Set Clear Limits

Clearly communicate that sexist, racist and homophobic behaviour and language are unacceptable

After engaging students in a conversation and providing information about the meaning and impact of what they have said or done, it is important to communicate that the words or behaviour are unacceptable. Naming the behaviour or words for what they are can be effective in getting across the seriousness of the situation. Words such as homophobia, racism, sexism, hatred, cruelty, violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, all have powerful connotations. It can also be useful to use the language and concepts of human rights to discuss the issue with students.

Students may respond with comments like, “It’s a free country. I can say what I like.” Responding to such statements can be challenging and frustrating. Our goal is to provide students with information and clearly state the code of conduct and collective agreements that are part of school life.

Ultimately, however, we cannot force students to change their opinion or agree with us. If students are not open to the information we are providing, at the very least they need to understand that certain things are not tolerated. While it is true that they are free to think what they like, there are certain limitations to what they may express publicly.