Gender Bias and Sexual Harassment in Schools Essay

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Query: How can we overcome sexual harassment in our schools?

Sexual harassment needs to be framed as a community issue and not as isolated incidents. A complex issue, sexual harassment becomes embedded in a culture of violence, one that condones normative gender bias and other forms of power abuses. Resolving the problem of sexual harassment in our schools requires honest self-insight, into the values that guide the organization. On a conscious level, most educators will recognize that sexual harassment does violate core concepts of social justice, yet patterns of violence and conflict are frequently unconscious and irrational. Conflict is subtle and often manifests below “conscious awareness,” (Holton, 1995, p. 79). Thus, formal policies are sometimes ineffective for addressing sexual harassment because they fail to uncover and deal with the underlying issues that are triggering the violent behavior.

To cultivate the values of social justice, educators need to create a culture of peace in their communities, beginning with their organizations (Reardon, 2001). A culture of peace ensures that sexual harassment is non-normative, and is socially sanctioned in ways that promote social justice and emotional intelligence. Sexual harassment can also be understood in part a product of unhealthy male socialization and unrealistic “myths of masculinity,” which may be insufficiently challenged in the educational institution (Reardon, 2001, p. 173). To overcome sexual harassment, it is necessary to have a frank discussion of the root causes of gender bias and male hegemony via constructive dialogues, storytelling, and forward-thinking processes of conflict resolution and organizational change.

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Discussions of male hegemony can and should be introduced into the curricula, to engage students in the process of resolving conflict and promoting a culture of peace.

Diagnosing the problem depends on identifying the triggers of any specific incidents, while also recognizing and tracking broader behavioral patterns. Triggers may be located in the organizational structure and culture itself. The structural relationships within an organization including degrees of authority, participation in decision making, nature of supervision, and sources of power can perpetuate violence—or alternatively, co-create peace (Holton, 1995). Conflict tends to increase with the size of the organization, so it is important for educators and administrators to be warier in larger institutions with more formal relationships, increased role ambiguity, increased specialization, and social fragmentation (Holton, 1995). Triggers could also be related to unconscious approval of stereotyping, or of gender biased activities and discourse in the classroom or….....

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Holton, S. (1995). And now the answers! How to deal with conflict in higher education.

Reardon, B.A. (2001). Education for a culture of peace in a gender perspective.

Winslade, J. & Williams, M. (2012). Peer mediation. In Safe and Peaceful Schools.

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