Teachers are responsible for teaching children how to read, write and be good people. But what happens when teachers are the victims of the behavior they are trying to discourage?
There is a daily struggle against the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality in the classroom. Sexual harassment and bullying has become the norm in the school playground, but what should teachers do when they are the victims of sexual harassment?
Recently, women have been speaking out on social media against sexual harassment with the #MeToo campaign. This is promoting solidarity between women who have fallen victim to inappropriate behavior and remarks, and removing the stigma and self-blame that is often created around sexual harassment.
Usually sexual harassment in the classroom makes the headlines because a male teacher has attacked a student, but what happens when the situation is reversed?
One female teacher back in the day actually reported us for sexual harrasment..mad..all bkuz we kept repeatinv "WE NEED KFC BREAST…WING"
— LITTLE BLACK BOOK ISNT FOR SALE (@LBB91_) March 8, 2014
One teacher, Shawnta Barnes, explained how a boy who was a known troublemaker used to make suggestive comments about her, saying how ‘fine’ she looked, and would lick his lips and wink at her.
After numerous conversations with him about his behavior, she decided to call his home to put an end to his behavior.
The inappropriate actions seemed to stop after this, until one day “he decided to put his hand inside of his pants and began stroking his penis and making inappropriate comments. ‘Mrs Barnes forget Mr Barnes. You know you want this’”.
On other occasions, male students would ask explicit questions about her nipples, which inspired nothing but giggles from other classmates.
drew a picture of my teacher and gave her huge boobs i got suspended because it was considered "sexual harrasment" https://t.co/jgHp9xPq7J
— g0dly (@GODLYTHERULER) June 22, 2016
We are raised in a society where women are sexually objectified and some schoolboys believe they have more power than their qualified female teacher. The only way to challenge this power imbalance is through education.
By the time boys have started assaulting and harassing women, it is already too late. The culture of equality and respect needs to be instilled from the very beginning of a child’s life, before their cultural values are cemented.
While consent workshops and sexual harassment assemblies in high school and universities are needed, the real impact needs to be made at a younger age when children are forming their opinions of the world.
“No educator should have to put up with sexual harassment from anyone, especially a student. We have to have open dialogues with our youth to stop this behavior while they are young,” Barnes said.
“I believe the adults who are involved in sexual misconduct now probably began back in childhood, possibly in some teacher’s classroom.”