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Sexual Bullying of Teachers


John Simkin
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Lucy Ward, social affairs correspondent

Thursday November 23, 2006

The Guardian

http://education.guardian.co.uk/pupilbehav...1954583,00.html

Young women teachers are increasingly seen as "fair game" by some pupils for sexual harassment including touching and innuendo, according to a report to be published tomorrow.

A survey conducted by the National Union of Teachers finds that young female teachers, in particular, are frequently confronted with sexist language and bullying in school.

There is a growing trend for sexist language, leading to sexist bullying, to "enter the mainstream", with girls and women "beginning to accept sexist language as the norm", the study finds.

Steve Sinnott, the NUT's general secretary, yesterday described the findings of the survey as "pretty horrendous". Some of the sexist language used by pupils was so bad that the report had used asterisks rather than spell it out, he said.

Teachers had also told "horrible stories" of their experiences. The rise of sexism in the classroom was not confined to boys harassing teachers or female classmates, but also included the language used by girls to each other and to women teachers, male teachers as victims, and sexist behaviour within staffrooms.

According to the findings, "younger male and female teachers, in particular, seem to be seen as 'fair game' to some pupils to touch, in some cases, and to make sexual innuendo towards".

Details of the survey were included in a submission to an inquiry into bullying in schools being conducted by the Commons education and skills committee.

The union told MPs that, in contrast to racist and homophobic bullying, sexist bullying is frequently ignored and minimised, even though women make up more than two-thirds of the teaching workforce in state schools.

Many women teachers reported "isolation and frustration at how hard it is to challenge sexist language and bullying by pupils". There is no clear guidance for schools from government or local authorities on how to deal with sexist bullying between pupils or of staff, the union told MPs, adding that women teachers are expected to put up with a high degree of sexist behaviour and harassment.

"Sexist messages" in the media made it harder for teachers to challenge sexism, according to the submission.

The NUT warns that sexist language and bullying cannot be ignored in the playground because they are often the foundation for violence against women.

MPs investigating bullying, in the spotlight during the current anti-bullying week, heard from a range of charities representing children and parents that schools needed a clear anti-bullying policy which was properly implemented.

MPs heard from the NUT that racist bullying "remains endemic in all aspects of education", with targets influenced by changes in immigration patterns and global politics, and Muslim pupils and staff suffering "increasing levels of racism and racist bullying".

Caroline Day of Barnardo's told MPs that assumptions that racist bullying involved white against black pupils were outdated, with conflict now taking place between black and ethnic minority children, and migrants from eastern Europe also being targeted.

"It is becoming more about your nationality than your colour or race," she said.

Shobha Das, deputy director of Sari (Support Against Racial Incidents), said one 14-year-old mixed-race pupil faced such severe bullying that he attempted to bleach his skin to whiten it.

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Unfortunately, young female teachers and also pupils suffer from such behaviours more and more each day. The schools' administrations (especially in private schools) do very little about the problem. When a teacher reports harrasment, the student(s) often gets away with a warning given orally or gets a few days' rustication, which is generally seen by these students as a reward, as a few days' holiday. When they return to school, the teacher observes that the student/students suspended continue their abusive behaviour.

I totally agree with the mass media and internet having great negative effects on students' behaviours towards each other and their teachers. This is a big problem and unless severe measures are taken about it, the issue will get worse.

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Unfortunately, young female teachers and also pupils suffer from such behaviours more and more each day. The schools' administrations (especially in private schools) do very little about the problem. When a teacher reports harrasment, the student(s) often gets away with a warning given orally or gets a few days' rustication, which is generally seen by these students as a reward, as a few days' holiday. When they return to school, the teacher observes that the student/students suspended continue their abusive behaviour.

I totally agree with the mass media and internet having great negative effects on students' behaviours towards each other and their teachers. This is a big problem and unless severe measures are taken about it, the issue will get worse.

I first began teaching in 1977. Students have changed a great deal since then. In the vast majority of cases the students gave you immediate respect but this was taken away if you were not up to the job. In the 1980s the situation changed. When you arrived in a new school you had to work much harder to gain respect. For young teachers this is much more difficult to do as they obviously lack confidence. Some unfortunately, do not expect respect and this ensures that it never happens. Young female teachers have particular problems caused by the narrowing of the psychological gap between teacher and student.

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