OC HIGH / STUDENT NEWS & VIEWS : Policies That Affect Students and Teachers

Sexual harassment policies may differ in length, but content is similar in guidelines adopted by school districts across the county.

Policies, pertaining to both students and teachers, cover a definition of sexual harassment, examples of such behavior, how to file a complaint and possible consequences.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines state that "prevention is the best tool for elimination of sexual harassment." School districts have held in-service training for teachers, and students at some schools have been briefed about the policy at assemblies. Some schools, however, have not taken the message directly to students, relying instead on students reading about the policy in their handbooks.

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Here is a portion of Villa Park High School's sexual harassment policy, which is similar to others adopted in the county:

Sexual harassment may include but is not limited to:

* Verbal or physical harassment or abuse;

* Subtle pressure for sexual activity;

* Demanding sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt promises of preferential treatment with regard to an individual's employment status;

* Offers of sexual favors or advances to secure favorable employment conditions or to avoid unfavorable ones.

Sexual harassment does not refer to behavior or occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature. It refers to behavior that is not welcome, that is personally offensive, that fails to respect the rights of others, that lowers morale and that, therefore, interferes with work effectiveness.

Sexual harassment may take different forms. One form is the demand for sexual favors. Other forms of harassment include:

* Verbal: Sexual innuendoes, suggestive comments, comments on clothing or physical appearance, jokes of a sexual nature, sexual propositions, flirtations, advances or threats, highly personal questions and unwanted notes or love letters with a sexual message.

* Nonverbal: Sexually suggestive cartoons, pinups, graphic commentaries, suggestive or insulting sounds, leering, whistling, obscene gestures, graffiti, offensive language and displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures.

* Physical: Unwanted physical contact, including touching, pinching, kissing, brushing the body, physical interference with movements such as blocking or following, patting, hugging, back or neck rubs, coerced sexual intercourse, assault.

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At the three high schools in Irvine, students attended assemblies where they received the policy on sexual harassment and watched a performance by Live Action, a troupe that concentrates on social issues. Live Action also distributed a flier on sexual harassment.

Excerpts from the flyer:

Remember: when it comes to sexual harassment, it's not your intentions, but the impact of your behavior that counts. Sexual harassment can be very hurtful, even if you don't mean it to be.

The following types of behavior may be sexual harassment:

* Name calling, verbal or written, of a sexual nature, such as: hunk, stud, fag, ho, etc., when used as sexual put-downs.

* Sexual threats, demands, teasing, taunting.

* Pressure for sexual activity.

* Blocking movements.

* Explicit pictures, posters, calendars in class or on notebooks.

* Sexual gesturing, grabbing, pinching in line

* Comments about someone's sexual preference.

Flirting is different from sexual harassment. There are no rules against flirting. Sexual harassment, unlike flirting, is unwelcome or unsolicited. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Would I want this behavior to be written up in the school newspaper or appear on the evening news?

2. Would I behave this way if a member of my family were standing next to me?

3. Would I want someone to act this way toward someone I love?

4. Is this behavior agreed upon by me and the other person?

If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn't do it.

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