As the mother of a 14-year-old boy at a private school in London, the news of sexual abuse in various institutions has been very concerning. He stressed to us that no school, whether public or private, is immune to abuse committed by its students.
We have not seen any evidence of the rape culture within our son’s school, but they have taken the news seriously, letting us know that any allegations against students will be investigated and dealt with. with great severity.
Many years ago, when we chose schools for my son to sit for ages 11 and up, we avoided one particular school due to allegations of boy abuse in the 1980s. The problem was that the incident had been covered up and the teacher was allowed to continue working on it. This, to us, was obvious – there was no way we would allow our son to attend, even though the teacher was no longer there and it had happened 30 years ago. I imagine Dulwich College, which was recently at the center of allegations of sexual harassment and assault among its students, could also see a tarnished reputation among expectant parents that could take years to mend.
All schools, public, private or otherwise, must treat allegations of rape in the same way. I am convinced that independent schools have a lot more to lose if they don’t try to avoid this problem: they are businesses after all. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are harvested each year through the application process alone – losing that would be financially ruinous.
Rather than just telling our boys that rape is bad (if only that was enough), we need to encourage a sense of responsibility among adolescents in order to protect their counterparts. After all, the first people a teenager goes to with a problem will be their closest friends and they need to have the support and the know-how to deal with it. It starts with school, and it has to be woven into the very fabric of the school’s philosophy.