When kids at school breach their ethical and moral code of conduct, who’s in charge of correcting them and guiding them?
Creating a great classroom means asking the tough questions. Are you doing enough to fight sexual harassment? Are you making enough efforts to battle with a society that’s driven by sexist comments? Are you teaching your kids not to make gender-based assumptions?
The onus of such upliftments in the society not only lies on teachers but on parents too. It’s a collective responsibility to teach kids the difference between what is right and what’s not.
Recently, a young girl at school became the victim of sexual harassment and bullying by one of her batchmates. The guy kept on snapping her bra-strap despite being asked not to. In her defence, the girl punched him twice in the face.
When the school authorities summoned the girl’s mom, it was surprisingly not because the girl acted against the harassment, but because of the physical assault on her classmate.
However, her mom’s savage reply put everyone back in their right places. Here’s what happened.
“I’m an Emergency Room nurse and we’re not allowed to have our phones on us; they’re to be kept in our lockers. A call comes into hospital reception on a private line for me.
Phone: “This is [Teacher] from [School]. There’s been an incident involving [Daughter]. We need you to come in.”
Me: “Is she ill or injured? Can it wait until my shift is over in two hours?”
Phone: “[Daughter] has struck another student. We’ve been trying to call you for 45 minutes. It really is very serious.”
I go to the school and am ushered into the Principal’s office. I see my daughter, her advisor, a male teacher, the principal, a boy with blood around his nose and a red face, and his parents.
Principal: “Mrs. [My Name], how kind of you to FINALLY join us!”
Me: “Yeah, things get busy in the ER. I’ve spent the last hour administering over 40 stitches to a seven-year-old who was beaten by his mother with a metal ladle and then I had to deal with the police regarding the matter. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
(After watching him try to not act embarrassed, he tells me what has happened. The boy had snapped my daughter’s bra and she had punched him in the face… twice. I got the impression they were more angry with my daughter than the boy.)
Me: “Oh. And you want to know if I’m going to press charges against him for sexually assaulting my daughter and against the school for allowing him to do it?”
(They all get jittery when I mention sexual assault and start speaking at once.)
Teacher: “I don’t think it was that serious.”
Advisor: “Let’s not over-react.”
Principal: “I think you’re missing the point.”
(The boy’s mother then starts crying. I turn to my daughter to find out what happened.)
Daughter: “He kept snapping my bra. I asked him to stop but he didn’t, so I told Mr. [Teacher]. He told me to ‘ignore it.’ [Boy] did it again and undid my bra so I hit him. Then he stopped.”
(I turn to the teacher.)
Me: “You let him do this? Why didn’t you stop him? Come over here and let me touch the front of your trousers.”
Teacher: “What?! No!”
Me: “Does that seem inappropriate to you? Why don’t you go and pull on Mrs. [Advisor]’s bra right now. See how fun it is for her. Or on that boy’s mother’s bra. Or mine. You think just because they’re kids it’s fun?”
Principal: “Mrs. [My Name]. With all due respect, [Daughter] still beat another child.”
Me: “No. She defended herself against a sexual attack from another pupil. Look at them; he’s nearly 6 feet and 160 pounds. She’s 5 feet and 84 pounds. He’s a foot taller than her and twice as heavy. How many times should she have let him touch her? If the person who was supposed to help and protect her in a classroom couldn’t be bothered, what should she have done? He pulled her bra so hard it came undone.”
(The boy’s mom is still crying and his dad looks both angry and embarrassed. The teacher won’t make eye contact with me. I look at the principal.)
Me: “I’m taking her home. I think the boy has learned his lesson. And I hope nothing like this ever happens again, not only to [Daughter] but to any other girl at this school. You wouldn’t let him do it to a member of staff so what makes you think he can do it to a girl of 15 is beyond me. I will be reporting this to the school administrators. And if you—” *turning to the boy* “—EVER touch my daughter again I WILL have you arrested for sexual assault. Do you understand me?”
I was so angry, I gathered my daughter’s things and left. I reported it to the School Board, several of whom I know, and was assured it would be strongly dealt with.
My daughter was put into a different class for that subject, away from the teacher and the boy.”
To roll back the advance of harassment at school, a collective effort from teachers and parents is needed. The outcomes of fitting guidance at school will nurture a better tomorrow.