Secret Teacher: we’re no strangers to sexual harassment in the workplace

Nov 25, 2017 by

Teachers play an important role in educating children about consent but are often left feeling unsupported when reporting inappropriate behaviour

I believe that teachers play a role in educating future generations about how to respect one another. I’ve taught pupils as young as five about consent. I’ve used the NSPCC’s pants-wearing dinosaur, Pantosaurus, to teach children that their body belongs to them. We have practised saying “no” and asking for help when someone makes us feel uncomfortable. This is important now more than ever, with the reporting of sexual crimes within educational settings rising by 255% over the past four years.

Like many women, I wasn’t surprised by the recent reports of sexual harassment in the workplace. In some ways, I’ve always felt more protected in teaching – my colleagues have always been predominantly female, as have the management teams. But then I remembered the friend who left her school because she was being harassed by a male colleague; the creepy dad who suddenly appears in a colleague’s classroom at home time and refuses to leave; and the frequent (and often awkward) comments I’ve experienced from parents.

As teachers, part of our job is to meet with the parents of children in our class, often in the evening and sometimes when no one else is present. There have been plenty of times when I’ve felt uncomfortable. I spent one awkward parents’ meeting discussing a pupil while her dad stared unwaveringly down my top. Another put his arm around me, pinning me to his side so I couldn’t move away while he spoke to me. Then there was the dad who talked to me about “getting laid”.

These were the same parents who told me how happy they were about a project I was leading about combatting gender stereotyping; the same parents who had praised my lessons on consent. Friends tell similar stories: one reports that the father of one of her pupils repeatedly attempts to stroke her arms when talking to her.

Source: Secret Teacher: we’re no strangers to sexual harassment in the workplace

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