Re: Teacher Sexual Harassment

Tue, 21 Jan 1997 13:31:37 -0700 (MST)

Candace wrote about her daughter's (and community's) experiences
with a specific teacher:

> He said something to the effect of a pretty girl with a brain
> said in a tone that made her believe that he believed that pretty girls
> don't have brains. Needless to say, she did not raise her hand after
> that. My question is, do statements such as these constitute sexual
> harrassment? I know school involves compulsory attendance and I know
> that sexual harrassment involves a person in position over another.

This is borderline sexual harassment--something that should be mentioned
to the teacher so that he can have a chance to correct his behavior.
If it is part of a consistent pattern of similar comments, as it seems
to be in this case, then it is a sign of underlying sexist attitudes
which are not appropriate for a teacher, and he should be "encouraged
to resign" and efforts made to avoid his finding other teaching jobs.
As an administrator-to-be, you will find out that any such action
will require extensive documentation (not an easy task).

> This teacher is now up on charges of sexual harrassment for "alleged"
> comments to other girls. The school district is asking other girls to
> come forward, which some of them have. My daughter comes home every day
> with a new story on the case. This has affected our community in an
> statements that the original two girls have personal and family
> problems themselves. It sounds like they are going to drag these girls
> through the wringer. If anyone has any comments or advice on this...

It is possible that the defenders of this teacher could have
exaggerated the personal and family problems of these girls
in order to strengthen the defense. Assuming, however, that
this is not the case:

It does not surprise me that the original accusers have more
personal and family problems than most. There are at least two
possible reasons for this.

a) The girls were both more sensitive to sexist remarks and
had fewer defensive resources precisely because of their home
and personal histories. Insecure and "troubled" students are
often a good source of information for teachers who want to
fine-tune their teaching methods. Such students will often
complain about annoyances which other students would ignore.

b) The teacher may have (consciously or not) recognized that
these two girls were relatively more defenseless and insecure
than others, and may have said things to them that he would
not have said to most students. Attacking the weakest person
is a common tactic in middle school kids, and unfortunately,
some adults never grow out of it (particularly those adults
who engage in sexist or racist behavior).

In any case, the teacher's defenders cannot be allowed to use
the girls' weaknesses to excuse his behavior. If I were you,
I would encourage my daughter to testify against the teacher
and to encourage other affected students to do the same.
People need to know that this teacher's behavior is not an
isolated incident, not made up by spiteful or unbalanced children,
and not acceptable.

Of course, this is easy for me to say, and I know that there
will be problems for you and your daughter resulting from such
an active role in these events, but I strongly believe that
such a "teacher" should find other work away from any influence
on young people.

-- Bob

Robert Tighe Resource Teacher
Instructional Technology
Albuquerque Public Schools ..if you can't explain it to fourth graders,
220 Monroe SW you probably don't know what you're
Albuquerque, NM 87108-2811 talking about. - Kurt Vonnegut

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