Government to help schools handle sexual intimidation reports more seriously and efficiently
Outgoing Minister of Education Arie Slob told NOS he was working on an amendment to the law which would make schools compulsory to report sexual harassment claims to the Education Inspectorate. This would be expanded to include cases of inappropriate comments, unwanted physical contact, intimidation, and cases of sexual violence.
"It seems that students report harassment at school, but nothing happens with it and the story does not get outside of the school. By making schools compulsory to report sexual harassment, the Education Inspectorate can supervise much better. We have to make sure that a school is a safe school for all students", Slob said.
In cases of suspected sexual abuse or assault, the school is already obliged to report it to the Education Inspectorate. The latter then decides whether the school must file a criminal report. Yet that does not always happen, according to the Inspectorate, the confidential advisers, and the foundation which monitors safety in school.
According to the research carried out by NOS, many students are also dissatisfied with how schools deal with reports of sexual harassment and violence. They believe schools are often slow to act on reports, or look for ways not to act on them, out of fear of negative publicity or because of personal relationships with the teachers and staff.
After NOS made an appeal via Instagram, more than 6,000 stories came in about various forms of sexual intimidation in secondary schools, by schoolmates and by teachers. Most of the young people who experienced harassment in schools indicated that they had not reported it to the school, mostly out of fear they would not be taken seriously or that the situation could somehow become even worse for the victims.
Half of students who did report an incident said they were often dismissed, not taken seriously, or were said to be not credible. They were also often asked not to ruin a teacher's life by harming their reputation. Cases of teachers remaining in schools after multiple reports of inappropriate behavior are also common, according to the report.
"It is sad that so many young people indicate that they have had this negative experience and then do not always dare to report it and do not always feel heard", the Education Inspectorate spokesperson said. "Unfortunately, we also see that schools are not always well aware of the reporting obligation, which is why we will be paying more attention to it in the near future", they added.