School of Education: Legal Seminar Videos

Sexual Harrassment: Student Question


Student Question

Dr. Erma Jean Sims,
Sonoma State University

I want to look now at scenario # 2 sexual harassment. (Inaudible student speaking). Yes, please.

Student: Okay, a lot of these things have been focused on unwanted advances, but there have been instances where young girls inappropriately perceive advances as positive. What would you suggest in situations like that? Because I feel as a teacher my professional duty to not promote these interactions between my young students. I mean that is way too sophisticated for young children you know and what if Sarah said, oh well ok Bobby. What then?

It's a good point that you're making and the question is what if Sarah wants or appreciates this behavior by Bobby? She's flattered by it, she's excited that somebody cares about her, wants to spend time with her, and we know that it's inappropriate. I think that it would certainly behoove us teachers to discuss sexual harassment in the classroom. You'll want to pull these girls aside and share with them these actions do constitute sexual advancements. The fact that they want them in terms of the law is somewhat irrelevant in this instance even though they want this kind of attention; a fifth grader does not have significant knowledge of the law to give an informed consent around this behavior. So they may find it flattering and not really realize that it's illegal. That's where we step in as teachers and share with the student that this is inappropriate behavior, it is illegal and that the school and student should be on guard that it's inappropriate and that you will be interrupting that kind of behavior. It's more likely in the case of adults where the person wants the attention. It is a welcome sexual advance. The adult is seen certainly and anybody over the age of eighteen as having the knowledge of the law and their rights to protect themselves; so if they want those advances then we don't have sexual harassment. In the case of children even though the child does not know that they are being harassed, if the parent feels the child is being harassed, if you as a teacher feel the child is being harassed or in consulting with your principal or vice principal they inform you that that is harassment. You have a responsibility to interrupt that kind of behavior, inform the children about their rights, and then take appropriate action on your behalf and the site supervisor.

CREDITS: Instruction and Content by Dr. Erma Jean Sims, Sonoma State University. Videography and Technical support by Mark Niemann, Sonoma State University