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Can #MeToo Activism Change the Culture In High Schools?

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Students are leading #metoo movements around the world in their high schools, demanding an end to sexual assault and harassment. But can this activism actually change school culture?

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.

What is rape culture?

This is a phrase describes an environment in which sexual violence is treated as the norm and victims are often blamed for their own assaults, while abusers often face few if any consequences. Rape culture is more than just sexual violence itself, it’s also cultural norms and institutions that protect rapists, promote impunity, and shame survivors of assault or harassment.

How prevalent is sexual violence in high schools?


It appears that reports of sexual assault and harassment are growing. In the U.S. there were over 15,000 reports of sexual violence during the 2017-18 school year  – a more than 50 percent increase in reports over the previous report year of 2015-16, according to federal civil rights data the Education Department. Some researchers say many more cases go unreported due to the social stigma survivors face. It’s also hard to be sure that there was a real increase in abuse, or students now feel more comfortable reporting these crimes due to the larger #metoo movement. 

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity offered by a recipient of federal funds. The law guarantees students the right to an education without being discriminated against because of their sex, or sexually assaulted or harassed. You may also have heard of Title IX in that it requires that males and females have equal access to opportunities to participate in sports. It has become a powerful tool to combat sexual violence and discrimination on school campuses, but many K-12 schools don’t have Title IX compliance officers and don’t do a good job of educating students or enforcing the law. 

What changes are #metoo student activists demanding?

This all depends on the particular school and what’s happening there, but there are a lot of consistent demands students are making around the county: better Title IX compliance, more education about consent and how to report sexual violence, more severe consequences for abusers and more support and counseling for survivors of abuse. 

What are ways you can help as an ally? 

Even if you’re not directly impacted by sexual violence yourself, you can help create a safer and healthier culture in your school. Survivors often need support from allies to advocate for school policy changes and help organize awareness-raising through walkouts, rallies, and peer education about consent. Learn more about students’ rights under Title IX and help spread the word around your campus about how to report incidents or seek support. Ask survivors themselves what THEY need and how you can be most useful. 


“Rape culture isn’t a myth. It’s real, and it’s dangerous.” (Vox)

“Sexual violence reports rise drastically at schools, Education Department data shows” (Politico)

Information and Resources About Title IX, (U.S. Department of Education)

Bay Area Students Push Again for Changes To How Schools Handle Sexual Misconduct (KQED) 

How Generations of Berkeley High Students Forced a Reckoning About Sexual Abuse (KQED)

Los Gatos High School Hit By Student Sex Assault Allegations (NBC)



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