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Allegations of sexual harassment double at community colleges

The onslaught of sexual harassment allegations that have rocked the country shows no sign of slowing down. It seems that new allegations of misconduct against individuals, employers and public entities surface every day. California is no exception; there have been several allegations of sexual misconduct in our state Congress and the entertainment industry. The latest entities to field reports of sexual harassment are Los Angeles community colleges.

The Los Angeles Community College district reports that the number of formal sexual harassment complaints filed against its community colleges has nearly doubled in recent years. In 2016, there were 14 formal complaints of sexual harassment; in 2017, there were 27. The district is composed of nine campuses that educate approximately 140,000 students.

The near-doubling of formal complaints may seem shocking, but campus administrators estimate that the number of incidents may be even higher than reported. Sexual harassment is likely underreported on the campuses, according to one board member. Many victims of sexual harassment do not file formal complaints for fear of retaliation.

One reason for the dramatic increase in reported complaints may be a heightened awareness of sexual misconduct. Beginning in November of last year, when the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein faced allegations of sexual abuse, more women have come forward to level similar accusations against dozens of public figures. As more and more victims report their experiences of harassment, others may feel emboldened to air their experiences as well.

Though the district is said to be reevaluating its sexual harassment policies, it reiterated that its campuses are safe for its students. The district's report did not mention whether the complaints resulted in disciplinary action against the alleged perpetrators. In the current sensitive climate regarding sexual assault, no doubt the city's community colleges--and their attorneys--are taking a close look at sexual harassment on campus.

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