Abstract/Details

How middle and high school students perceive the role of school personnel in addressing peer sexual harassment


1999 1999

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Abstract (summary)

Peer sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in our schools. Yet, students rarely turn to school personnel for help. Drawing on data from 335 interviews with middle and high school students from eight schools, this study explored how middle and high school students perceive and interpret the role of school personnel in addressing peer sexual harassment.

This study reveals that students embed the responses of school personnel to peer sexual harassment in a larger school culture influenced by gender norms, assumptions and expectations. The findings contribute to our understanding of the systemic problems inherent in schools involving peer sexual harassment and the adult responses to it. This study places peer sexual harassment on a continuum with other forms of gender based violence and other forms of sex discrimination.

Four themes emerge from this study: (1) peer sexual harassment is a common occurrence in schools and students believe that school officials do little to stop it; (2) students believe that the behaviors of school personnel regarding peer sexual harassment support the continuance of the harassment; (3) systemic barriers exist that interfere with student reporting; (4) students want school personnel stop peer sexual harassment and change the culture that feeds it.

This study identifies nine conclusions: (1) Students believe that school officials are not helpful in stopping peer sexual harassment; (2) Students believe that school personnel avoid naming sexual harassing behavior as such; (3) By “prenaming”, students believe that school personnel contribute to the “normalization” of peer sexual harassment; (4) Students attribute peer sexual harassment, in part, to the gender biased attitudes of school personnel which interfere with their responsibilities to create and maintain safe schools; (5) The most common role for school personnel with respect to peer sexual harassment is one of “Hands-off ” or “Bump and run;” (6) School personnel apply a double standard to student conduct that gives boys the liberty to engage in sexually harassing behaviors and often requires girls to adapt to the boys' behavior; (7) Students want school personnel to stop peer sexual harassment; (8) School personnel responses to peer sexual harassment when they witness it and to the students who report it are deterrents to the systematic reporting of peer sexual harassment; and (9) Students want school officials to educate the whole school community about peer sexual harassment, its impact on them and school consequences for this conduct.

The implications for policy, practice and future research are many. The recommendations of the students are appropriate and make sense. Most importantly, students want adults to pay attention to what is happening to them, to take peer sexual harassment seriously and to accept responsibility for maintaining safe school environments.

Indexing (details)


Subject
School administration;
Criminology
Classification
0514: School administration
0627: Criminology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences, Education, High school, Middle school, Peer sexual harassment, Personnel, Sexual harassment
Title
How middle and high school students perceive the role of school personnel in addressing peer sexual harassment
Author
Hergenrother, Mary Ann
Number of pages
170
Publication year
1999
Degree date
1999
School code
0086
Source
DAI-A 60/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
ISBN
9780599417472, 0599417471
Advisor
Shakeshaft, Charol
University/institution
Hofstra University
University location
United States -- New York
Degree
Ed.D.
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Language
English
Document type
Dissertation/Thesis
Dissertation/thesis number
9940280
ProQuest document ID
304503959
Copyright
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
http://search.proquest.com/docview/304503959
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