Imagine an average Ontario high school classroom of around 30 students.
If it is indeed an Ďaverageí class, eight of the girls and four of the boys sitting in those rows of desks have been victims of verbal forms sexual harassment at school.
Five of those girls and two or three of the boys have been touched or grabbed in an unwanted sexual way Ė again, while at school.
And if itís an older class, at least eight of the girls and around three of the boys have been pressured into doing something sexual they didnít want to do.
OK, so imagining, let alone finding an ďaverageĒ high school classroom in Ontario would be impossible, but that doesnít make these numbers any less real or alarming.
These are the statistics that came out of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Healthís recent study on sexual harassment and related behaviours among youth, released this week. The study surveyed more than 1,800 grade 9 and 11 students in 23 Ontario schools.
The CAMH study confirms and emphasizes the findings of the School Community Safety Panelís 1,000+ page report on safety in Toronto public schools (a.k.a. the Falconer Report, named for the panelís chair Julian Falconer), released just a few days before.
The Falconer Report found that in Toronto, sexual assaults and sexual harassment are happening in schools at a startling rate, that girls are much more likely to experience it than boys, and, moreover, that most cases are going unreported.
Both studies also show that experience of sexual harassment in schools is closely related to very serious long-term effects in students, including depression, low self esteem, missed school days, declining grades, and substance abuse.
In short, gender-based forms of violence and harassment in high schools are a bigger problem than perhaps anyone realized.