Across the US, thousands of students have been sexually assaulted, by other students, in high schools, junior highs, and even elementary schools—hidden horror stories educators have long been warned not to ignore. Relying on state education records, supplemented by federal crime data, a yearlong investigation by the AP uncovered roughly 17,000 official reports of sex assaults by students over a four-year period, from fall 2011 to spring 2015. Though that figure represents the most complete tally yet of sexual assaults among the nation's 50 million K-12 students, it does not fully capture the problem because such attacks are greatly underreported, some states don't track them, and those that do vary widely in how they classify and catalog sexual violence. A number of academic estimates range sharply higher.
Children remain most vulnerable to sexual assaults by other children in the privacy of a home, according to AP's review of the federal crime data. But schools are the No. 2 site where juveniles are sexually violated by their peers. Other findings:
- Unwanted fondling was the most common form of assault, but about one in five of the students assaulted were raped, sodomized, or penetrated with an object.
- About 5% of the sexual violence involved 5- and 6-year-olds. But the numbers increased significantly between ages 10 and 11—about the time many students start their middle-school years—and continued rising up until age 14.
- Data showed that student sexual assaults by peers were far more common than those by teachers. For every adult-on-child sexual attack reported on school property, there were seven assaults by students.
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, which highlights the case of Chaz Wing of Maine, who sued his school district after alleging he was raped by fellow students.