A crucial determinant for the creation of an equitable and inclusive school climate is adult response to incidents involving homophobia, racism, sexism and other forms of inequity. The concept of a whole school approach is a keystone for all strategies aimed at changing school culture. Ideally, all members of the school community would play a role to ensure that such incidents are always interrupted, whether they occur between students, between adults and students, or between adults (including teachers, support staff and administrators).
As teachers, we are encouraged to familiarize ourselves with all relevant school and school board policy and how to put it into action. When responding to sexist, racist and homophobic incidents, teachers need full infrastructural support.
To ensure consistent adult supervision throughout the school, teachers know we can take responsibility for responding to the behaviour of all students, even if we don’t know them. The notion prevalent in many African countries that, “it takes a village to raise a child” also applies to school settings in Canada. When interrupting sexism, homophobia and racism, the goal is to model, and enable students (and adults) to develop, the various tools (skill sets, attitudes, approaches) necessary to become an ally for marginalized groups in our society (see Fostering Equity).
Racist, Sexist and Homophobic Bullying and Harassment
Teachers can observe the power dynamics at play during student interactions. If they correspond to the definition of bullying, (see Bullying Prevention/Understanding Bullying/What is Bullying?), then strategies for responding to a bullying situation are necessary and appropriate (see Bullying Prevention/Healthy Communication/Problem-Solving and Bullying Prevention/Interrupting Bullying). Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of teacher follow-up in bullying situations. In this way, the safety of the targeted student remains the priority as the situation is resolved.
Racial, sexual and homophobic harassment that target another student adds an additional dimension to a bullying situation. The Toronto District School Board has developed a useful four-step tool for intervening in situations involving these types of harassment. “How to Handle Harassment in the Hallways in Three Minutes” can be found on page 49 of the Safe Schools Action Team Report Shaping a Culture of Respect in Our Schools: Promoting Safe and Healthy Relationships. Click here: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teachers/RespectCulture.pdf.
To ensure the safety of students who are targeted by bullying involving racism, sexism and homophobia, teachers may need to adopt additional strategies. We can:
The following strategies for interrupting homophobia, sexism and racism and educating students about equity issues are useful when no individual student is being directly targeted.
In order to become allies in the struggle against homophobia, racism and sexism, teachers can: