Director of AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund, Holly Kearl in Potsdam, Canton to talk about harassment, bullying March 1
Sunday, February 26, 2012 - 7:26 am

Author and sexual harassment expert Holly Kearl will be in Potsdam and Canton March 1 for appearances at SUNY Potsdam, Clarkson University, and St. Lawrence University.

As the director of AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund, Kearl is at the forefront of organizational efforts to create equitable and safe working conditions for students and employees in schools and universities.

She will be in the North Country to share her knowledge and to showcase solutions to the pervasive problems of harassment and bullying in schools, on campus, the workplace, and the street.

At SUNY Potdam, she will meet with student teacher candidates and others in Kellas 106 from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. This session is open to the public. Later, she will meet with SUNY staff and faculty to discuss harassment and workplace discrimination.

At Clarkson University, she will meet with students and staff in the early afternoon in the Student Center for a discussion about harassment issues relating to a college campus. She will focus in part on how people can perceive harassing behaviors as “just joking,” when such comments are often perceived as anything but a joke, and can be troubling and damaging.

At St. Lawrence University, she meets with young women in the Women’s Resource Center. They will discuss bullying issues and learn more about the work of AAUW. These young people are working to create an AAUW campus student organization, as well as organizing the second annual St. Lawrence County Run for Congo Women in April.

Students, teachers and parents know that sexual harassment and bullying is part of everyday life in middle and high schools. Kearl recently co-authored a research report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at Schools. Released last November, it is a comprehensive report of nationally representative research conducted in the past 10 years on sexual harassment in middle and high schools.

The report points to stark facts. Sexual harassment pervades the lives of students in grades 7–12. Nearly half of those surveyed reported that they had been harassed in the 2010–11 school year. Of that number, a majority (87 percent) said that being harassed had a negative effect on them. Among the responses, one-third said they did not want to go to school as a result of the harassment. Another third said they felt sick to their stomachs.

The prevalence of sexual harassment in middle and high school comes as a surprise to many, in part because it is rarely reported. Only about 9 percent of harassed students told a teacher, guidance counselor, or other adult at school about being sexually harassed. But in New York State, a new law takes effect on July 1 that requires every district to face the facts on bullying and harassment and report them.

The Dignity for All Students Act was signed into law to provide a school environment free of discrimination and harassment. The law protects those who are subjected to intimidation or abuse based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.

Boards of education are required to develop policies to create a school environment that is free from discrimination or harassment and to develop guidelines for school training programs to discourage discrimination or harassment.

Further, those programs must raise awareness and sensitivity of school employees to potential discrimination or harassment and enable employees to prevent and respond to discrimination or harassment.

On Friday, March 2, Kearl will be in Watertown, where she will meet with students and staff to provide harassment training at Jefferson County College. Her evening concludes with a LAF fund-raising dinner hosted by AAUW-Jefferson County at the Black River Valley Club.

On Saturday, March 3, she will be the keynote speaker at the AAUW-NYS District 7 spring conference, The Bully Culture at JCC. Kearl will not only report on the facts from the new AAUW report, but will assist as AAUW works with its community partners to create solutions to the twin problems of bullying and harassment.

The cost is $20 per person, which includes lunch and program materials. Participants will receive a copy of AAUW’s Nov. 2011 report, Crossing the Line: Addressing Sexual Harassment in Grades 7-12, and other resource materials. This includes a 30-minute, locally-produced video presentation illustrating what the Bully Culture looks like and how to change it. To register, go to