How often do you think about the weather? Most of us pay no attention to the actual climate surrounding us unless something extraordinary happens — a horrible storm, or a gloriously sunny day in the middle of winter. Likewise, most people pay no attention to the sexual climate in the places they spend their time each day until something doesn’t feel right. Maybe the jokes are just a little bit too risqué, or displays of affection don’t feel quite right, or questionable photos are hanging over a colleague’s desk; something just feels creepy. Apparently, sexual climate in Mason High School in Ohio was roiling into the perfect storm and at least 5 known victims were caught in the path. High school health and gym teacher Stacey Schuyler was found guilty on 16 counts of sexual battery because she decided to have sex with the football team and no one got in her way.
Kids spend most of their waking hours in school, and schools each have their own climate or “social feel”. Education experts conduct studies looking at the relationship between school climate and bullying, school climate and achievement, school climate and discipline, and other issues. In the same way, parents need to examine the concept of school climate and sexual safety and understand how to recognize signs that the climate may be turning dangerous.
It is inconceivable that no one knew anything at all about this abuse of power and trust. What was it about the climate in this high school that held this secret as closely as any member of a dysfunctional family hiding incest until one brave soul contacted authorities? Were sexual innuendo’s acceptable? Were male and females treated differently? Was the sexual climate so closed that no one ever discussed sex, or so open that having sex with the football team seemed as American as Apple Pie?
Judge Robert Peeler found Stacy Schuler guilty on 16 felony counts of sexual battery and three misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors, and good for him. Women who abuse boys deserve no special treatment because of the gender of their victims. The male autonomic response to arousal renders him even more vulnerable to devastating confusion when a pleasurable physical feeling becomes associated with a negative emotional experience. We’ve long known about male predators, but females can be just as predatory and hide behind the self-delusion that they’re doing a boy a favor. That’s absurd; the devastation cause by the abuse of power by a person with authority over a child has no upside. People tend to be less suspicious of females, particularly teachers who are in a position to nurture young spirits, making their abuse of authority particularly odious.
The sexual climate in school can vary from building to building in a district and from year to year in the same building. Throughout my career I have worked with teachers from schools where everyone “knows” that a teacher is having sex with students and no one speaks up, and with teachers from schools where an off-color joke by a teacher is grounds for disciplinary action.
What do you know about the sexual climate in your child’s school? You never want to find yourself in the sad position of the parents of these boys; heartbreaking testimony we hear from victims and thier loved ones is a wake up call for parents everywhere.
Here’s a chekcklist to help assess the sexual climate in your childs school; you can learn more from my book, The Sex Wise Parent.