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Four of Five Schoolkids Experience Sexual Harassment

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According to Fassler, surveys indicate that gay and lesbian adolescents are two and half times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight classmates.

As for solutions to school harassment, Chase says, "Every school needs a formal code of conduct. The code must be clearly communicated to every adult, student, and parent in the school." This code must be strictly enforced, he says, with harassment incidents "immediately confronted."

The most effective school programs "train all staff to spot offending behavior and intervene, from custodial staff and cafeteria workers, to secretaries and school bus drivers," he says.

The American Association of University Women says it is partnering with the National Education Association to set up a task force to address sexual harassment in schools. Nevertheless, Chase adds, "It's a societal problem. It should not be seen as only a school responsibility."

"Realistically, it's going to take us a whole generation to really change this behavior," Fassler tells WebMD. "We really need to start with kids in the earliest grades. We need to raise a whole generation of kids who just don't even think about engaging in this kind of behavior. Prevention and early intervention is much more effective than attempts to deal with the problems later on, once the behavior patterns have already been established."

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