National News

Schools face vexing test: Which kids will sexually attack?

Posted May 15

Christopher Lee looks through a window secured by bars towards a barbed wire fence surrounding the building from a conference room at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in St. Peter, Minn., on March 28, 2017. Lee has been in the program since 2005, four days before he turned 19. An ongoing Associated Press investigation has documented how K-12 schools in the United States can fail to protect students in their care from sexual assault, sometimes minimizing or even covering up incidents. Schools also struggle to help sexually aggressive students, both before and after they do lasting harm. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Thousands of school-age offenders are disciplined or treated for sexual aggression each year in the United States.

The Associated Press sought to understand who they are, and why they assault.

Therapists say there is no typical attacker: It could be the popular jock, the quiet loner, or anyone in between. And experts say they cannot reliably predict who might harm a classmate. What count as potential warning signs — such as social isolation or a student who disrespects personal boundaries — can mean many things other than an impending sex assault.

Therapists describe motivations that are rarely as straightforward as physical gratification.

Schools struggle both to monitor and help sexually aggressive students.

The good news: Therapy and a support network can speed recovery, if the offender is open to it.

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If you have a tip, comment or story to share about student-on-student sexual assault at K-12 schools, please email: schoolhousesexassault@ap.org

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