened to include trans) at school, through the work of Stonewall1 which undertook a number of national surveys.
Much ground was lost as gender as an equalities issue was overshadowed in equal opportunities politics in the 1990s.
Until the last two decades policy covered all of the UK, albeit implemented differently across the four nations (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales). The Scottish parliament was established in 1998 and devolved administrations followed in Wales and Northern Ireland. The powers of these administrations have increased over time, although unevenly. The material on recent developments covered in this paper are primarily from England and Wales.