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NCTE Guideline

Sexual Harassment in the Student Teaching Environment

Prepared by the Women in Literature and Life Assembly (WILLA) of NCTE, 1998

Student teachers are the most vulnerable members of the student teaching authority chain. Actions that may seem harmless to cooperating teachers and university supervisors may threaten or intimidate a student teacher. As a result, some promising teaching careers are destroyed before they begin. It is important to support and assist our beginning teachers, which will in turn strengthen our profession.

Student teachers have reported that these actions made them feel threatened and/or intimidated:

  • Being touched or patted inappropriately
  • Being asked to meet in a nonschool or nonprofessional environment
  • Being addressed using patronizing language, such as "chick," "hon," or "babe"
  • Being told that their fears or concerns related to gender issues are imagined or trivial
  • Having cooperating teachers/supervisors sit or stand too close
  • Being asked to do personal errands or favors
  • Being expected to meet in an all-male or all-female faculty lounge or locker room
  • Being asked out on a date

Realities

Are you aware . . .

  • That many student teachers fear never getting a teaching job if they speak out against sexual harassment?
  • That student teachers often blame themselves for the inappropriate behaviors of others?
  • That some student teachers are asked to consult with their cooperating teachers/supervisors in all-male or all-female environments?
  • That some student teachers are asked out by students, principals, cooperating teachers, and supervisors?
  • That student teachers often have no strategies and/or power base for dealing with inappropriate language and sexual suggestions?
  • That some student teachers are treated as property by their cooperating teachers/supervisors?
  • That many student teachers and the people who work with them often dismiss these behaviors as insignificant?

Perspectives

Remember that. . .

  • The university or college has the responsibility to play an important role when an incident occurs.
  • Responding to hurtful events with appropriate actions when they occur is more productive than following the urge to gloss over them.
  • Tactfulness is possible even while dealing with inappropriate behavior.
  • Cooperating teachers/supervisors may be as vulnerable as student teachers when an incident occurs.
  • Support or resistance may come from the building administrators, who may be the most powerful agent in dealing with incidents of gender intimidation.

Actions

In your role of cooperating teacher or student teaching supervisor, what might you do?

  • Establish an atmosphere of open communication where issues and problems of gender intimidation are discussed.
  • Role-play incidents and share anecdotes that may happen in the student teaching context.
  • Make explicit the expectation that student teachers and others are to keep anecdotal records of concerns related to gender intimidation.
  • Learn about existing procedures for documenting and reporting incidents-or see that such procedures are developed and set as policy.
  • Provide information about gender intimidation and ways to seek support through professional organizations and peer groups.
  • Contact the institution's Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) officer in the event of an incident

Definition

Sexual harassment is illegal under federal and state laws. According to the EEOC Guidelines, Title Vll of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1972, sexual harassment is:

Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly as a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic success;
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting such individuals; or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or academic environment.

Resources

 Brandenburg, J. H. (1995). Sexual harassment: challenge to schools of education. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Brulle, A. R., & Manturakis, N. Z. (1993-94).

Sexual harassment in teacher preparation clinical experiences. Action in Teacher Education 15(4), 5-13.

Discrimination because of sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended: Adoption of final guidelines. (Federal Register, 10 November 1980, 74676-74677.)

Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America's Schools. Washington, DC: AAUW Educational Foundation, June 1993.

Hughes, J. O. (1986). In case of sexual harassment: A guide for women students. Project on the Status and Education of Women. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges.

Kaufman, S., & Wylie, M. L. (1983). One-session workshop on sexual harassment. Journal of the National Association for Women Deans, Administrators, and Counselors. 46 (Winter), 39-42.

Schmidt, M., & Knowles, J. G. (1994, April). Four women's stories of "failure" as beginning teachers. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. ED 375080.

Strauss, S. (1988). Sexual harassment in the school: Legal implications for principals. NASSP Bulletin 72, 93-97.

Vandell, K., & Dempsey, S. B. (1991). Stalled agenda: Gender equity in the training of educators. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women.

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