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Oh, Back to School!

Back to school, back to school. To prove to dad that I’m not a fool. Got my lunch packed up, my shoes tied tight. I hope I don’t get in a fight. Oh, back to school.

Ahh, the wisdom of Billy Madison. We can learn so much from his experiences when he returned to school as an adult. One of the most difficult adjustments for Billy going back to school was using appropriate language. As a former high school teacher myself, I can tell you that this is a very real challenge for students returning from summer break. In fact, our school administrators would often refer to their profane, crude, filter-less words as “summer language.”

When Prevention Educators from SACC present to middle and high school students, we always discuss sexual harassment. At first I was shocked to learn that some students really don’t know what is appropriate to say and what is actually “harassment.” Most students think that harassment is just bullying or name-calling. While those are definitely examples of harassment, there is much more to it! As Prevention Educators, we point out that sexual harassment also includes making comments about people’s physical appearance, bodies, or clothes; telling dirty jokes; making offensive hand or body gestures (booo Miley Cyrus); and even spreading rumors about someone.

As adults we need to work with youngsters to help them realize that their words and actions have real-life consequences. Schools will no longer tolerate sexual harassment. In fact, Title IX states that a school has a responsibility to respond promptly and effectively to harassment. If a school knows or reasonably should know about sexual harassment or sexual violence that creates a hostile environment, the school must take immediate action to eliminate the sexual harassment or sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.

Summer (especially after a long Wisconsin winter) is a great time for families and friends to enjoy time outdoors and let loose a little bit, but we always need to be conscientious of the language we use and the behaviors we model for our children. It is our responsibility as a community to send children back to school ready to learn and behave respectfully.