Sexually abusive language aimed at UK teachers and pupils

UK Gay News | November 28, 2006

LONDON — Nearly one in five of the UK�s primary teachers and two-thirds of its secondary teachers have been subjected to sexually abusive language by pupils – some of it homophobic – the region�s largest teaching union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), revealed last week.

And nearly 75 percent of secondary teachers and 30 percent of primary teachers have encountered such language being used by pupils against each other.

Slightly more than a fifth of primary teachers and nearly two-thirds of secondary teachers describe the language as sexist bullying, according to a snap shot survey carried out by the NUT and analyzed by Dr. Sean Neill of the School of Education at Warwick University.

One in five teachers had experienced sexually abusive language directed at them during the last term and one in 20 said it happened at least once a week. One in 10 of the 190 teachers responding to the survey said they had experienced sexual harassment from pupils at some stage in their careers.

�The NUT is launching this report during Anti-bullying Week to raise awareness of the need for government to provide advice to schools on recognizing and reducing sexist bullying and language,� Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, said in a media statement.

�The government must encourage schools to develop policies that have teeth which discourage parents and young people from using sexually abusive language.

�Such behavior is completely unacceptable,� he insisted. �But schools cannot close society out at the gates: its influence will inevitably be seen in our schools.�

Sinnott called for the active support of parents.

�It is only with the active support of parents that schools will have any chance of encouraging more respectful and acceptable behavior,� he said. �It is not good enough for parents to assume that teachers can counter what they accept in their homes.�

The report finds that only about half of serious incidents were reported to senior colleagues, often because the teachers concerned made a professional judgment to deal with them immediately and unaided, but largely because institutional support was seen as unsatisfactory.

Levels of dissatisfaction about the response to reported incidents were similar for sexist language and sexual harassment: many respondents felt senior management did not take these issues seriously. Many felt that sexist and homophobic language was institutionally tolerated.

Comments about the weakness of institutional responses to reported events revealed that teachers want anti-bullying policies to refer explicitly to sexism; they want disciplinary processes to be invoked consistently to protect staff; and they want incidents of sexist language and bullying to be recorded in incident books as with racist and homophobic bullying.

Teachers want the sexual and sexist content in verbal abuse to be acknowledged and challenged, but do not feel backed up by senior management teams to do this. They were also concerned that there were insufficient opportunities in the National Curriculum to explore sexism and sexual bullying. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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