We will need to take into account that some students in the class may be experiencing (or may have experienced in the past) an abuse of power. This may include abuse by an adult, or harassment or bullying by a peer. Such an experience is diametrically opposed to an experience of empowerment, representing a loss of power and control. It may be very difficult for students who are survivors of any type of abuse to discuss issues related to student empowerment, as it may trigger difficult feelings or memories.
Some students participating in the discussion may be hurting others. Bear in mind that someone who is bullying others in the classroom may be, and probably is, someone who is being bullied or abused in another context.
Throughout the discussion, we can use language that assumes there are survivors among us. We can weave this into the discussion whenever the topic arises.
Those of us who have experienced any kind of bullying or abuse know how hard it can be when someone takes away our power.
We can challenge ideas and opinions that blame those who have experienced bullying or abuse for their victimization.
We all need to remember that no one is ever responsible for being abused or bullied. The person who is abusive or who bullies is 100% responsible no matter what.
It is important as well to observe and make a mental note of anyone who appears uncomfortable or whose behaviour changes during the discussion in order to follow up afterwards.
In addition to these facilitation guidelines there are of course many ways we as teachers can and must be vigilant and responsive to students who are survivors and may need support or, at times, protection. To prepare ourselves to respond effectively in such a situation, we can review protocols established by our school or school board for responding to students who are survivors of sexual (and other forms of) violence or harassment or who are in need of protection. We can also review the information regarding our legal obligation to report students in need of protection.
For information about our legal obligation to report students in need of protection, please visit the section "Reporting child abuse and neglect" at children.gov.on.ca.