Bullying of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered students in schools is a major issue today. Organizations such as Stop Hate, GLADD, Human Rights Campaign, and American Civil Liberties Union are fighting to obtain equal rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered individuals and to stop bullying of GLBT students in schools. Meyer discusses this issue of gendered harassment in schools. Her in-depth study analyzes teachers’ perceptions and responses to incidences of gendered harassment in secondary schools. In her study, Meyer examines why teachers fail to respond effectively, or at all, to gendered harassment. Meyer looks at the interaction of external and internal factors, and how they relate to teachers’ responses or lack of responses to gendered harassment. External factors include institutional influences such as administration, curriculum demands and work load, teacher education, and written policies, as well as social influences such as perceptions of administration, interpersonal relationships, and community values. Internal influences include personal identities and teachers’ own experiences in school. While Meyer states that these factors can motivate teachers’ to fight against gendered harassment, the study found that the barriers significantly outweigh the motivators. Meyer feels that by gaining a better understanding of the problem we can work towards effective solutions to reduce gendered harassment in schools. I find it crazy that this type of bullying is accepted in schools. Just because students do not fit into the SCWAAMP gender norms, does not mean they don’t deserve to be treated equally. Bullying of any type should not be tolerated, and as teachers we have to fight for the rights of all of our students! This study raised many questions to me as I was reading it.
1. Why are sexual and homophobic harassment an accepted part of school culture, and why do staff rarely intervene to stop it? The study showed that teachers are less likely to intervene in cases of gendered harassment than any other form of bullying. Meyers feels it is linked strongly to societal norms and gender roles. Straightness is valued in our SCWAAP culture, it is the dominant ideology.
2. How does the interaction of external and internal influences shape how a teacher perceives and responds to gendered harassment? Meyers explains that the interactions of the external and internal influences can explain the wide variety of perceptions and responses to gendered harassment. There is a lack of consistency among educators in how to deal with this issue. Teachers are responding to gendered harassment based on their personal experiences, their administrations, the community they live in, their work load, and many other factors that differ from teacher to teacher and school to school.
3. How much does the administration and the teachers’ perception of the administration effect how the teachers respond to gendered harassment? Many teachers in this study felt as though they did not receive support from administration when dealing with issues of gender harassment. The teachers in the study felt their administration could not be bothered with these issues. I found this discouraging. My mother is a principal and I know that she takes issues of bullying of any kind seriously. She has school wide anti-bullying programs and tries not to respond to certain types of bullying and not others. I hoped that was the norm, but I can see from this study it is not.
4. Why is there such a difference between how administrators deal with racial harassment as opposed to gendered harassment? The teachers in the study display frustration that other types of bullying are dealt with immediately and firmly, but gendered harassment cannot be bother with.
5. How do other intuitional factors such as curriculum demands and workload, education and training, and school and school board policies effect how teacher respond to incidents of gendered harassment? Meyers found that many teachers felt their work load and curriculum demands made it difficult for them to take the time to deal with gender harassment. Many teachers in the study also felt like they did not have the training or education to deal with it properly. Teachers in the study also felt as though they did not have a clear understanding of the school’s policies.
6. How do social influences (perceptions of administration, interpersonal relationships and community values) effect how teacher respond to incidents of gendered harassment? While administration directly plays a big factor in how teachers deal with gendered harassment, the perception of the administrators does as well. The perception of the administration shapes the schools’ overall culture and effects how teachers deal with this issue. Relationships with administrators, colleagues and parents all played a part in how teachers responded to gendered harassment in this study. The values of the community played a large role ion created the school climate and culture. However, even though the schools in the study came from varying communities they reported the same obstacles when dealing with gender harassment issues.
7. How does individual personal identity and own experience in school effect how teacher respond to incidents of gendered harassment? The study found that the main motivating factor for teachers that did respond to gendered harassment was personal identify and experience. Teachers who were GLBT or who had experienced bullying in school were motivated to take action against gendered harassment. This leads in the next question.
8. How can we raise awareness of educators who have not felt discrimination or exclusion from dominant culture? Since personal experience and identity are the biggest motivators in taking action against gendered harassment, the big question is how can these educators get others who have not experienced gendered harassment to be aware of it and respond to it? Meyer does not provide us with a clear answer to this question, but does stress that like all of the other social issues we have discussed, awareness of the problem is the first step in creating a solution.