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October 8, 1996
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Does a kiss by a 7-year old boy mean he is on his way to becoming a
sexual deviate? I doubt it. But the question, a popular one in recent
days, underscores one of the basic misunderstandings about sexual
harassment - that it's about sexual activity. Whether in the education
setting or workplace, sexual harassment has always been about exploiting
differences based on a person's gender.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that may limit a student's
horizons. Policies aimed at curbing sexual harassment derive from Title
IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law designed to
prevent and eliminate discrimination against women in education. The law
protects elementary students, as well as those in college. Without Title
IX, millions of girls and women participating in athletic and vocational
programs would still find themselves excluded from these educational
The commotion about schools in North Carolina and New York disciplining
elementary school children for sexual harassing behavior when they
kissed a classmate emphasizes more than ever the need for parents,
students, and school personnel to cooperatively develop policies and
procedures for addressing harassment in schools. These incidents also
highlighted the lack of age-appropriate measures for confronting
unwelcome savior, a key element of sexual harassment.
In my work, I advocate district-wide sexual harassment policies
accompanied by adequate corrective action and counseling for violators.
A policy will surely fail if schools do not include adequate training
for educators, students, and the community about the reasons for
implementing the policies - to ensure basic respect and fairness between
and among students and staff. Unfortunately, most Texas schools do not
present training in tandem with any policy they have in place.
Some argue that schools do not need sexual harassment policies. I remind
them that a workplace harasser doesn't simply wake up one morning and
decide to disrespect his female co-workers by requesting sexual favors
or physically assaulting them.
Sexists attitudes and behaviors develop over time. They find
reinforcement through society's messages that sexual harassment is "no
big deal," "it's only flirting," or, worse, "she just can't take a joke."
As an educator, I have yet to speak to a classroom of middle or high
school students who couldn't list sexual harassing behaviors they
witness or experience every day. The harassment may take the form of
physical pinching, groping, and mauling, degrading sexual names, or
pornographic pictures and drawings. Moreover, schools generally fail to
respond to harassing behavior, opting instead to leave victims to cope
with it on their own.
As a parent, I would be concerned about my son kissing a classmate and
ripping a button from her clothing. Likewise, if my daughter came home
complaining about a classmate who kissed her and then tore her skirt, I
would never say, "boys will be boys" or "ignore it, that just means he
likes you." Too often, children hear these responses from parents and
educators who overlook the feelings of confusion or discomfort that
follow such incidents.
I remember the helplessness I experienced during my third grade school
year. Break times on the playground often meant boys would disrupt my
circle of friends by chasing us, trying to kiss us. Despite our screams
and sometimes tears, adult playground monitors never intervened.
Often, we were pinned against a brick wall, turned our head from side to
side to avoid those "yucky" kisses. We also wore shorts under our
dresses to avoid being embarrassed by male classmates flipping up our
skirts. By mid-year, I spent playground breaks in the safety of the
In 1972, no one questioned this behavior or its effect on boys and
girls. Were my classmates attempting to sexually assault me? Probably
not. I doubt they knew much about sex. But they certainly grasped the
concept that underscores sexual harassment.
The eternal optimist, I look at the latest round of sexual harassment
discussion as a "teachable moment" for the entire country. After all,
twenty-four years after the passage of Title IX, sexual harassment is
still no laughing matter.
By Sylvia Cedillo, Coordinator
Stop Harassment in Public School
an education initiative of the
Texas Civil Rights Project
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The fight to keep government at every level open and accessible in
Texas is one that never ends.
From local school boards to congressional committees, those governing
us inevitably reach the point of wanting to make their decisions in
secret. It is the rare elected official, board or governing body that is
willing to have those who elected them and pay them actually be privy to
all their deliberations.
Open government in Texas is ever a journey, never a destination. The
fight to give citizens, voters and taxpayers access to government
deliberations, decisions and records will never end.
In Texas, one small, nonprofit group is dedicated to open government.
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas comprises newspaper,
television and radio journalists, college professors and lawyers who
donate their time to the cause of access and openness in Texas
From the tiniest town council and most remote school board to the
University of Texas System Board of Regents, government is always in a
struggle with the public's right to know. At every level, those in power
prefer to operate privately rather than work through difficult issues in
Shutting out the public doesn't make for better government, only an
ill-informed citizenry. As the Freedom of Information Foundation of
Texas knows from its long and deep experience, what you don't know can
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I see from last week's column that I brought up the question of E-mail
and whether you have to have an Internet connection to use it. Then I
failed to answer my own question.
No, you do not have to have an Internet connection to have E-mail
service. You can use a service such as CompuServe or America Online to
send and receive E-mail. The E stands for electronic. Computer/telephone.
You will need a computer, a modem to access the telephone line, and
E-mail software. Sending and receiving mail by computer is simple and
quick. You can compose a letter at your leisure, without paying the
hourly charge for the service hookup. Once you hook up to the service to
send the letter, it takes only seconds to get it underway. The letter
goes into a mailbox to wait for your recipient to download it.
A reply is even simpler. You can just type your reply on the letter you
receive, click "send," and it goes back to the person who sent it to you.
If you're paying long-distance charges for a service such as
CompuServe, it will cost you for the time you are online - both for the
service's online charges and long-distance telephone charges. If you use
a local number, such as Oilfield Phone Service's "BitStreet" Internet
connection, the flat monthly service charge is all you pay.
You can get on a company's E-mail list and receive regular updates on
their products or whatever information they are offering. But be
careful. Junk mail is even easier to send over telephone lines than
through the Post Office.
In that same vein, you can develop your own mailing list and send
everyone the same letter with a few clicks of the mouse. Saves typing
mailing labels. Saves stuffing envelopes and licking the flap. Saves
postage. Saves time, our most valuable commodity.
My computer software will do the same thing with paper letters, and I
thought I would use it to write letters more often. In truth, I have
written fewer letters then I did the old-fashioned way. There's just
something special about that personal touch with pen on paper in cursive
handwriting. And I love to receive mail I can touch. But I wish I could
send E-mail to my new friends in Mexico so we could have that instant
communication. The telephone system there is so bad that few have
computers. I sent a fax from the hotel to the Enterprise last week, but
it came out so garbled nobody could read it. E-mail probably would be
the same way.
"There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not
understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a
rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a
maiden." (And E-mail). Proverbs 18-19, NIV.
Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose column appears
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Copyright 1996 by Pecos Enterprise
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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