“It’s Just Inappropriate:” The Normalization of Sexual Harassment in Ontario Schools as told through Teacher’s Stories
Researchers such as Robinson (1992; 2000; 2005; 2012), Shute, Owens, and Slee (2008) as well as Rahimi and Liston (2011) found that sexual harassment is normalized, trivialized, and integrated in school cultures, resulting in a kind violence that is often embedded within girls’ high school experiences. While the Ontario government has responded to all forms of gender-based violence with initiatives such as the “Keeping Our Kids Safe at School” Act (OSSTF/FEESO, 2013), research reveals that teachers are still often reluctant and unprepared to intervene when witnessing sexual harassment, or do not intervene at all (Meyer, 2008b; Rahimi & Liston, 2011). The inability or hesitancy for some teachers to fully address sexual harassment poses a significant question: What are teachers’ experiences witnessing and addressing student-to-student sexual harassment and what support do teachers need to challenge behaviour and attitudes that perpetuate such insidious violence? This presentation will inform audience members of the findings of a qualitative research study (2016) in which teachers from Southern Ontario were interviewed about their experiences witnessing or addressing student-to-student sexual harassment. The presenter will invite questions and discussion from the audience to brainstorm ideas on what teachers can do to recognize and intervene with student-to-student sexual harassment to ensure classrooms and schools are moving towards more equitable spaces for all students.
Lauren Quinn is a supply teacher with the Waterloo Region District School Board. She completed her masters’ thesis at Brock University in Social Justice and Equity Studies in 2016 where she conducted a qualitative study examining teachers’ experiences witnessing and responding to sexual harassment. Quinn also worked as an educator teaching elementary school children about child sexual abuse and has given several presentations to youth and teachers on sexual health and sexual violence. She also co-designed The “Coming Out” Workshop, which offered tools and resources to teachers and teacher candidates to support LGBTIQ students through the process of “coming out.”