School of Education: Legal Seminar Videos

Sexual Harrassment: Scenario 1 Discussion


Scenario #1 Discussion

Dr. Erma Jean Sims,
Sonoma State University

Now you'll notice in this scenario that is was male-to-female. The sexual harassment between two students could very easily have been male-to-male or female student to female student and still constitute sexual harassment and in this instance Bobby is a male and Sarah is a female. Does Bobby's actions constitute sexual harassment? Yes, we've got a lot of incidents and occurrences on the behalf of Bobby. We know that Sarah does not want these advances we've got a couple clues about that. She's already talked to the teacher, she's informed her mother, and she's talked to the principal. Usually a student will not go to this length unless they are feeling really harassed. Frequently students don't want to get their fellow classmates in trouble. Many times students are not sure if they've been really violated or not. But Sarah has taken a lot of actions to alert the people in positions of authority in her school that she does not want Bobby's advances. So we do have sexual harassment. The question is when there's several things that Bobby's done; he's made references to her breasts, he's asked or made it clear that he'd like to sleep with her; both those actions are sexual harassment. And now Bobby's placed a rubber doorstop in his slacks and has rubbed his body against her body; so we've got physical contact now of a sexual nature. So we clearly have sexual harassment. For us the question once we've identified that we have sexual harassment is that it's important for us now to think about what we can do as teachers to stop that kind of behavior in the classroom. Something is going on with Bobby and as a classroom teacher you would want to have a conversation with him. He may be acting out things that he's seen in his home environment. He may be acting in this way because of the influence of the media and the television where most of the programming has some sexual innuendos or some sexual content. Bobby may be in need of some counseling and we want to take all of these things into consideration and put Bobby in touch with, if we find that is the case, with the school psychologist. We can make referrals as teachers to appropriate district personnel in order to get our students help. It's clear as you pointed out that Bobby is not certain about how to make his affections and intentions known in a way that does not sexually harass Sarah. The other thing that we know from previous slides in this presentation is that we have got to make a record of this. We need to record the details of what Sarah has said to you because you certainly want to have a conversation with her around this. These are things that Sarah has told you; there may be things that you have observed yourself. You'll want to make a record of her allegations, but you also want to make a record of your own observations around this incident or this kind of behavior. We'll make a detailed accurate record. It's important to go to your principal or vice principal immediately shortly after receiving this information or as soon as possible. Go in on your recess, your lunch, or right after school if you don't have coverage for your classroom and share with him that Bobby is sexually harassing Sarah. One of the things that this does is its means now that the site supervisor has been informed, and as you know in the schools, the principals and vice principals get paid on the average of sixty to ninety thousand dollars a year. So if anyone is going to have the liability to fall on their shoulders we certainly want to share it with them. It is your responsibility to report the incident, as you know. The other thing is we have a responsibility to intervene. We now know that Bobby has the propensity to sexually harass Sarah and other students in the room. So as soon as you see any kind of behavior that would alert you that something's about to happen, you have the opportunity to intervene. We certainly have to interrupt this kind of behavior.

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