A plethora of research has confirmed that sexual harassment is a problem in Scottish society, in all kinds of workplaces, including schools.
Although anyone can experience sexual harassment, regardless of their sex or gender identity, women are more likely to experience harassment, usually perpetrated by men, and girls are more likely than boys to be harassed in school.
A TUC study found that 52% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, and in the vast majority of cases, the perpetrator was a male colleague. Girlguiding Scotland found, in 2018, that just over 21% of girls and young women in Scotland aged 13-25 experience sexual harassment at school, college or university.
This is deeply concerning, but unsurprising. Sexual harassment is endemic in our society. This became clear in 2017, when the actor Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”; in the first week after her suggestion, 1.7 million tweets said #MeToo.
Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic within the Equality Act 2010, which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.
It covers a wide range of physical, verbal and non-verbal behaviour; it is never ‘just banter’ or a joke. It is unacceptable and unlawful conduct.
The EIS has launched new advice designed to support union members at all levels in challenging sexual harassment in educational establishments, because we recognise that it is vital for trade unions to take action on this issue, to improve the situation for workers; and for educationalists to play their part in improving the situation for the young people whom they teach.