Citation
Beyond kiss and tell

Material Information

Title:
Beyond kiss and tell elementary principals' responses to peer (student-on-student) sexual harassment in schools
Creator:
Potts, Tonda
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
196 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Doctorate ( Doctor of Philosophy)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
School of Education and Human Development, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Educational leadership and innovation

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Sexual harassment in education ( lcsh )
Elementary school principals -- Attitudes ( lcsh )
Students -- School behavior -- United States ( lcsh )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 186-196).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Tonda Potts.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
49641987 ( OCLC )
ocm49641987
Classification:
LD1190.E3 2001d .P67 ( lcc )

Full Text
BEYOND KISS AND TELL:
ELEMENTARY PRINCIPALS RESPONSES
TO PEER (STUDENT-ON-STUDENT) SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN SCHOOLS
by
Tonda Potts
B.S., Kent State University, 1970
M.A., Case Western Reserve University, 1971
A dissertation proposal submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
2001


2001 byTonda Potts
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Tonda Potts
has been approved
by
Rodney Muth
Margaret Eisenhart
/
X


Potts, Tonda (Ph. D.r School of Education-Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Beyond Kiss and Tell: Elementary Principals Responses to Peer (Student-on-Student)
Sexual Harassment in Schools
Thesis directed by co-chairs Professor Rodney Muth and Professor Margaret Eisenhart
ABSTRACT
Public school students continue to report experiencing various forms of sexual
harassment at school and claim that administrators often ignore complaints and fail to
intervene when they witness harassment first-hand. This study examined elementary
administrators views and responses to peer sexual harassment. Twenty-four
administrators evenly divided between two suburban school districts and by gender were
interviewed to determine how they defined sexual harassment, how they perceived their
role, and how they viewed it in the contexts of power and gender issues. A moral-legal-
political framework based on a feminist perspective was used to review the literature,
design the interview questions, and analyze the data.
Administrators most often identified the discomfort of the victim as a key component of
their definitions. Principals agreed that they must stop harassment, educate students,
and join with parents to do so. The majority felt it was important to label sexual
harassment so as to differentiate it from other forms of inappropriate behavior. When
asked to describe a dilemma that had troubled them, they expressed frustration with the
schools responsibility to teach children a moral code that often conflicts with family and
iv


the larger societys influence, the need for the time and talent to conduct a fair
investigation, and a worry that the perpetrator of the harassment may also be a victim of
abuse by an older student or trusted adult.
Their views did not differ by years of experience but did differ by gender, by district, and
by type of training. Women emphasized taking the victims perspective into account more
often than men. They also reported engaging in more informal strategies to prevent and
stop harassment. Women were more often able to make a connection between gender
equity and peer sexual harassment. Only four of twenty-four reported promoting gender
equity at their schools (three of the four were women). Most principals attended required
school district legal inservices that were often prompted by local legal cases. Both men
and women identified a lack of training in this topic in their preparation program.
Implications for training and professional development are discussed with
recommendations for school districts and universities that prepare administrators.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed:
Rodney Muth
v


DEDICATION
In loving memory of my mother, Jean Potts, who demonstrated that one person can, with
a determined vision for the future, a strong sense of social justice, and a contagious
positive energy, have a profound impact on her family, her school, and her community.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
1 am grateful for my friends and colleagues in the school districts and at Cl) Boulder and
Denver where I have been challenged to grow and learn as a teacher, administrator, and
academic. The school districts that contributed to my learning are St. Vrain Valley,
Adams 50, Adams Twelve Five Star, and Brighton School District 27J. This work is
completed with the assistance and support of my professors, family, friends, supervisors,
and staff. I want to acknowledge them for their intellectual and emotional contributions:
Rod Muth was always available to meet with me about my writing efforts and
constantly encouraged me to learn to be a better writer and to complete this
work.
Margaret Eisenhart was willing to co-direct a dissertation at another institution
because of her keen interest in my work and me. Her impressive body of work on
gender including her books, Educated in Romance: Women. Achievement, and
College Culture and Womens Science: Learning and Succeeding from the
Margins, inspired and challenged me to contribute to the field of gender issues in
education.
Ken Howes summary of gender issues in his book, Understanding Equal
Educational Opportunity: Social Justice. Democracy, and Schooling, provided a


strong background for my work. His support as a loving husband, independent
writer, critical editor, and gentle junk yard dog were invaluable.
My family was flexible when I was unavailable and patient with my neurotic
dissertation procrastination techniques (shopping for anything, sock sorting, and
garage cleaning frenzies to name a few). Thanks to Kristi, Matt, Gabe, and Jean
Cutter for assisting with household chores and trying to be quiet while Grandma
was writing. Kristis work as a literacy teacher and commitment to her own
professional growth make me proud. Im also grateful to my son, Jesse Koss,
who provided much needed massages and long distance encouragement.
Finally, to my original family-Jean Potts, Bob Potts, and Greg Potts-who loved me
unconditionally and believed that I could make a positive difference in the world
of education. I miss them.
Friends and supervisors provided encouragement and gentle nudging at times.
Mary Leiker, Jack Hay, Sandy Husk, Linda Molner, Dana Jeffrey, Judy Margrath-
Huge, and John Hefty all provided models and/or motivation for completing a
dissertation and working as an educational leader simultaneously. Sandy and
Dana provided loving friendship and partners for dance/yoga/martial arts breaks.
Janet Iona and Diane Hageman along with the wonderful teaching staff, classified
staff, and students at Centennial Elementary cheered me on. Ill always
remember with fondness smiles from Michael Otto.


My team at Brighton 27J (Kelly, Sheryll, Peggy, Margaret, Debbie, Arietta, and
Lyn) believed that I would do it.
St. Vrain friends and colleagues inspired my interest in this topic. Thank you,
Nancy Herbert, for your courage and sense of justice. Sandy Husks extraordinary
leadership abilities gave me heart and humor.
The work of Margaret Eisenhart, Kenneth Howe, Robert Connell, Charol
Shakeshaft, Nell Noddings, Jane Roland Martin, and Cryss Brunner encouraged
me to take a feminist perspective on this topic.
I appreciate the time of the administrators from the two districts and the candor
they displayed during my interviews with them. They make a positive difference
for students each day in their schools. I admire them.


i
CONTENTS
Tables...............................................................xiv
CHAPTER
1. THE PROBLEM OF PEER SEXUAL HARASSMENT.......................... 1
Sexual Harassment Goes to School.........................1
Administrators Grapple with Sexual Harassment............5
A Gendered Perspective...................................7
Cautions and Concerns....................................8
Research Questions.......................................8
2. SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN SCHOOLS: THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG...........10
Three Feminist Frameworks...............................13
Humanistic Feminism..............................13
Gynocentric Feminism.............................14
Transformational Feminism........................16
Power in Organizations and the Gender Regime............18
Power Relations..................................23
Division of Labor................................25
Patterns of Emotion..............................27
Symbolization....................................28
Peer Culture.....................................29
Sexual Harassment as Part of the Gender Regime..........31
The Legal Framework for Peer Sexual Harassment..........32
Definitions of Sexual Harassment.................33
Roots of Legal Remedies..........................33
Office of Civil Rights Guidance and Key Cases....37
x


Administrators' Understanding and Responses
to Peer Sexual Harassment...............................42
3. LEARNING ABOUT ADMINISTRATORS' VIEWS ON PEER SEXUAL
HARASSMENT......................................................49
The Interview Design and Analysis........................50
Sample...................................................53
Recruitment of Districts.........................53
Limitations of This Study........................54
Recruitment of Administrators....................54
Researchers Relationship with Interviewees......56
Description of the Districts.....................56
Description of the Administrators................58
Conclusion...............................................61
4. ADMINISTRATORS DONT SWEEP IT UNDER THE RUG....................62
Results Summarized by Interview Questions................62
Summary of Question 1: Administrators Definitions ....62
Summary of Question 2: Causes....................67
Summary of Question 3: Case Descriptions.........75
Summary of Question 4: Handling of Cases.........83
Summary of Question 5: Issues and Implications..94
Summary of Question 6: Conceptions of Gender
Equity...........................................99
Summary of Question 7: Type of Training.........106
Summary of Question 8: Factors Prompting Training 113
Summary of Question 9: Case Reactions...........116
Summary of Question 10: Dilemmas................122
Summary of Question 11: Decision to Label.......129
Summary of Question 12: What Else?..............133
Conclusion..............................................134
XI


5.
ADMINISTRATORS ARE PART OF THE SOLUTION
136
Summary of Conclusions in Response to
Research Questions.......................................136
1. How do elementary administrators identify and
describe instances of peer sexual harassment?.....136
2. What do elementary administrators think they should
do about instances of peer sexual harassment?.....137
3. Do their views differ by gender, years of experience,
district, or type of training?....................142
4. How are ideas about gender equity or equal
educational opportunity represented in their views (if at
all)?.............................................147
5. Where do elementary principals obtain their
information about peer sexual harassment?.........150
6. What are the implications of administrators views and
experiences with peer sexual harassment for informing
future training and professional development?...150
Study Conclusions........................................151
Administrators Take Sexual Harassment Seriously..........151
Women Were More Aware of Sexual Harassment and Gender
Equity...................................................152
Gender Equity Issues Are Absent From Training............153
Women Use More Unique and Informal Solutions.............153
Policy Influences Awareness............................154
Mistakes Motivate Training...............................155
Training in Causes Promotes Deeper Understandings........155
Recommendations for School Districts.....................156
Recommendations for Administrator Preparation Programs.. 158
Suggestions for Future Research..........................160
xii


APPENDIX
A. HUMAN RESEARCH APPROVAL AND INFORMED CONSENT..........162
B. RIVERTON DISTRICT POLICIES.......................... 168
C. VALLEY VIEW DISTRICT POLICIES.........................173
D. INTERVIEW PROTOCOL....................................182
REFERENCES........................................................186
xiii


TABLES
Table
3.1 Relationships Among District, Gender, and Experience.........................59
4.1 Definitions of Sexual Harassment by Gender and District......................65
4.2 Causes of Problem by Gender and District.....................................69
4.3 Cases by Gender, District, and Gender of Students............................77
4.4 Issues for Administrators by Gender and District.............................95
4.5 Conceptions of Gender Equity by Gender and District.........................100
4.6 Type of Training by Gender, and District....................................107
4.7 Factors Prompting Training by Gender and District...........................113
4.8 Issues Raised by Davis Case by Gender and District..........................117
4.9 Dilemma Types by Gender and District........................................122
4.10 Decision to Label Sexual Harassment by Gender and District..................130
5.1 Relationship Between Amount of Training, Gender, and District...............147
xiv


CHAPTER 1
THE PROBLEM OF PEER SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Guys grab themselves and say, Yo, baby, you know you want this.
Society treats women as second classthats why this happens. Its a
symptom of a bigger problem.
Although there are many young men who can see women as equals, there are
those who regard females as hallway entertainment.
I couldn't handle it anymore. I came home and said, Mom, I'm sick of this.
Im sick of getting no support from the school system. Im going to do
something about this because its bothering me.'
-Female students
I think there are some people taking this issue real sensitive ...Theyre
making it out to be bigger than it really is.
Its a man thing. When a girl has on something revealing, you have to say
something about it ...If the girl doesnt tell us were sexually harassing her,
were going to continue to do it.
-Male students
(Strauss, 1992, p. 17)
Sexual Harassment Goes to School
Public school students report experiencing various forms of peer sexual
harassment at school. Daily harassment leads to a school climate that students describe
as rejecting, frightful, harmful, and isolating. This hostile climate over time can contribute
to poor academic performance, poor student self-confidence, school failure, and
1


sometimes violence (American Association of University Women, 1993; Hyle, Bull, Salyer,
& Montgomery, 1992; Shakeshaft et al., 1995). Strauss (1992) observes that, Most
sexual harassment of teenagers at school occurs among peers, student to student, in the
classroom during class time, and in the hallways between classes (p. 7). She further
charges that
Many students say that sexual harassment is the norm in their
schools.Jn an environment that condones sexual harassment, everyone
is a victim, not just those who are the direct targets of harassment. All
students come to see the school as an unsafe place; hostile and
intimidating...Often administrators fail to take effective action, even when
informed of specific occurrences of sexual harassment in their
schools...This attitude only perpetuates the cycle of sexual harassment.
(P- 7)
Girls are most often the victims of verbal and physical harassment by their
peersboth boys and girls are the perpetrators; however, the most frequent type of
harassment is boys harassing girls (Stein, 1991). As early as 1992, one national survey
collected data from 2,000 girls between the ages of 9 and 19 and concluded that sexual
harassment is a major problem for girls in elementary and secondary schools (Stein,
Marshall, &Tropp, 1992).
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sex-related conduct that interferes
with a students education by creating an intimidating or hostile environment. Behaviors
that fit this definition range from insulting remarks, leering, gesturing, and unwanted
touching to sexual assault (Leeser & ODonohue, 1997). Students report the following
specific types of harassment: sexual comments, jokes, gestures or looks; touching,
grabbing, and or intentionally brushing against in a sexual way; mooning or flashing;
targeting with sexual rumors; pulling at clothes in a sexual way; showing, giving, or
leaving unwanted sexual pictures or notes; blocking or cornering in a sexual way;
2


targeting with written sexual messages/graffiti on bathroom walls, lockers, and so forth;
forced kissing; calling another gay or lesbian; and forcing another to do something sexual
at school other than kissing (American Association of University Women, 1993).
School administrators are responsible for developing and implementing sexual
harassment policies and resolving complaints using grievance procedures. Yet, many
student surveys indicate that students perceive that administrators often ignore peer
sexual harassment complaints or fail to intervene when they witness it (Shakeshaft,
1997). On the other hand, the ways in which teachers, administrators, and staff perceive
their roles in dealing with peer sexual harassment in schools has rarely been
investigated. Research is needed from the perspective of the administrator to
understand better why this problem seems to have been ignored or poorly dealt with by
them in so many cases (Brandenberg, 1987; Lerner, 1999; Otuwa, 1997; Shakeshaft,
1995).
When administrators and teachers ignore sexual harassment, it sends a powerful
message to students via the "hidden curriculum that no one cares. According to
Orenstein (1994), "The hidden curriculum is all the things teachers dont say, but that
[students] learn in class anyway. Sometimes the hidden curriculum is what [students]
learn the most" (p. 270). Bricker (1989) agrees that children learn citizenship indirectly
as they draw ideas about how people should conduct themselves in public from the way
that teachers and administrators manage classroom life. They learn many inadvertent
lessons from the ways that they are permitted to treat each other as they learn the
formal content curriculum. This hidden curriculum leaves girls with a sense of
powerlessness and encourages them to accept sexual inequality (Bravo & Miller, 1994).
3


It also shortchanges boys by failing to challenge traditional macho values that allow them
to persist in inappropriate and destructive patterns of behavior (Connell, 1996; Salisbury
& Jackson, 1996).
To make matters worse, when administrators deal with peer sexual harassment
explicitly, the use of good judgment appears to be in short supply if news reports that
question that judgement are any indication. For example, an article in the New York
Times (1993), "Harassment in 2nd Grade? Queens Kisser Is Pardoned, describes the
fate of a seven-year-old boy who was suspended from school for kissing a girl. The child
was reinstated in three days after the action was criticized by everyone from the mayor to
representatives of the National Womens Law Center. According to Verna Williams,
representative of the Center, Title IX legislation does not extend to a little boy kissing a
little girl. The Board of Education stated that it would reconsider its sexual harassment
guidelines and consider adding examples of variations of the policy relative to students
of different ages (kindergarten through high school).
Taking a different tack, another newspaper article (Lewin, 1996), Kissing Cases
Highlight Schools Fears of Liability for Sexual Harassment," describes federal guidelines
sent to school districts that warned that schools that did not take adequate steps to stop
harassment would be in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the
law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funds. This article
also laments the fact that suspensions of young boys for kissing girls might obscure the
serious problems elementary girls face in classrooms where boys call girls names like
whore and "ugly dog-faced bitch, snap their bras, cut their hair, and grab their breasts.
4


According to Brandenberg (1997), among others (American Association of
University Women, 1992; Pomerleau, Bolduc, Malcuit, & Cossette, 1990; Sadker,
Sadker, & Shakeshaft, 1987), "sex discrimination and sexual harassment start as
features of American education even during the earliest years." She claims that
Gender bias establishes the norms and attitudes that lead people to
believe that sexual harassment is acceptable and permit educators to
ignore harassing behaviors. Implicit in the goal of eliminating sexual
harassment in education, is the elimination of sexism in early education
through nonsexist curricula and through nonsexist curricula and teaching
practice... Workshops... should consider sexual harassment in the
broader context of gender bias and sexism, which are the precursors of
sexual harassment, (p. 94)
While surveys have been conducted to document peer harassment beginning at
the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school years, little or no
information has been gathered from administrators on their responses (or lack thereof)
to this problem (Otuwa, 1997; Shakeshaft, 1995). Trustworthy information on
administrators conceptions of this problem can lead to improved administrator
preservice and inservice training on this topic as well as improved conditions for all those
who work and study in our schools.
Administrators Grapple with Sexual Harassment
This study explores how elementary administrators approach the problem of peer
sexual harassment and their role in addressing it. Because sexual harassment in
elementary and secondary schools does not look the same as it does in higher education
or in the workplace (Stein, 1993), it is important that research contribute to our
understanding of the challenges that face elementary school principals as they deal with
5


this complicated issue. To date, no published study had addressed male and female
elementary principals perceptions of the problem of peer sexual harassment.
Specifically, I interviewed elementary administrators to determine how they
approach this problem, how they perceive their role, and how they view it in the broader
contexts of power and gender issues, legal issues, and policy implementation. The
importance of conducting an exploratory assessment as part of implementing change in
current practice or support for professional development for administrators to enable
them to better meet the challenges they face in effectively changing the status quo in
schools has been documented by several researchers.
For example, Rosenblum and Louis (1979) found that the degree to which
individuals within school systems recognized unmet needs is directly related to the level
of subsequent implementation of changes or innovations. Other studies have supported
this notion that successful implementation is positively related to focused or identified
needs of those implementing the change (David, 1989; Emrick & Peterson, 1978; Louis
& Sieber, 1979). Fullan (1991, p.69) notes that complex or multifaceted reforms
...require a great deal of effort to clarify the nature of needs being addressed."
The conceptual framework for this study included feminist perspectives,
conceptions of gender and power, relevant legal cases, policy implementation, and
change literature from a staff development standpoint. A moral-political-legal framework
provided a structure for the review of the literature, the construction of interview
questions, and the interpretation of the responses to interview questions.
This study employed qualitative interviews (Spradley, 1979) to explore key
questions about elementary administrators conceptions of their role in preventing and
6


dealing with peer sexual harassment, their understanding of the context of the problem
within the larger structure of gender and power issues, and their responses to specific
instances of peer sexual harassment. As Denzin (1978, p. 14) suggests, I used concepts
that are not transformed immediately into operational definitions or "sensitizing
concepts" to discover what is unique about each response by elementary principals as
well as what ideas are held in common across different people and settings. The findings
could ultimately be useful to determine needs for professional development on this topic
and to make recommendations about the shape it should take.
A Gendered Perspective
This study examined the issue of peer sexual harassment and the role of the
elementary principal in dealing with this from a feminist perspective. I believe that peer
sexual harassment can be best understood through an analysis of gender and power
issues as they are played out in the early years of a childs education. Elementary
principals have little exposure to gender issues in their formal training programs before
or after entering the profession (Brandenburg, 1997; Gosetti & Rusch,1995; Sadker &
Sadker, 1994; Shakeshaft, 1997).
Most administrators are sincerely motivated to improve the educational
opportunities for all students, including girls. Unfortunately, many administrators lack
critical information about the conditions, policies, and practices that may lead to an
increase in unwanted sexual behavior. Given this information and opportunities to reflect
on their own ethical obligations, I believe that the educational environment described by
so many as hostile to girls and women can be changed for the better (Bogart & Stein,
7


1987). I assume that training or exposure to experiences, cases, or writings in this area
will make a difference in how elementary administrators perceive their role in preventing
and addressing the problem of peer sexual harassment in their schools.
Cautions and Concerns
This study is limited to peer sexual harassment and elementary administrators
perceptions of their role in dealing with this problem. It does not deal with sexual
harassment between adults and children where a difference in formal power or roles
exists (harassment of students by teachers or administrators would not be defined as
peer harassment). Instead, I explore the more subtle issues connected with informal
power differences connected to gender. Boys and girls are greatly influenced by the peer
culture at the elementary school level, and the patterns of harassment so well
documented at middle and high school begin at the elementary level (Eisenhart &
Holland, 1983; McLeod, 1993; Thorne, 1993). The following are the research questions
that prompted this study.
Research Questions
1. How do elementary administrators identify and describe instances of peer sexual
harassment?
2. What do elementary administrators think that they should do about instances of
peer sexual harassment?
3. Does the range of their views differ by gender of the administrator, years of
experience, district, or type of training?
8


4. How are ideas about gender equity or equal educational opportunity represented in
their views (if at all)?
5. Where do elementary principals obtain their information about peer sexual
harassment?
6. What are the implications of administrators views and experiences with peer sexual
harassment for informing future training and professional development for
administrators?
9


CHAPTER 2
SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN SCHOOLS: THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
Several studies document the type and frequency of sexual harassment and
abuse in our schools. The Massachusetts State Department of Education, for example,
sponsored the first study of sexual harassment and schools in 1980. Students were
surveyed from urban, suburban, and rural school settings, and girls reported problems
ranging from verbal insults to rape. A follow-up survey of secondary students in
Minnesota in 1986 showed that 33% to 60% of the girls compared to less than 1% of
male students report being sexually harassed (Stein, 1991). In 1992, Seventeen
Magazine asked readers to write and describe their experiences, and thousands
responded with accounts of daily sexual mistreatment at school. This treatment included
bra-snapping, skirt lifting, touching, poking, pinching, commenting and joking about body
parts, and graffiti depicting sexual acts. A few students even reported physical assaults
and rape (Bogart & Stein, 1987; Stein, 1992).
Subsequently, the American Association of University Women (AAUW, 1992)
sponsored a series of studies related to this topic. In 1993, one of these studies, Hostile
Hallways, concluded that 85% of the girls and 76% of the boys in grades eight through
eleven reported being sexual harassed at school. Only 18% of the students who reported
being sexually harassed identified the perpetrator as a teacher, coach, bus driver,
teachers aide, security guard, principal, or counselor.
10


Of the students who report peer harassment, nearly four of five had been
targeted by a current or former student at school. Two-thirds of ail boys and more than
half of the girls surveyed admitted that they have sexually harassed someone in a school
setting. Half of these student harassers target students of the opposite sex (more
common among males than females) and 11% admitted to harassing someone of the
same sex (also more common in males). A recent update of this survey (AAUW, 2001)
showed that sexual harassment continues to be widespread in school life and that, while
boys are more likely to experience harassment than in the 1993 study, they continue to
be less likely to experience harassment than girls. A positive finding was that students
were more likely to report that their schools have a policy or have distributed literature
about sexual harassment and that they can describe what constitutes sexual
harassment.
Sadker & Sadker (1994) note that girls show many of the same symptoms as
women who have been the victims of sexual harassment. They become fearful and
withdrawn, are easily intimidated, and may display signs of stress-related physical
illnesses. Given the option, they sometimes transfer out of programs or courses or drop
out of school altogether. This is not the only cost. During a time when schoolgirls are
struggling with their own sexual identity, tacitly permitted sexual harassment can twist
their normal development and cause them to lose faith in the teachers and
administrators who fail to protect them. This negatively affects those who experience
harassment firsthand as well as those who observe it.
Sexual harassmentand what to do about itcannot be understood apart from
gender relationships, the gender regime," as Connell (1987) calls it. In turn, the gender
11


regime cannot be evaluated apart from a moral-political-legal framework. Feminism
provides a particularly useful normative framework because its primary motivation is
gender equality.
Accordingly, this chapter is divided into five sections. The first describes feminism
and its three major variants: humanistic, gynocentric, and transformational (Howe,
1997). The general conclusion of this section is that the transformational perspective
provides the most adequate moral-political framework from which to analyze the problem
of peer sexual harassment in the schools. The second section explains the confluence of
gender and power, or the gender regime, and, in the process, points to what needs to be
transformed in the interest of gender equality. The third section locates peer sexual
harassment within the larger gender regime. The fourth section examines pertinent
legislation, legal decisions, and OCR findings pertaining to peer sexual harassment, and
thereby adds the legal" to the moral-political-legal normative framework.
The fifth and final section examines administrators' actual responses to and
understanding of peer sexual harassment. This section leads to three conclusions. First,
systematic research on administrators' conceptions of peer sexual harassment is
lacking. Second, the evidence that does exist indicates that administrators have a
shallow understanding of the sources and nature of sexual harassment and a limited
commitment to ending it. Third, the research based on policy implementation along with
change models from the staff development literature might help explain why
administrators are slow to act or may act in a bureaucratic manner without real
understanding of the issues at hand.
12


Three Feminist Frameworks
Jaggar (1983), a feminist philosopher, defines feminism as the commitment to
end the oppression of women. This general characterization leaves considerable leeway
for depicting the nature of womanhood as well as feminist programs. Howe (1997)
identifies three types of feminist perspectives prominent in education: humanistic,
gynocentric, and transformational (see also Noddings, 1990; Young, 1990).
Humanistic Feminism
Humanistic feminism is the dominant feminist perspective of the 19th and 20th
centuries (Young, 1990). It defines women's oppression as the inhibition and distortion
of womens potential by a society that allows the self-development of men (p. 73).
Noddings (1990) calls this framework liberal feminism and identifies as its aim to secure
for women the rights and privileges already in place for men.
Humanistic feminism responds to the significant inequalities that still exist
between the sexes. Current studies (Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992; Valian, 1999)
demonstrate that womens advancement in the professions continues to lag that of men.
Both in academia and the professional world men are over-represented in positions of
authority and rank and earn higher salaries for the same position. Women continue to be
promoted more slowly than men and tend to work in less prestigious companies,
colleges, or positions.
The policies and practices inspired by humanistic or liberal feminism seek to
insure that women and girls are given opportunities to participate in careers and
educational experiences long open mainly to men and boys. Title IX legislation in
13


prohibiting sex discrimination attempts to provide a formal opportunity for girls and
women to be included in our educational system. It does not attempt to equalize
outcomes but only to provide the opportunity for participation. School districts or schools
practicing this form of feminism would count the number of girls participating in courses
such as math, science, and technology and compare these numbers to boys
participating. They might also examine the number of extra-curricular sports available to
girls and boys and the relative amount of resources spent to support such activities.
Practices might attempt to recruit and retain girls in certain courses and provide
mentoring to support them.
The shortcoming of this approach is that it provides only a thin conception of
equality by allowing girls and women to participate in systems primarily designed to fit
the needs and interests of boys and men. To succeed in this system girls and women
must adopt a male style of operating or risk being found defective when compared to
standards developed with only males in mind (Howe, 1997).
Gvnocentric Feminism
The second feminist framework is gynocentric (or relational). It grows out of a
celebration of the unique qualities of girls and women and is supported by the work of
Gilligan (1982) and others (Noddings 1984,1990,1992; Belenky et al., 1986). In
Gilligans work with respect to moral reasoning, she effectively challenged the
stereotypical male perspective by taking Kohlberg (1981) to task for basing his model of
moral development solely on male research subjects and then using this model to judge
women as inferior in their ability to reason morally. She contends that, while Kohlberg
14


interprets this difference as inferior development of moral reasoning, the difference
really reflects a distinctive perspective that women bring to moral problems.
She points out the different voice and perspective of women in dealing with
moral scenarios. Feminine solutions to problems were more driven by relationship and
caring than the principles and logic used more often by boys and men.
In education, Nodding's (1992) work is most important in defining and defending
the morality of caring and encouraging schools to foster it. By infusing a more feminine
perspective into the fabric and structure of schools, she would make them more
congenial to girls and also minorities. She proposes organizing schools around centers of
care beginning with the self and continuing to the inner circle of family and friends, to
strangers and distant others, to animals, plants, and the earth, to the human-made
world, and finally, to ideas.
Policies and practices that derive from gynocentric feminism might include calling
for schools that promote cooperative learning and caring over primarily competitive
structures; homogeneous grouping for girls in subjects like science, for example; and the
use of research based on the unique qualities of each gender to inform school
structures, instructional arrangements, and culture in general. Noddings (1992,1984)
and others (Beck, 1992; Calas & Smircich, 1989; Smircich, 1985) have identified ways
that institutions could promote caring. Institutions need to emphasize relationships,
caring as a reciprocal act, caring as defined in specific contexts, and an understanding
that the ethic of caring is socially constructed and the school has a unique responsibility
to foster this quality.
15


Gynocentric feminism sometimes encourages an essentialist view of gender.
Essentialist views of gender claim that men and women possess essential characteristics
caused by biological differences including emotional, mental, and psychic qualities.
Kristeva (1982) describes this category of feminism as designed to support women in
embracing and celebrating their own special qualities and encouraging a resistance to
assimilation into the male world.
Critics of essentialism emphasize the social and cultural nature of gender role
stereotyping. Most current views of gender are anti-essentialist. According to Greene
(1993):
Gender, we now realize, must be understood as a social construct or a
cultural construct, referring to the meanings attached to the biological
division of the sexes. More simply, gender identifies the implications of
what it means in different contexts to be born a girl or a boy. It has to do
with the mannerisms taught or adopted, and the expectations
internalized in the modes of perceiving others and of being perceived, (p.
241)
Shakeshaft (1989) also takes this anti-essentialist view and claims that sex is a
biological description used to divide humankind into two typesmale and female.
Gender, she claims, is a cultural term assigned to people based on their sex that conveys
gendered expectations of how people ought to behave.
Transformational Feminism
Young (1990) criticizes gynocentric feminism in general for making gender
differences too rigid.
Gynocentric feminism ... tends to see gender difference as a relation of
inside and outside. We need a conception of difference that is less like
the icing bordering the layers of a cake, however, and more like a marble
16


cake, in which the flavors remain recognizably different but thoroughly
insinuated in one another, (p. 88)
In this passage, Young exemplifies the transformational view, the third feminist
framework. It seeks to combine the aims of the other two frameworks and goes even
further in attempting to reorganize the structures of society to include women and girls in
deciding what is important including the rules and the norms.
A transformation is needed because gender relations are infused into the entire
social, economic, political, and symbolic relationships among people (Benhabib, Butler,
Cornell, & Fraser, 1995). In a philosophical exchange, Fraser notes that
Every arena and level of social life is shot through with gender hierarchy
and gender struggle. Each therefore requires feminist theorization. Each,
however, is also traversed by other, intersecting axes of stratification and
power, including class, race/ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, and agea
fact that vastly complicates the feminist project, (p. 159)
For girls and women in educational institutions to receive equal educational
opportunities worth wanting, schools must be transformed to include their ability to
participate in meaningful ways in the power structures, policies, curriculum, materials,
and instructional strategies (Howe, 1997). In this framework, women critique the
accomplishments of humanistic and gynocentric feminist phases and seek new solutions
to gender inequality that arise out of a synthesis of the old and new questions (Noddings,
1990). A first step in that transformation involves a deeper understanding and
commitment to ending peer sexual harassment by the men and women in administrative
positions (Shakeshaft, 1997). To begin to accomplish this transformation, it is important
to understand the dynamics of power in organizations and the gender regime.
17


Power in Organizations and the Gender Regime
Power is often viewed as hierarchical, characterized in terms of explicit lines of
authority and accountability, but social theories have shown how it can also be played
out in the relationships and the implicit agenda and culture of individuals and institutions
(Campbell & Lam, 1993). Kanter, in Men and Women of the Corporation (1977),
describes ways in which gender inflects" corporate bureaucracies and predicts a time
when women will become part of the reshaping of these organizations to make them
more friendly to women. This reshaping includes flattening the hierarchical power
structure, decentralizing decision-making, and organizing work into project teams.
Futurists predict that successful companies will aggressively recruit, hire, train, and
promote women to key leadership positions and claim that Women can transform the
workplace by expressing, not by giving up, their personal values." (Naisbitt & Aburdene,
1986, p. 242). Transformational leadership theory advocates a flattened hierarchy, more
team participation, and an emphasis on relationships with followers (Burns, 1978). A
study comparing the leadership styles of men and women found that men see job
performance as a series of transactions with punishments and rewards while women
leaders try to transform peoples self-interest into organizational goals (Rosener, 1990).
This transformational or interactive leadership style in women is characterized by
encouraging participation, sharing power and information, enhancing other people's self-
worth, and getting others excited about their work.
Martin (1994), a feminist philosopher, observes that when women appear on
the landscape, educational thought changes... those who swear by existing modes of
thought may find cold comfort in womens transformative potential (p. 15). But realizing
18


this potential often comes at a cost. Carpenter (1989) notes the problems and
compromises feminists make if they become administrators. She contends that feminists
are likely to become administrators because they believe that they can make the
institution more humane, more responsive, and more feminist. Women who have these
feminist views remain a minority within a patriarchal system, having to compromise their
feminist principles every day. Women may have the potential to transform educational
thought but whether it is actualized is a question in need of investigation.
Gender inequality is part of a deeply entrenched institutionalization of sexual
difference and it permeates all of society, as evidenced by the prevalence of public policy
debates and law suits related to sex discrimination, sexual harassment, abortion,
pregnancy in the workplace, and the sexual abuse of wives and children. The injustice
that results from the unfair division of labor between the sexes hampers a familys ability
to teach the first lessons in fairness to children. If one of our democratic ideals is, as the
Pledge of Allegiance states, to preserve and protect "liberty and justice for all, then we
have a long way to go in providing that ideal for girls and women in America (Okin, 1989).
The work of many researchers makes it clear that simply recruiting women into
the upper echelons of bureaucratic organizations does not mean that the nature of the
organization will automatically become less masculine and more friendly to the
feminineas Kanter predicts (Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992; Dunlap & Schmuck, 1995;
Helgesen, 1990 & 1995; Morrison, White, & Velsor, 1982). Individual women, in top
positions in such organizations, may need to "act like men to function effectively and be
appointed in the first place (Eisenhart & Finkel, 1998; Savage & Witz, 1992). Women as
an interest group have been underrepresented in positions of power in school leadership
19


(Blount, 1993), and continue to receive inferior schooling both in K-12 and university
settings (Sadker, Sadker, & Klein, 1991).
Additional lenses have been employed to make meaning of the relationship
between the individual and the organization. Morgan (1986) explores the idea of
metaphors as tools to assist leaders in understanding their institutions and making
sense of organizational policies, practices, and problems. He uses the psychic prison
metaphor to illustrate how organizations and individuals within them become trapped by
views of reality that are constructed to protect the status quo. Individuals in the
organization often resist new conceptions because of unmet needs, insecurities, and
deep-seated fears. An organization can become trapped by these unconscious patterns
of behavior that can actually be at odds with the stated mission and goals.
One form of psychic prison that bars women from participating fully in
organizations such as schools is a patriarchal view of how institutions should be run.
Morgan asserts that patriarchy acts as a conceptual psychic prison that produces and
reproduces structures that reinforce male dominance and traditional male roles.
Young (1992) agrees that those who are oppressed, including women, face an
uphill battle, for everywhere they turn oppression is reproduced as a consequence of
well-meaning ordinary interactions, media, and cultural stereotypes, and structural
features of bureaucratic hierarchy and market mechanisms, in short, the normal
processes of everyday life, (p. 177). She also observes that the hegemony of the
dominant culture is reinforced through the churches, newspapers, families, and schools.
Hadas (1993) applies this kind of analysis specifically to schools:
[Schools] are hierarchical in the extreme, with a pyramidal structure of
power and privilege, and access to information... proponents of the
20


"hidden curriculum" theory of schooling propose that acceptance of
hierarchy is one of the main object lessons schools are supposed to
impart.) At the bottom, in terms of pay, prestige, and formal autonomy are
teachers. Next up are building-level administrators, and finally, district-
level administrators, (p. 3)
Sociologist and critical theorist R. W. Connell (1987) outlines a systematic theory
of gender in his book, Gender and Power. He describes the process by which gender is
institutionalized, contending that gender relations are present in all types of institutions
and invariably raise the problems of sexual politics. The most significant feature of these
politics is that men in general are advantaged by what Connell calls the gender regime."
Kessler et al. (1985) first used this term as they noted the domination of the favored
views of femininities and masculinities in the Australian schools they studied. In schools,
these gender regimes perpetuate the practices among the staff and students that
construct various orders of masculinity and femininity based on power, prestige, and the
sexual division of labor. This gender regime has a long reign in our educational
institutions.
Historically, women have been excluded from certain leadership roles in schools-
especially leaders of districts or in the role of principal in larger schools or working with
older children (Blount, 1993). Paynes book on Chapters on School Supervision, written
in 1875, illustrates the deep roots of this inequity
No; woman can not do mans work in the schools; and one of the greatest
dangers which threaten our public school system is the gradual
displacement of men from the higher departments, where their influence
is especially needed. According to my understanding of the matter,
children up to the age of nine years should be instructed and governed
almost exclusively by women; from nine to fourteen, they may still be
instructed by women, but should be subject, in case of need, to
government by men; while from the age of fourteen, they should be
taught by both men and women, and should be subject still more to
government by men. With respect to instruction, pupils may be taught by
21


women exclusively till the end of the grammar grade; but beyond this
there are some branches, as physics, chemistry, and mathematics, which
are best taught by men. No one need expect to see a truly prosperous
high school in the exclusive charge of women. Two essentials to success
will be wantinghealthy discipline and in some branches, sound
instruction. It is just as repugnant to reason and to experience to imagine
a high school or college in the exclusive charge of women, as to imagine a
primary school in the exclusive charge of men. Each is the climax of
absurdity: each is a direct violation of the decrees of nature; for as long
as there is sex, there will be characteristic intellectual differences based
on sex, and these differences will prescribe spheres of duty which can not
be abandoned with impunity. (Blount, 1993, p. 53)
Payne, a well-respected academic, argued that it is biologically correct for
men to govern women and children. In this vein, Gutmann (1987) indicts the
present authority structures of school governance by noting that schools do not
just reflect, but perpetuate, the social arrangements that privilege males, an ^
arrangement in which, "men rule women and women rule children (p. 113). This
domination is not often overt, but tends to be less visible and camouflaged within
the hidden curriculum and current institutional arrangements (Howe, 1997).
Current statistics show that while women and men enter administrator
preparation programs in equal numbers, female principals and superintendents
continue to be underrepresented in the work force (Blount, 1993; Zheng &
Carpenter-Hubin, 1999). Blounts (1993) historical study of women in the
superintendency shows, "that while women experienced a surge in administrative
opportunities during the suffrage movement, they encountered significant
resistance during the modern feminist movement of the seventies, a time in
which fewer women held superintendencies than at any other point during the
century (p. 72). Her data show that in 1990 women accounted for only 5% of all
school superintendents in this country at a time when university programs in
22


educational leadership were graduating an almost equal number of men and
women.
Because of the need for deep institutional change to remedy the current
inequality of outcomes for girls, Connell (1996) suggests the key step to
understanding gender in schools is to "think institutionally. He argues that the
gender regime is woven through the institutional arrangements that allow a
school to function (divisions of labor, authority patterns, etc.). These gender
regimes are similar from school to school and Connell proposes that they involve
four types of relationships namely power relations, division of labor, patterns of
emotion, and symbolization.
Power Relations
Power relations are embedded in supervision and authority among teachers and
students and can result in dominance, harassment, and control over resources. An
example is boys domination of the doll corner and later the playground space at the
elementary school as documented in several studies (Paley, 1984; Thorne, 1993). Paley
(1984), a kindergarten teacher, portrays these gender struggles among five and six-year-
olds. Though the girls control the doll corner in their kindergarten classroom, the
presence of the boys changes the nature of the play. The more cohesive the group of
boys, the more disruptive they are to the play of the girls in the doll corner. They often
interrupt the plays as robbers or superheroes. Good behavior ironically is most often
found among boys considered by their teachers to be socially immature. Superheroes
23


dominate the boys fantasy play, and girls turn to dramatic plots with more sisters and
princesses.
This pattern continues throughout the elementary school years as documented
by Thorne (1993). She observed the interaction in classrooms and the patterns of play
on the schoolyards of two schools. Children used the frame of play to disguise the often-
serious messages they send about aggression and sexuality. Through observations of
these social relations, she documents the structures of power on the playground. Boys
dominate the physical space on the playgrounds by controlling the large spaces
designated for team sports while leaving the fixed spaces (jungle gyms, jump rope, and
four square) for the use of the girls. The girls observed use only one-tenth the space that
the boys control.
Boys play almost exclusively with other boys and girls with girls. While girls and
boys are often together in classrooms, lunchrooms, and sometimes on the playground,
they infrequently develop the bonds of friendship found between the same sex peers.
Sadker and Sadker (1994) suggest that early in schooling boys learn destructive forms of
division or how to separate themselves from girls. They state that, once the school world
is divided, boys can strive to climb to the top of the male domain, thinking that even if
they fall short, they are still ahead of game because they are not girls" (p. 111). These
researchers indict schools for dismissing sexism as harmless bigotry. They claim that
boys are permitted to demean girls in our classrooms and that as educators we must
concern ourselves with eliminating the miseducation of boys in our schools. As Rotundo
(1993) reminds us, until gender equity becomes a value promoted in every aspect of
24


school, boys, as victims of their own miseducation, will grow up to be troubled men (p.
8).
Boys learn at a very early age to perceive girls as less capable and less worthy of
their respect. The prevalence of sexual harassment among even young children is less a
symptom of emerging sexuality and more the beginning of a pattern of male dominance.
Consider that the most shameful insult for a boy to hurl at another is "girl," pussy, or
faggot." For boys to feel masculine, they soon learn to distance themselves from
powerless girls (Orenstein, 1994).
Division of Labor
Division of labor includes presumptions that males or females will teach or be
interested in certain subjects, pursuits, vocations, and activities based on gender alone.
Examples include expecting girls to excel in reading/language arts and asking that a "big
strong boy" move furniture in the classroom (Connell, 1996). These presumptions begin
early in life as children are socialized into performing according to their assigned male
and female sex roles. Beginning at birth, the costumes, props, and rewards are very
different for boys and girls (David & Brannon, 1976).
When children enter schools, their parents and teachers often expect boys, but
not girls, to be interested in math and science. This message is sent so often that
capable girls often avoid math and science courses in the upper grades and college, thus
limiting their ability to later be part of high status professions requiring a background in
math and science. Gender stereotyping influences whether or not girls persist in
mathematics courses (American Association of University Women, 1995). Data from the
25


National Assessment of Educational Progress show that girls who reject traditional
gender roles attain a higher degree of achievement in math than girls who hold more
traditional views. This data also indicates that girls who take advanced math classes do
not see math as a "male" subject (Armstrong, 1985). Studies of college level science and
engineering course gender imbalances reveal that stereotyped expectations about who
should participate in these courses continues to disadvantage women (Eisenhart &
Finkel, 1998).
Another example of the division of labor by gender in schools is the expectation
that girls will be cheerleaders, while boys will participate in athletic events supported by
the girls as cheerleaders. The unspoken message communicated here is that the proper
role of girls is to support boys in their achievements not to be active in pursuing their own
accomplishments (Eckert, 1994; Shoop & Edwards, 1994). This trend begins in the
elementary school when girls are cast as "helpers for the boys and is formalized at the
high school level where girls do the majority of the behind the scenes activities (bake
sales, organizing dances, decorating, etc.) and boys dominate in the managerial roles
(class president or student body president). A high school teacher reported an even more
blatant example:
I teach in a school where the athletic program has a fund raising event
every year. The female students are expected to participate in a slave
day. During this day, boys bring dog collars and leashes to school and
lead the girls around as the girls carry the boys books and do their other
bidding. Many of the girls wear signs that say, "So-and-so is my master.
(Shoop & Edwards, 1994, p. 45).
26


Patterns of Emotion
Patterns of emotion or "feeling rules for occupations are associated with
different roles at the school and in the larger society (the tough Assistant Principal or the
compassionate social worker are two examples given by Connell, 1996). Pierce (1995)
explores gendered job expectations in her study of the differing emotional roles expected
of men and women in law firms. These expectations emerge when emotional
expectations from the larger culture influence which positions are considered
appropriate for men and women. For example, in the law firms she studied, Pierce
observes that trial law is considered men's work because primarily men entered this field
first and the emotional expectation of the "Rambo litigator emphasizes the hyper-
masculinity and aggressiveness associated with this profession. In contrast, with most
support staff positions occupied by women, the feeling rule for that role is that of the
emotionally available and caring or the "mothering paralegal. The "emotional labor
(Hochschild, 1983) division contributes to women paralegals reproducing their
subordinate position in the law firm as they assume the role of caretaking and defer to
the primarily male litigator. Women who violate these roles are rebuked for
unprofessional behavior.
Kanter (1977) argues that a persons position within the organizational structure
determines behavior and that differences between men and women in areas such as
career aspiration and the degree of acquiescence are more a function of different access
to opportunities within the organization than gender defined differences. Because
women face constricted choices they often make the best of the options available to
them and conform to meet the expectations of the role.
27


These differences in roles begin to be developed at the elementary level where
boys tend to play games in large groups, with one boy leading and the others following in
games with rules that have winners and losers. In contrast, girls play in small groups or
pairs and often negotiate the rules, which are often subordinated to relationships so the
girls have no winners or losers (Lever, 1976 & 1978). Piaget (1965) contends that boys
games are concerned with rules and girls games with relationships. Gilligan (1984)
found the same difference in how boys and girls think about moral dilemmas. Girls were
more influenced by the particular cases and relationships while boys tended to use
generalized principles in proposing solutions to these dilemmas without paying attention
to particular cases.
Symbolization
Symbolization happens when schools import gender symbols from the wider
culture as well as develop systems of their own. These symbols include dress codes and
formal and informal language codes. A study at Grandin School (Clement et al., 1979)
provides an example of how formal and informal language usage symbolizes the gender
regime. The study describes how a sixth grade male patrol group was first called the
safety patrol by the school faculty. Their job was to guard the crosswalks near the
school before and after school. Later, in an effort to address gender equity, two female
teachers at the school established the "powderpuff patrol to police the halls and
cafeteria of the school. The label of this second group, not surprisingly, attracted more
female than male members. Teachers at the school stated that they openly encouraged
both sexes to join each group but were surprised by the power of symbolic language to
28


segregate males to the safety patrol and females to the powderpuff patrol. Teachers
appeared unaware of the power of symbolic language codes.
Gender research suggests that fear and avoidance of language associated with
homosexuality may greatly influence definitions of masculinity for boys in school (Connell,
1996; Frank, 1993; Mac an Ghaill, 1994; Salisbury & Jackson, 1996; Shakeshaft, et al.,
1997). In school, being accused of being in any way like a girl or woman is one of the
worst insults that a boy can receive. The following description from the AAUW study on
How Schools Shortchange Girls (1995) is exemplary
It is just before dismissal time and a group of very active fourth-graders
are having trouble standing calmly in line as they wait to go on the bus.
Suddenly one of the boys grabs anothers hat, runs to the end of the line,
and involves a number of his buddies in a game of keep-away. The boy
whose hat was taken leaps from his place in line, trying to intercept it
from the others, who, as they toss it back and forth out of his reach, taunt
him by yelling, You woman! Youre a woman! When the teacher on bus
duty notices, she tells the boys that they all have warnings. The boys
resume an orderly stance but continue to mutter namesWoman! Am
not. Yes, you are.under their breath." (p. 128-9).
Schools help to create and reinforce masculine and feminine identities. But the
gender regime is holistic; children as well as the adults in the school constantly test and
negotiate it.
Peer Culture
Peer culture can be seen at even the youngest ages. As early as nursery school,
children attempt to gain control over their lives. Childrens gendered identities are
shaped by interacting with their peers. One important factor in this process is language
(Corsaro, 1985). Another important factor is strict age grading (Eckert, 1979; Eisenhart &
Holland, 1983).
29


Thorne's (1993) work on gender play looked at American elementary children in
classrooms and on the playground and demonstrated how the meanings of gender were
constantly being debated and revised by the students. Changing gender boundaries are
both enforced and challenged in our schools, A strong peer culture develops very early
and contributes to the widespread verbal harassment of girls by boys (Grugeon, 1993).
The powerful influence of the peer group continues throughout K-12 education
and into college when women's status is determined more by heterosexual romantic
relationships and social activities than academic achievements or career aspirations
(Holland & Eisenhart, 1990). The culture of romancea cultural model of ideas about
how the world of male/female relationships is supposed to work (Eisenhart & Lawrence,
1994, p. 99) can be used to analyze the power of peers in silencing or condoning sexual
harassment. In an analysis of the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings, Eisenhart
and Lawrence contend that a woman's prestige among her peer group is dependent
upon a mans response to her. Therefore, her prestige is lowered just because she
reports bad treatment by a man. In the culture of romance, women acquire value from
their physical appearance and showing that they can attract desirable men. When a man
is more desirable than a woman, he is entitled to treat her badly and she is not supposed
to complain. A mans desirability is dependent upon his talents, earning potential, and
sensitivity to women as well as his physical attractiveness. Therefore, a mans prestige
with the peer group is less influenced by a womans treatment of him than vice versa.
Thus, when Anita Hill came forward and admitted bad treatment her status was
immediately reduced while Clarence Thomas' was simultaneously increased.
30


Sexual Harassment as Part of the Gender Regime
Sexual harassment is a symptom of larger issues of gender and power.
MacKinnons (1979) groundbreaking legal treatise argues that sexual harassment is
indeed sexual discrimination and it begins with this powerful assertion
Intimate violation of women by men is sufficiently pervasive in American
society as to be nearly invisible. Contained by internalized and structural
forms of power, it has been nearly inaudible. Conjoined with men's
control over womens material survival, as in the home or on the job, or
over women's learning and educational advancement in school, it has
become institutionalized, (p. 1)
She identifies this problem by naming it, setting it in a context of other civil rights issues,
and making the arguments that follow. According to MacKinnon, differences in power
and attempts to protect it by the dominant group are common in struggles for equality.
Because sex discrimination is internalized in those individuals with more power and the
institutions they control, it is difficult to raise awareness let alone take action to correct
the situation. The majority of those with this power and control are white males.
She asserts that gender marks a division of power and that sexuality is one realm
of its expression. Gender is defined in terms of sexuality in that heterosexuality is tightly
aligned with social conceptions of femaleness and maleness. Sexual harassment is
unique in that it eroticizes subordination.
Lott (1993) and her colleagues add that sexual harassment is part of a larger
dimension of misogyny or hostility toward women and girls. In her research on why boys
and men sexually harass, Paludi (1993) noted that many males act out of extreme
competitiveness and fear of losing their positions of privilege and power. According to
Paludi and Defour (1989) they do this in several ways: generalized sexist remarks and
31


behavior, offensive sexual advances with a promise of reward, and in the extreme
assault and rape.
The Legal Framework for Peer Sexual Harassment
Bull and McCarthy (1995) argue that the process of how legal mandates are
developed, interpreted, and applied is what is important for administrators to know and
to understand, not just the final product of the law itself. The purpose of educational law
is to make available a wide range of social, cultural, and intellectual experiences that
help administrators to understand and interpret in reasonable ways the situations that
they confront in their work. Law and the ethical standards for interpreting the law affect
every aspect of decision-making by administrators. The law cannot be studied and
interpreted as a set of static boundaries. Administrators should understand that
Everything we do takes place within a legal framework and understanding
why we have laws and what values guide the development of laws in our
democracy is as important as knowing the legal directives (Bull &
McCarthy, p. 616).
Knowledge of the law regarding sexual harassment helps administrators to
identify problems, develop alternative responses, anticipate consequences of those
responses, and evaluate and support the decisions they make.
Farley (1978) first defined sexual harassment within an employment context as
any repeated and unwanted sexual comments, looks, suggestions or physical contact
that you find objectionable or offensive and causes you discomfort on your job (p. 20).
She hypothesized that sexual harassment is the result of men having power over women
in the workplace. The verb to harass was used in old English to mean literally to set a
32


dog on someone." The power and viciousness of harassment is conveyed by its
etymology (Linn, Stein, Young, & Davis, 1992, p. 110).
Definitions of Sexual Harassment
Two types of sexual harassment have been identified, conceptually and by the
courts: quid pro quo and hostile environment. Blacks Law Dictionary (1990) defines quid
pro quo as what for what; something for something (p.1248). The main force of this
type of harassment is the element of power used to reward or punish a person in a
subordinate position (Shoop & Hayhow, 1994). In schools, this type of harassment
occurs when a school employee leads a student to believe that he or she must submit to
unwelcome sexual conduct in order to participate in a school program, activity or receive
an educational benefit (for example, a good grade or award).
A hostile environment can be described as intimidating, threatening, and
abusive. There are a series of factors to consider when determining when this is the
case: Did the student view the environment as hostile? Was this a reasonable
assumption? What was the nature of the conduct? How often did it occur? How long did
it continue? What are the age and the sex of the student and the harasser(s)? How
many harassers were involved? Where did the harassment occur? Did the conduct
adversely affect the student's education? (OCR, 1997)
Roots of Legal Remedies
The roots of these legal remedies for sexual harassment can be traced back to
the late sixties. Feminists and others who are committed to ending the oppression of
33


women exerted pressure on politicians to enact laws to improve conditions for women in
the labor force and in education. A vital means for women and girls to improve their
condition in terms of sex discrimination has been federal legislation. In the educational
arena, two major pieces of legislation were passed in attempts to impact womens rights
in education.
The first is Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was added as an
educational amendment in 1972. This statute prohibits discrimination of the basis of sex
in educational programs and activities and threatens to withdraw all federal funding
sources from institutions that violate this act. Its main clause states that
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded
from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial
assistance.
Critics of this legislation included groups intent on preserving the status quo in
intercollegiate sports, and they successfully slowed implementation. The Department of
Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) took three years (1972-1975) to produce specific
regulations and an additional four years to create policy interpretations dealing with
equity issues related to athletics. Contrary to the claims of these critics, Title IX did not
support affirmative action for women:
Nothing contained in [this law] should be interpreted to require any
educational institution to grant preferential treatment to the members of
one sex on account of an imbalance that may exist with respect to the
total number.
Institutions were allowed to undertake a self-evaluation on an annual basis to
determine their own extent of compliance. Any Title IX complaints are referred to Health,
Education, and Welfare's Office of Civil Rights (OCR). This office handles complaints
34


related to discrimination on the basis of race and also has authority to deal with disability
as of 1976 and age as of 1978.
Title IX changed the way the courts view equal educational opportunity in schools;
there are three prongs to test for discrimination using this legislation. The first prong
asks if discrimination can lead to an individual being excluded from participating in
educational programs. The second prong asks if discrimination on the basis of sex can
deny an individual the benefit of such programs. The third prong asks if the individual
who is subjected to the discrimination by educational programs or activities that receive
Federal assistance (Navarre, 1997). Violations of a student's civil rights can be used to
hold an administrator responsible under 42 U.S.C. § 1993 for monetary damages.
Because these claims are based on federal law, the State Sovereign Immunity Law
cannot shield administrators from individual liability. Plaintiffs can also file criminal
charges against the perpetrators for assault, battery or rape under state laws (Camp &
Underwood, 1993).
Although Title IX is most often associated with gender equity, several
courts have applied the standards of Title VII to Title IX cases in actions related to
employment discrimination and sexual harassment. Title IX is more focused on
schools and has been used to attempt to influence them. Most sexual harassment
legal suits are brought against employers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, but standards developed by courts to test cases have been applied to Title
IX as well. Title VII reads in part that
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to fail or
refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate
against any individual with respect to [her or] his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individuals...
35


sex; or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify [her or] his employees or
applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to
deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise
adversely affect [her or] his status as an employee, because of such
individual's... sex. (Title VII, Civil Rights Act 2000e-2(a))
Title VII has been broadly interpreted by the courts to challenge the disparate
treatment of women and men resulting from sex role stereotypes. For example, the
Seventh Circuit court used this rationale when it ruled on the 1971 case of Sprogis v.
United Airlines, Inc.
The Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) is the second important federal
statute to support gender equity. Passed in 1975, it was intended to provide financial
resources to support institutions in implementing gender equity projects in order to
better comply with Title IX; however, major cuts in the federal budget resulted in
diminishing financial allocations, which trickled to zero funds in the year 1996. Because
of diminished funding, the purpose of this act was narrowed in 1991 to support
increased participation of women in math, science, and computer science (United States
Department of Education, 1992). Most of the allocated funds were awarded to
universities and research centers as part of a highly competitive grant process.
Participation in this process and involvement with these projects is strictly voluntary for
educational institutions. Thus, this act provided no mandate to promote gender equity,
and was quite limited in scope.
36


Office of Civil Rights Guidance and Kev Cases
In several findings, the Office of Civil Rights provides the guidance for
administrators regarding how to deal with sexual harassment including definitions of
what constitutes hostile environment harassment in the schools.
This is where the unwelcome conduct has the purpose or effect of
unreasonably interfering with a persons right or benefit (such as
education) by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
To find that a hostile environment exists, OCR must find that the alleged
target(s) of the objectionable behavior were subjected to verbal or
physical conduct imposed because of the targets) gender, that the
conduct was unwelcome, and that the conduct was sufficiently severe,
persistent, or pervasive to alter the conditions of the targets education
and create an abusive environment. (Colbry, 1996, p. 1)
Several letters of findings provide further guidance for administrators as they
deal with sexual harassment in their schools. A widely publicized case in Eden Prairie,
Minnesota was the first incident where the federal government determined that even
young children can be sexual harassers (Eaton, 1993). The case involved a second grade
girl, Cheltzie Hentz. Cheltzies mother, Sue Mutziger, complained to school district
officials after boys on the bus yelled "bitch at her daughter and other girls. She alleged
that on a daily basis her daughter and other girls on the bus were teased for being girls
including remarks about having stinky vaginas instead of penises. In response to
repeated letters, school officials did remove some of the boys from the bus but failed to
put a stop to the harassment. Cheltzies mother then filed complaints against the school
officials with both the Department of Human Rights and with the U.S. Department of
Educations Office for Civil Rights. The complainant alleged that the district had failed to
address adequately incidents of sexual harassment against her daughter and other
female elementary, intermediate, and middle school students as required by Title IX of
37


the Education Amendments of 1972. In April of 1993. the office found that Eden Prairie
Schools had violated federal law in "failing to take timely and effective responsive action
to address which denied female students, because of their sex, equal educational
services" (OCR, 1993, p. 1). The letter of findings further states that
Linder Title IX and its implementing regulation, a recipient is directly responsible
for the discriminatory acts of its employees. A recipient also violates Title IX when
it knew or should have known that a sexually hostile environment exists due to
student-to-student harassment and fails to take timely and effective corrective
action. A sexually hostile environment is created by acts of a sexual nature that
are sufficiently severe or pervasive to impair the educational benefits offered by
the recipient. The existence of a sexually hostile environment is determined from
the viewpoint of a reasonable person in the victims situation. In determining
whether sexual harassment exposes students because of their age to a hostile
environment, relevant circumstances include the age of the victim(s); the
frequency, duration, repetition, location, severity, and scope of the act(s) of
harassment; the nature and context of the incident(s); whether the conduct was
verbal or physical; whether others joined in perpetuating the alleged harassment;
whether the alleged incidents created an offensive, hostile or abusive
atmosphere at the district or at specific schools or in other district settings such
as school buses. (OCR, 1993, p. 2)
One of the problems identified by OCR in the districts response to these
incidents was a lack of clarity in labeling sexual harassment as such when the victims
and perpetrators are elementary age students. District officials admitted that they
applied the districts sexual harassment policy only to student-to student interactions
involving overt displays of sexual aggression or unwelcome physical contact Other
incidents involving younger students with offensive sexual language and behavior were
treated as disciplinary infractions and were categorized as "inappropriate behavior or
language. Because this behavior was not labeled as possible sexual harassment the
policies and procedures for these investigations were not followed. Incidents were not
investigated in a thorough manner. For example, victims were not interviewed
individually, witnesses were not interviewed, cases were not referred to the director of
38


personnel as district policy directed, and in many cases no written records were kept
regarding the specifics of the investigation nor the resolution. OCR also noted that district
forms did not allow for an express finding as to whether sexual harassment had
occurred. This failure to recognize incidents as sexual harassment helped to create a
sexually hostile environment for the students involved and was perceived by the students
and their parents to permit underestimating the injury, which they experienced.
After investigation, OCR found that during a ten-week period of the 1992-1993
school year, 15 reports of sexual harassment were made from bus drivers or from the
parents of children riding the bus. These incidents involved male students touching
another male students private parts, one instance of a boy grabbing the crotches of
another boy and girl, and several instances of objectionable comments about sexual
activity or sexual attributes. They found these incidents to have a basis in fact and in
several cases boys in the primary grades engaged in sexually hostile words and conduct
against primary grade girls. The findings noted that
The fact that neither the boys nor the girls were sufficiently mature to
realize all of the meanings and nuances of the language that was used
does not obviate a finding that sexual harassment occurred ... there is no
question that even the youngest girls understood that the language and
conduct being used were expressions of hostility toward them on the
basis of their sex and, as a clear result, were offended and upset. (OCR
1993, p. 12)
Part of the districts problem was a failure to treat the incidents as possible sexual
harassment and to follow their own procedures; however, by their own admission, they
also failed to take action to promptly end the harassment. Consequently, individuals
were not held responsible, forcefully disciplined, and counseled about why their behavior
39


was considered sexual harassment. Furthermore, parents who complained were not
apprised of the districts sexual harassment policy and procedures.
The following remedial actions were part of a plan developed by the district to
comply with Title IX. First, the district would develop written guidelines to assist staff in
determining when a students misconduct could be labeled as sexual harassment.
Second, the district agreed to fully document all allegations and make an express finding
whether or not incidents were indeed sexual harassment. Third, they would develop
guidelines to assist staff in taking appropriate disciplinary actions against perpetrators.
Fourth, upon determining a pattern of sexual harassment occurring in a particular
location, the district would provide for additional supervision and specific monitoring to
stop and prevent further incidents. And finally, they agreed to continue to give notice to
staff, parents, and students about sexual harassment policy and the procedure for filing
complaints, provide training and education on sexual harassment, give notice to parents
when their children were involved in incidents, and counsel the victims of sexual
harassment.
In another noteworthy case a letter of findings dated April 16,1993 addressed to
Academy School District #20 in Colorado Springs, OCR clarified the duties of the district
to conduct its own investigation of sexual harassment charges independent of referrals
to criminal investigations by law enforcement agencies or the Department of Social
Services. The complainants informed the central office and the elementary school
principal that their third grade daughter was the target of sexually explicit comments at
the bus stop by two boys. They also claimed that the boys later sexually molested her and
threatened her with a gun and a knife. The school and district office referred these
40


problems to the local sheriffs department for investigation and neglected to initiate an
investigation of their own. Even after the investigation was completed, the district failed
to take any action in response to the parents complaint. The district used the rationale
that under Colorado State law requires that reports of third party abuse (student-to-
student) be made to either a law enforcement agency or the Department of Social
Services. OCR responded by stating that
Although other agencies may undertake criminal investigations of sexual
harassment charges, where a complaint is brought to the District alleging
actions, which, if true, could also constitute a violation of Title IX, the
District remains obligated to conduct an investigation and make its own
determination if a violation of Title IX has occurred. (Crawford, 1993, p. 4)
Because the Academy District failed to do this, they were found in violation of Title IX.
On November 12,1996 OCR addressed a complaint from Postville, Iowa by finding that
the complainants two sons were called names of a sexual nature, were repeatedly
subjected to phrases of a sexual nature, and were touched in a sexually offensive
manner by other boys. This finding makes it clear that sexual harassment can be applied
to incidents involving students of the same sex.
Emerging case law is an additional source of guidance for school administrators
as they deal with issues of peer sexual harassment. In a landmark ruling, the U.S.
Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling in Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public
Schools (1990/1992) and found that a school can be forced to pay damages to a victim
of sexual harassment. Before this landmark ruling, Title IX only provided for equitable
relief for victims. In this unanimous decision by the court, this case raised the possibility
of future lawsuits awarding financial damages against school administrators and
districts.
41


Following this case, several cases that involved damages against school districts
were settled out of court. For example, Katy Lyles parents settled for $15,000 in
damages after her high school officials in Duluth, Minnesota failed to remove sexually
explicit graffiti about her from the bathroom walls despite numerous complaints. In
another case in Minnesota, two middle school girls sued their school district after being
harassed by their peers. This case was settled out of court for $15,000 and $40,000
respectively for each family (Brown, 1993). In Petaluma, California the parents of an
eighth grade girl settled out of court for $20,000 in damages with the Keniworth Jr. High
School after administrators failed to stop boys from mooing at her and teasing her about
the size of her breasts.
Administrators Understanding and Responses
to Peer Sexual Harassment
We have little information on how administrators think about peer sexual
harassment and why they do or do not deal with it (Shakeshaft, 1997). Hillman (1988)
surveyed superintendents and school principals in Massachusetts to find out where they
get their information on school law. The results show they get this information from
newspapers, state-level professional organizations, other school administrators, and
their school district attorney. Finding out where and how elementary administrators get
their information about peer sexual harassment would be helpful in designing
professional develop programs to address their needs. Paukens study of administrators
understanding and implementation level of legal based policies identified several factors
that contribute to the differences in legal knowledge among subgroups of administrators.
42


These factors are administrator role, grade-level of their building, community
classification (urban, suburban, rural), years of experience, and prior access to legal
training or knowledge including preservice or inservice courses (Pauken, 1997).
Most researchers agree that educational administration professional preparation
does little to prepare administrators to deal with issues of gender inequity (Brandenberg,
1997; Dunlap & Schmuck, 1995; Gosetti & Rusch, 1995; Shakeshaft, 1987; Shoop &
Edwards, 1994; Stein, 1993) charge that discussions of gender, race, and class, as a
part of the act of leading, are seldom addressed in administrator certification programs.
These issues are ignored because what really counts as important knowledge for
prospective school leaders is determined by the powerful and privileged male interests
(Bates, 1980).
In an ethnographic study of principals working in a variety of socioeconomic
settings, Anderson (1990) found that few administrators were concerned about social
inequities around them nor did they embrace democratic principles such as justice and
fairness. Kempners (1991) work with administrators similarly found that they often had
a response of "no problem when issues involving problems of diversity and equity were
introduced. He noted the standards for success for administrators come from male
models of discipline and power including business models of administrative science (also
male), and anti-intellectual training that focuses on mentoring by skilled, traditional
veterans of school administration. He contends the problem is perpetuated by
"administrators and university programs that accept uncritically the metaphors of
business, the military, and athletic contests that are antithetical to the ideals of
democracy (p. 120).
43


Administrators must take a leadership role in challenging the attitudes that
promote sexual harassment in their schools. They can develop and implement policies,
support education about sexual harassment for staff and students, provide safe and
supportive spaces for their students to report, and challenge those that harass. In
general, they need to examine their efforts toward equal educational opportunity of girls
especially those that are designed to "fix female students. Larkin contends that barrier
lies not in the girls, but in those will not accept them as equals for
In the name of equal education, girls have been urged into math and
science, plugged into leadership courses, and remediated for their
alleged deficiencies while, at the same time, incidents of sexual
harassment remind them that they are not considered equal at all. More
and more, female students are finding themselves in a confusing
situation as they grapple with feelings of frustration, fear, rage, and
humiliation that arise from the demeaning behaviour they so often
experience in their passage through... school. (Larkin, 1994, p. 16)
Research studies interviewing thousands of students, several court cases, and
OCR findings all document the fact that school administrators do not often recognize nor
deal with sexual harassment properly when it comes to their attention (Adkison, 1982;
American Association of University Women, 1993, 2001; Beck, 1992; Dunlap &
Schmuck, 1995; Shakeshaft, 1997; Stein, 1999; Strauss, 1992). In order to understand
why this might occur, my review of the literature turns to the fields of staff development,
change models, and policy implementation. Each of these areas can provide some
direction for why administrators fail to take action when confronted with the issue of peer
sexual harassment in their schools (Brandenburg, 1997).
Less successful schools engage in what Louis and Miles (1990) call shallow
copingprocrastinating, doing nothing, increasing pressure, easing off, or doing things in
the usual way. Successful schools address the deeper, underlying reasons for problems
44


and attempt more comprehensive and substantia! interventions that are continuous and
supported over time.
Successful schools did not have fewer problems; however, they coped with them
more effectively. In light of the news accounts and other legal cases reviewed above, it is
likely that many elementary administrators are engaging in shallow coping when it comes
to the issue of student-to-student sexual harassment.
For this reason, it is important to assess the thinking and problem solving ability
of elementary administrators in relation to dealing with peer sexual harassment, in order
to identify appropriate options for future professional development to better address
their needs (Sparks & Loucks-Horsley). A needs assessment interview assumes that
effective intervention to change perceptions for administrators, as a group must begin
with individual perceptions. Thus, the first stage of any individually guided, staff
development intervention is the conducting of a needs assessment (Sparks & Loucks-
Horsley, 1989). This is the rationale that justifies use of interviews with elementary
principals as a first step in providing more proactive professional development for them.
Adults become more self-directed and their readiness to learn can be stimulated
by real-life tasks and problems (Knowles, 1980). The work of Hall and Loucks (1978),
using the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM), demonstrates that as adults learn
new behaviors or adopt innovations that change their current practice they experience
different types of concerns that require a variety of types of responses from the staff
development program or instructor. For example, an adult with many personal concerns
about the innovation may profit from visits to other sites using the innovation and an
45


opportunity to talk with others who are using it for the first time and ask questions to
help alleviate fears.
Research by Lieberman and Miller (1986) demonstrates that involving the
participants in key decisions about the content of the staff development is necessary for
the intervention to have the greatest impact. They find that successful staff development
interventions require both a "top-down and "bottom-up" approach. This means that the
policies and the directives of the organization support and communicate a desired
outcome and at the same time those who will implement the change (in this case
elementary administrators) are involved in establishing goals and designing appropriate
staff development interventions.
Guskey and Huberman (1995) also observe that, no matter what is done at the
higher bureaucratic levels in the organization to promote the change, the main focus of
professional development activities must take cues from the individuals who are to
implement the change. Change agents are often only concerned with the policies of the
organization and how these should be used or changed to support the implementation.
These change agents often neglect to notice that the policy system is not always relevant
to what Weatherley and Lipsky (1977) identified as the "street level bureaucrats" who
are responsible for implementation. Elementary principals are the street level
bureaucrats in the case of implementation of peer sexual harassment policy.
Studies of policy initiatives in education reveal a lack of both capacity and will at
local levels of education to embrace new initiatives. Odden (1991) contends in his review
of research on local responses to Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
that not only did most local educators not want to implement such programs (the will was
46


not there), but also that they did not know how to implement them (the capacity was not
there).
Howe (1997) makes a parallel distinction between will and capacity in his
analysis of equal educational opportunity. He identifies both a lack of political will to
promote equal educational opportunity and a lack of political understanding of what
equality of educational opportunity requires as sources of current educational inequality.
He applies his analysis specifically to gender equity, and implies that political
understanding must go deeper than lock-step policy implementation or complaint
investigation. Without a deeper understanding, the will to change, even if present, is
unlikely to be effective.
Similarly, a real understanding of sexual harassment requires a heightened
awareness that it is a symptom of much deeper gender relationships and struggles for
power in our classrooms and playgrounds (Connell, 1996). "Incidents of sexual
harassment reveal as much about power and authority as they do about sexuality; the
person being harassed usually is less powerful than the person doing the harassing
American Association of University Women, 1995, p. 128). Typical preservice or inservice
professional development programs provide administrators with little opportunity to
develop this deeper understanding of the roots of sexual harassment (Brandenburg,
1997).
According to Riger (1991), "the most important factor in reducing sexual
harassment is an organizational culture that promotes equal opportunities for women
(p. 503). She continues lamenting, "neither policies nor procedures do much to weaken
the structural roots of gender inequalities in organizations" (p. 503). She concludes that
47


an end to this problem requires organizations to address gender equity issues. Part of
the reason that sexual harassment has been so resistant to change is that it works
politically, economically, and socially it protects male turf and the status quo by
intimidating those who challenge this turf (Bogart & Stein, 1987).
Most administrators and teachers have focused little attention on halting sexual
harassment and preventing it in the first place. On the contrary, many have trivialized the
issue, criticized those who have raised it, and subverted solutions that have been
proposed (Bravo & Miller, 1994). Sexual harassment is often silently condoned as
flirting or initiation rites (Stein, 1993).
This study explores whether deepening administrators understanding of gender
issues is required to enable them to grapple with the issue of peer sexual harassment in
meaningful ways. How effectively they do this is key to providing genuine equality of
educational opportunity for girls. As long as girls must function in a toxic environment,
one excused by a boys will be boys" mentality, little constructive change is likely to occur
(Larkin, 1994; Salisbury & Jackson, 1996). The study described in the final three
chapters attempts to shed light on how practicing administrators think about and deal
with sexual harassment embedded in the broader issues of gender equity in their
schools.
48


CHAPTER 3
LEARNING ABOUT ADMINISTRATORS
VIEWS ON PEER SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Interviews are particularly well suited to yield data about the lives of particular
people in specific situations. Interview studies by nature shed light on the belief systems
of the informants. In the interview, informants accounts provide insight into the various
dilemmas, questions, issues and problems that they struggle with and reflect upon as
they approach their work (Eisenhart et al., 1980). They also can focus on how individuals
deal with particular problems, leading to information about needed changes and ideas
about how to make those changes (Spradley, 1979).
The interpretation of interview data is guided by the nature of the study and the
questions to be asked. In this case, it is helpful to provide some background into various
types of interviews in relation to the purpose of this study. Mishler (1986) describes "the
interview as a discourse between speakers and on the ways that the meanings of
questions and responses are contextually grounded and jointly constructed by
interviewer and respondent (pp. 33-34). Highly structured interviews ask each
respondent a set of pre-established questions that will later be interpreted according to a
coding scheme consisting of a limited number of categories (Converse & Schuman,
1974). The aim of the researchers is to summarize data in terms of pre-existing codes
and to identify patterns within and across codes.
49


Since this is an exploratory study of administrators views on sexual harassment,
a less structured approach has been used. The interviews used in this study aim to
understand peoples' statements without imposing a priori categories that could limit the
extent of the inquiry. Malinowski (1989) cites this type of flexible and interactive
structure as an advantage of the qualitative interview. The questions are structured but
allow for probing based on the responses of the administrator. Give-and-take between
the interviewer and the respondent allows the respondent to have more of an equal
footing in the exchange and makes the interview more valid, morally sound, honest, and
reliable than more detached techniques (Daniels, 1983).
The coding categories emerged as the data were analyzed. The interview protocol
and the method for analyzing the data in this study were designed to let the themes
emerge from the content in the interviews. This type of interview is analyzed using a
qualitative coding method to provide the opportunity for the researcher to elicit what
respondents think (Denzin, 1978).
The Interview Design and Analysis
This study employed a modified version of the Heuristic Elicitation Methodology
(HEM), based on cognitive anthropology and the techniques for analysis developed by
Stefflre (Stefflre in Harding & Livesay, 1984). This methodology has been used in various
ways to determine the perceptions of informants with regard to a particular innovation,
change in policy, or change in role. For example, Harding (1977) observes that the HEM
assumes* that people respond to their environments and decide what to do with their
50


environments on the basis of how they conceive of it, what they believe about it, how
they value it, and what their principles are for using it (p. 1).
Only the first phase of the more elaborate three-part HEM process was used in
this study. The first phase of the HEM process is the elicitation of ideas from the
informants or "domain definition." In this study, the domains that were elicited in the
interviews were the perceptions of administrators about the nature of peer sexual
harassment, the range of responses that administrators make in response to it, and the
ways administrators explain their actions. The purpose was to find the range of the
informants views on the topic of peer sexual harassment so that a deeper
understanding of their perspective could be constructed from their descriptions.
Notes were taken during the interviews and used to record key concepts
identified as administrators responded. For some questions, their responses were used
to elicit the next level of question (Harding & Livesay, 1984). For example, administrators
were asked to describe what they think constitutes peer sexual harassment. A list was
made of all the components identified. Then for each component, they were asked to
suggest a response that an administrator could make to each component. In this way,
categories were identified during the interview and used as the basis for the next deeper
level of probing question.
An audiotape recording was made of each interview and later transcribed. A
content analysis of the transcriptions was used to identify themes in the responses of
administrators as they talked about peer sexual harassment. By identifying themes from
the interview data, more could be learned about how elementary administrators
organized their knowledge about peer sexual harassment (Spradley, 1979). These
51


themes were analyzed for patterns of differences across gender and district, years of
experience, and types of professional development on the topic of peer sexual
harassment. The moral-political-legal framework described in the review of the literature
was applied to themes that emerged from the interviews.
After each interview was transcribed, I read the full contents several times to
begin to code content and identify domain themes. Notes were taken and examples
identified for each code and theme. Interviews were copied on colored paper coded by
gender and district and responses to each question cut apart from the whole transcript
of the interview and separated into groups. For example, four colors were used to
distinguish responses by male, female, district one, and district two. A repeated
comparative method was used to identify themes for the responses to each question.
These responses were read and notes taken on codes and tallies of frequency were used
to indicate commonalities among the responses. Next, responses were considered by
gender to identify themes and finally by district. Responses were read and notes tallied
to identify major themes in response to each interview question. Later themes were
analyzed across interview questions to address research questions. The organization of
the findings section is first based on major themes identified in response to each
interview question. Highlights and examples were provided first for themes that are
common for most of the responses, second for differences by gender, and finally for
differences by district Tables were constructed to show the number of responses by
theme, gender, and district.
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Sample
This section first discusses recruitment of both the districts and the
administrators from each district to participate in the study. Next, the districts are
described, along with their policies on sexual harassment and non-discrimination. Finally,
a description of the administrators and their experience is represented, first with a table,
and then their commonalities as well as differences are highlighted.
Recruitment of Districts
Two districts were chosen based on their interest in participating in this research
project. Both districts had policies on sexual harassment and had provided some training
to administrators on this topic. Initial contact with each district was made through the
Assistant Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent. After I explained the purpose of the
study, both administrators expressed an interest in having their district participate. Each
district had policies and procedures in place to evaluate and approve research projects.
A brief description of the study was presented as part of this application process along
with required assurances including informed consent required by the universitys human
subjects committee (see Appendix A).
The districts participated in this study because of their desire to learn more about
helping their administrators effectively deal with issues of student-to-student sexual
harassment. Each district requested a summary of the general findings at the conclusion
of the study to assist them in planning professional development for administrators.
53


Limitations of This Study
A limitation of this study is that it relies on self-report of administrators without an
opportunity to compare administrators reports to data from teachers working at each
school, data from parents, or data from students. Asking administrators for copies of
their discipline reports, referrals to social services, or summaries of investigations they
have conducted regarding sexual harassment could have served to confirm their own
reports. Some cross checking was possible by using information from the central office
administrators who supervise elementary principals and handle Title IX complaints at the
district level. In Riverton there was one central office administrator who performed both
functions and in Valley View one central office administrator supervised elementary
principals while another is the Title IX officer. The comments by these central
administrators did not differ from the responses of the building level administrators and
served to confirm the descriptions offered by the elementary principals.
Another caution was that the coding of the interviews was conducted by one
person. On one hand this allows for continuity and reliability in the interpretation of the
responses. On the other hand it does not allow for the added perspective of other raters.
In situations that were unclear I did cross checking with my chair or another professor
with expertise in gender equity. This study could be replicated by other researchers
coding responses and tallying results for each question by gender and district responses.
Recruitment of Administrators
Twelve elementary principals and the central office administrators who supervise
them were identified from each district. Principals had at least three years of experience
54


as a school-level administrator and equal numbers of males and females were recruited
from each district. It was important that both male and female voices be included in this
study and that principals had at least three years of experience upon which to build their
knowledge base and to have sufficient experience in dealing with sexual harassment
problems. The Title IX officers and Elementary Education Directors in each district also
were interviewed to determine the extent of awareness and professional development
provided to elementary administrators from the central level.
During my initial contact by telephone with administrators, I briefly described the
study. My telephone contact confirmed that the study had been approved by the district
administration and the research and evaluation committee. I was given a letter from
each district to verify this information. Participation in the study was strictly voluntary.
Before the interview began, I provided a brief written summary of the purpose of
the study to each participant. I explained that I was an elementary principal and had
grappled with how to deal with student-to-student sexual harassment in my own practice.
The consent form was explained and signed before each interview began. No
administrator contacted declined to participate, and all were willing to have the interview
audio-taped. All interviews were conducted at the administrators office, as this was most
convenient for them. I took notes on the interview protocol in addition to the audiotaped
record. Interviews ranged from 25 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes in length. The
majority of interviews lasted just under one hour.
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Researchers Relationship with Interviewees
At the time my interviews were conducted (1999), I was a principal at an
elementary school. When I contacted the principals by phone, I introduced myself as a
principal working toward my doctoral degree. Eleven administrators I met for the first
time during our interview. Twelve interviewees I had met through professional circles
previously, and one was a personal friend. Rapport was easily established with each
administrator during some preliminary conversation establishing common background
experiences or contacts. The majority of the administrators seemed relaxed, open, and
eager to discuss this topic. These administrators seemed to perceive me as a trusted
colleague and a few were interested in learning more about my experiences and
perceptions. When I described the risks to them professionally as part of the informed
consent (see Appendix A for the form that they signed), no one opted not to allow the
audiotapingof the interview. Five administrators had conducted research studies as part
of their doctoral work and personally understood my role as a researcher.
Description of the Districts
Riverton and Valley View School Districts are suburban school districts near a
large urban area in the Western United States. Each district included schools in several
communities, some of which are located in rural areas. Total student population was over
18,000 students in Valley View and over 26,000 students in Riverton. The ethnic
makeup for Valley View School District was 1% American Indian, 2% Asian, 1% Black, 24%
Hispanic, and 71% White. In Riverton, the percentages were 1% American Indian, 5%
56


Asian, 2% Black, 11% Hispanic, and 82% White. Valley View District average had a free
and reduced lunch percentage of 20%. Riverton Districts was 12%.
Policies. Each districts policies and procedures pertaining to peer sexual
harassment were reviewed and analyzed in relationship to the interviews with the
administrators from each district.
Both districts had general non-discrimination policies and policies on sexual
harassment (see Appendix B and C for these policies). Rivertons policy had a significant
difference from Valley Views policy in the non-discrimination language. The relevant
portion of Rivertons policy states that
The Board affirms that there shall be no discrimination against anyone in
the school system on the basis of race, age, marital status, creed, color,
sex, disability, or national origin. The ... District will not tolerate
discrimination, harassment, or violence against anyone, including
students and staff members, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual
orientation, age, disability, or religion. (Revised May 26,1994)
The relevant portion of Valley Views policy states that
The Board is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in relation to
race, sex, religion, national background, age, marital status and
handicaps. Respect for the dignity and worth of each individual shall be
paramount in the establishment of ail policies by the Board and in the
administration of those policies by the administration. (1983)
The major difference found in these two policies is the reference to the category
of sexual orientation in the Riverton policy. Riverton had a history of concerns about
harassment of gay/lesbian students. These concerns were made known to the principals,
administrators (including the Superintendent), the Board of education, the larger
community, and have been addressed in public forums. No such open discussion of
concerns regarding sexual orientation occurred in Valley View School District.
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Description of Administrators
Lists of administrators and their schools were obtained from the Colorado
Department of Education Directory. The sample was selected for balance with respect to
gender and district. The Assistant Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent confirmed
which administrators met the criteria. Twelve administrators from each district-six males
and six females for a total of 24 administrators participated in the study. (The sample of
principals represents 39% of the elementary principals in Riverton and 55% percent of
the total number in Valley View). Each district sample also included the central office
administrator(s) charged with implementing Title IX and/or supervising elementary
principals. In Riverton, the female central office administrator (Karen) served in both
roles. In Valley View, a female central office administrator (Jean) supervised elementary
principals and provided assistance to principals in dealing with difficult cases involving
peer sexual harassment. A male central office administrator (Alex) served as the Title IX
officer in Valley View.
Gender and Experience Level of Administrators. The administrators were evenly
split between districts and gender. Another factor was the experience level of the
administrators. As part of the confidentiality agreements of this study, the districts and
administrators were given pseudonyms. Table 3.1 displays the sample of administrators
and gives their pseudonyms.
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Table 3.1
Relationships Among District, Gender, and Experience
Male Administrators Female Administrators
Experience
Riverton Valley Total Riverton Valley Total
View View Total
3-6 Years Kristi Cindy Michele Mary
Experience 0 0 0 2 2 4 4
Jesse Bob Janet Peggy
7-10 Kelly Zack Karen Lynn
Years Stephen Debbie
Experience 3 2 5 2 3 5 10
Matt Alex Becky Jean
11-16 Years Sheryll
Experience 1 1 2 2 1 3 5
Chuck Paul
17-24 Greg Gabe
Years Bill
Experience 2 3 5 0 0 0 5
Total 12 12 24
Commonalities. There were several areas of commonality in the experience level
of the twenty-four administrators interviewed in this study. All of the administrators had
at least three years in their positions. Most of the administrators had between 7-10 years
as principals (10 of 24). The experience levels between the two districts are roughly the
same when men are compared to men and women to women. Principals with 7-10 years
experience and 11-16 years were comparable between both gender and districts.
Differences bv Gender. The women in this study had less experience than the
men. Four women administrators were in the 3-6 year range of experience while no men
59


were in this range. No woman had more that 16 years experience, while five men did.
Although this was not a specific question asked, the women in the study appeared to
mirror the men in their age so this did not seem to account for the difference in
experience between males and females. These districts may reflect the trend in the
literature for women to have more experience as teachers before becoming
administrators than their male counterparts (Blount, 1993).
This notion is supported by Zheng and Carpenter-Hubin (1999) who analyzed
national surveys exploring gender differences in the national school administrator
workforce. These researchers found female principals underrepresented in this
workforce. For example, a gender gap existed between the percentage of women in the
teaching force and the percentage of women in administrative ranks (69.2% of teachers
are female while only 34.5% of principals are female). For principals with less than five
years experience, the percentage of women increased to 38%. They also found that
female principals took longer in their career to enter the position of principal and
continued to make less salary than their male counterparts. Among the female principals
they studied, 11% had five years or less as a teacher, while 24% of the male principals
had five years or less. Over 50% of principals have less than 10 years experience with
teaching when they enter administration. Women took a longer time (both administrative
and teaching years) to become principals. Conversely, male principal aspirants with less
than 10 years of teaching experience had a significantly higher proportion of
opportunities to become principals. Thus, principals in Riverton and Valley View Districts
appeared to mirror this trend for men to become principals much earlier in their careers
as educators than women.
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Differences bv District. A few differences were noted between districts in the
experience of the administrators in the sample. Riverton School District had three
administrators in the 11-16 year range of experience while Valley View had two. On the
other hand, Valley View had three administrators in the 17-24 year range compared to
Riverton with two in this category. These differences in experience of the administrators
from each district were slight.
Conclusion
Attempts to change administrator practice in dealing with peer sexual
harassment should begin with a look at existing practices and beliefs (Guskey &
Huberman, 1995). Ambiguous conditions such as those presented in dealing with peer
sexual harassment are problems that Wagner (1993) calls swampy. These problems are
ill defined, formulated by one's self, require additional information, have no single correct
solution, and involve multiple methods and solutions.
Qualitative interviews provide a useful tool to explore these swampy problems.
Unlike large sample surveys, they focus on particular actors and actions (Sanday, 1990).
The starting point for analysis is reality as perceived by the actors (Harding and Livesay,
1984 p. 67). Such analyses focus from the start on the viewpoints, opinions, felt needs
and wants, perceived costs and benefits, and the critical concerns of the group
members. Interview elicitation techniques are commonly used to identify the models
(structures of knowledge and meaning) in a group members responses. Values and
meaning figure prominently. Next, each of the interview questions is presented with a
summary of the administrators' responses sorted by commonalities and differences.
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CHAPTER 4
ADMINISTRATORS DONT SWEEP IT UNDER THE RUG
This chapter begins by summarizing administrators responses to my interview
questions (see Appendix D for the interview protocol) in terms of themes and illustrative
examples. Each question is examined with respect to (a) commonalties across the
subjects, (b) differences between subjects associated with gender, and (c) differences
between subjects associated with districts. Themes that emerged from the
commonalities across interviews are highlighted in tables and discussed in sub-
categories for each theme. Differences by gender and district are discussed after
commonalities. Next, commonalities and differences in administrator responses are
illustrated in tables. Excerpts from interviews and my interpretation are included to
illustrate themes.
Results Summarized bv Interview Questions
In this section each of the interview questions will be summarized by themes that
emerged from the analysis of data. Chapter 5 will consider the themes across interview
questions in response to the research questions.
Summary of Question 1:
Administrators' Definitions
Administrators definitions of peer sexual harassment ranged from somewhat
vague references to inappropriate sexual contact to very specific textbook-like
definitions. An Illustration of a more nebulous definition was "Verbal comments,
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drawings, or written communications to other people that involve or relate to a persons
sexuality (Stephen). Textbook-like descriptions defined more detail including notions
such as the discomfort of the victim and threats against a person's gender. Samples
include:
Anything a child does to another that makes them uncomfortable in a sexual way.
It can be words that they use or their actions. The way I talk about it to kids is
that if it makes you uncomfortable then it becomes harassment. (Cindy)
Anything the child of one gender does to make a child of the opposite
gender feel uncomfortable...or to create an environment where a child of
the opposite or even the same gender feels uncomfortable. (Kristi)
Commonalities in Administrators Definitions. Three critical elements of an act of
sexual harassment identified in the literature are that it (a) is related to threats against a
persons gender or sexual orientation, (b) is not welcomed by him or her, and (c) makes
the victim uncomfortable (Leeser & ODonohue, 1997).
Administrators discussed two of these three key elements. The most frequent
element present in their definitions was the discomfort of the victim (eleven of the
seventeen responses). Below is the range of administrators description of this element
of the definition:
Anything that makes a student uncomfortable in terms of talk or touch.
(Sheryl)
Any kind of touching or verbalizing in a way that makes the other person
uncomfortable. (Debbie)
Inappropriate comments, language, or physical contact that [makes] the
other student feel uncomfortable (Michele)
Anything that makes a person feel uncomfortable and creates a hostile
environment for them. (Lynn)
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Unwanted or unwelcome inappropriate comments or physical contact that
results in the other person feeling uncomfortable. (Janet)
When someone feels victimized by another person and it can include physical
or emotional feelings. (Karen)
A situation between peers where the child is made uncomfortable. (Mary)
Anytime one student is doing something to another student..where the other
student is feeling uncomfortable or intimidated. (Gabe)
Any time a student is made to feel uncomfortable with language or touching
of body parts. (Bill)
The second element present in administrators definitions of sexual harassment
was explicit references to threats against a persons gender (seven out of seventeen
responses in the sample). Three male administrators from Riverton and four female
administrators (evenly split between Valley View and Riverton) referred to threats
because of gender in their definition. Examples include:
Verbal or some kind of physical action that someone takes that
relates to gender or sex. (Chuck)
Gender inappropriate responses, touching, innuendos, behavior, or
language. (Matt)
Any type of name calling or treating someone in a ...negative way that
has to do with gender. (Greg)
Anything the child of one gender does to make a child of the opposite
gender feel uncomfortable. (Kristi)
Less frequently mentioned elements of their definitions were the
elements of power, patterns of behavior, and hostile environment. Each was
explicitly mentioned only once during the definition task. While administrators did
not use these specific words in definitions, these ideas were implied in the
responses noted above and in their responses to the case study or other
64


questions posed during the interviews. Perhaps because the definition task was
presented early in the interview, it caused some anxiety before rapport between
the administrator and the interviewer was firmly established. Thus, the definitions
offered early in the interview may not reflect the complexity of these
administrators' understanding of peer sexual harassment. These concepts may
be present in their thinking but not explicitly identified. On the other hand, these
administrators may not make strong connections between sexual harassment
and the issue of power differences.
Table 4.1 shows both commonalities as well as the differences in district
and gender in the elements administrators included in their definitions of peer
sexual harassment.
Table 4.1 Definitions of Sexual Harassment by Gender and District*
Elements Male Administrators Female Administrators 1
of Administrators Definitions Riverton Valley View Total Riverton Valley View Total Total
Discomfort Of Victim 0 Bill Gabe 2 2 Janet Kristi Sheryl Karen Cindy 5 Debbie Peggy Michele Lynn 4 9 11
Threats Against Gender Greg Matt Chuck 3 0 3 Kristi Becky 2 Peggy Lynn 2 4 7
Total 5 12 17
*Two female administrators used both elements in their definition; therefore their
responses are listed twice (once in each of the two categories).
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Differences bv Gender. Differences by gender were apparent in the way
administrators defined peer sexual harassment. Male administrators often
overlooked the discomfort of the victim of the harassment. Only two of the twelve
male administrators interviewed included the reaction of the victim in their
definitions. Bill and Gabe (both from Valley View) described sexual harassment as
any time a student is made to feel uncomfortable with language or touching of
body parts...! find it mostly related to language (Bill), and "any time one student
is doing something to another student...where the other student is feeling
uncomfortable or intimidated (Gabe).
In contrast, 9 of 12 of the female administrators, triple the number of
men, described the reaction of the victim as a critical element. Women were a
little more likely than men to include the discomfort of the victim and gender
threats (four women compared to three men). Some examples of these womens
definitions include:
Any kind of harassment involving gender or gender differences. (Lynn)
Physical or verbal assault related to ones sexual body parts,
sexuality, [or] gender issues.... Referring to ones sexuality or ones
gender in a derogatory way. (Becky)
A comment to or about another student that is demeaning about the
persons gender. (Peggy)
Only two administrators, Kristi (Riverton) and Peggy (Valley View), used two
elements in their definitions. These gender differences may indicate that the
women in the study had a richer concept of sexual harassment than the men.
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One explanation is that women administrators are more empathetic with the
victims of peer sexual harassment because they are more likely to have been
victims of sexual harassment themselves or to feel the threat of sexual
harassment (Adkison, 1982). The responses of the women administrators may
reflect a greater tendency for women to approach interpersonal problems from a
caring orientation that pays close attention to feelings (Attanucci & Wiggins,
1988; Gilligan, 1982; Noddings, 1984).
Differences bv District. While most of the differences in response to this question
were by gender, there were slight differences by district. Only two male administrators,
(Bill and Gabe) both from Valley View included the element of the discomfort of the victim
in their definition of peer sexual harassment. Riverton administrators mentioned threats
against gender five times as compared to three times by Valley View administrators.
Perhaps differences in the content of district required legal training each set of
administrators reported they attended might account for this variation.
Summary of Question 2: Causes
All administrators agreed that peer sexual harassment is a problem in schools,
and they reflected on both its causes and effects:
I think its a problem because I dont think that we have addressed it openly.
(Bob)
It is a problem because we keep dealing with it on a fairly regular basis. (Paul)
If we have one case, its a problem__I don't think its anything we have
addressed in a real formal, routine manner.(Bill)
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I think that in my 13 years as an administrator Ive seen an increase in it. Im
not sure if its because as a species we are maturing faster or whether it has
to do with social influencesperhaps the breakdown of the family. (Kelly)
Do I think it's a problem? Yes. Do I think its overwhelming? No. Do I think
were doing everything we need to do? Im not sure we have [adequately
addressed the problem]. (Karen)
It disrupts the school environment and it can disrupt the home environment.
Sometimes its the result of some problems in the home that have been
unresolved. It becomes a very complex issue for the school to deal with.
(Jean)
Commonalities of Descriptions of the Problem of Sexual Harassment. The
reasons administrators gave for why peer sexual harassment is a problem in their
schools were confounded with their frustration in dealing with it. They speculated on
causes for peer sexual harassment that reflect outside influences and are beyond
administrators control (11 of 24 responses). Next they discussed the effects that sexual
harassment has on the school environment and identified the prime effect as that it
obstructs learning and causes problems for students (5 of 24 responses). The third
category related to the need for administrators to respond to the problem in their
schools. It challenges educators to make changes either to their own beliefs or those of
students and parents (4 of 24 responses). Finally, four administrators agreed that sexual
harassment is a problem in schools but did not clearly identify why it is so. Table 4.2
summarizes reasons administrators identified when asked why peer sexual harassment
is a problem in schools:
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Table 4.2
Causes of Problem by Gender and District
Why Is Sexual Male Administrators Female Administrators Total
Harassment A Problem? Riverton Valley View Total Riverton Valley View Total
Kelly Bob Becky Lynn
Causes: Jesse Bill Kristi Jean
Reflects Matt Alex Karen
Outside
Influences
3 3 6 3 2 5 11
Stephen Cindy Peggy
Effect: Janet Mary
Obstructs
Learning and
Causes 1 0 1 2 2 4 5
Problems for
Students
Chuck Gabe Sheryl Michele
Response:
Challenges
Educators to
Change 1 1 2 1 1 2 4
Agrees It Is A Greg Paul Debbie
Problem But Zack
Gives No 1 2 3 0 1 1 4
Reason |
Total 12 | 12 24
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Causes: Outside Influences. The more precise causes given for why sexual
harassment was a problem at school were that it is a result of poor models from the
students home, the media, and the larger society (eleven of twenty-four responses). This
view cut across both gender and districts. This explanation was not used to excuse
inaction on the part of the schools, but administrators saw sexual harassment as a larger
problem that they alone were relatively powerless to solve.
Parents can be negative influences by not believing that their child could
participate in sexual harassment, and by not seeing anything wrong with actions that
they might describe as normal exploration or as boys will be boys. They also may be
modeling sexist, racist, and or abusive behavior at home (either with the child, siblings, or
the other parent). One female administrator from Riverton (Kristi) observed that because
certain families are not aware of the problem of sexual harassment, they do not teach
their children to refrain from it. These families also neglect to teach their children how to
solve problems in general and they fail to monitor their childrens behavior in an ongoing
fashion. She speculated that children from such families may have unmet needs that
cause them to exert inappropriate power over other children at school.
A male administrator from Valley View (Bob) agreed that families contribute to the
problem by reinforcing gender stereotyping, There are a lot of values that kids grow up
with from their families that make them victim [for example] the weak or submissive
female and the aggressive male. One male administrator from Riverton (Jesse) who
worked in schools with many families in poverty distinguished families contribution to
the problem of sexual harassment on the basis of socioeconomic status:
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There are families that think that girls are [less valuable] than boys and
[in those cases we in schools are] dealing with family prejudices. Often
[that means we must promote a change in perspective] for poor families.
I think that people arent so subtle here [at this school with more families
in poverty]. [In] schools where I have worked where there are a lot of
wealthy families, harassment issues were a lot more subtle, but they
were a lot more sexually harassing. (Jesse)
In Jesse's view, children from families of poverty may not learn that sexist
behavior is not acceptable at school because of models of behavior from home. Children
from middle class households may have more opportunity to learn that sexist behavior is
not acceptable but may act out at school despite this awareness.
On the seductive power of the media, a female principal from Riverton (Becky)
criticized the profound influence it has on school children:
[In] everything from videos to advertisements youll see people touching
inappropriately, moving inappropriately, or doing things that are not okay
for children. Our children are bombarded by models that are not
appropriate. (Becky)
In discussing the medias role in contributing to peer harassment, a male
principal from Riverton (Greg) made an observation based on his experience with a
fourth grade boy. The boy got into trouble for sexual harassment at school and Greg felt
that both the lack of parental supervision and the powerful influence of television and
movies contributed. He noted that:
I think kids are getting more of a sexual awareness at an early age that
they have no way of being able to deal with at that age. I happen to
believe that feeds into some of this sexual harassment and sexual
behavior that you see in kids. Then you add to that the kind of stuff you
see in politics, Clinton and all of that in the news, that's stuff kids hear.
(Greg)
Another cause of frustration for school administrators about the problem of peer
sexual harassment was that the school reflects society instead of shaping it. A female
71


administrator from Valley View (Lynn) described this as, a problem in societywe really
are a little microcosm of what goes on in the big world. Another female administrator
working as the elementary director and Title IX officer for Riverton (Karen) pointed out
that, Our societys attitude that continues to permeate [is that] boys will be boys, or
[that] sexual innuendo is okay, or [that] some forms of harassment are just normal
everyday growing up.
Effect: Sexual Harassment Obstructs Learning and Causes Other Problems for
Students. Administrators were concerned with the negative effect sexual harassment had
on a safe learning environment. They believed that an environment of threat and fear
distracted students from both healthy social relations and academic pursuits. Five
administrators stated that peer sexual harassment created obstacles to learning for
students. Problems for students included emotional damage or the general discomfort
that can result from bullying, intimidation, and put-downs because of gender. A climate in
which these are present disrupts learning for many students.
Matt (Riverton) described sexual bullying and stereotyping as when males say to
females:
Im bigger, better, stronger, smart and smarter, as fast and faster. [This
intimidation determines] who can play games and who cant [just]
because of their gender. We confront it in classrooms. We confront it in
physical education classes, on the playground, it happens most
anywhere. (Matt)
Mary (Valley View) believed, "it is a problem because we have both boys and girls
that are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality and learning about it. Cindy
(Riverton) expressed concern about how young this pattern started, I deal with it
probably on close to a daily basis in school. It can be the physical touching or it can be
72


the words that they use. Lots of kids accuse other kids of being gay, being with so-and-so,
even in second grade. Pretty awful." Janet (Riverton) expressed a concern associated
with harassment focused on sexual orientation beginning early:
When kids are playing Smear the Queer on the playground or calling
each other fag or lesbian. They do it in an unkind way. When I talk to kids
about what those words mean [I find] theyre pretty clear about what
those words mean. (Mary)
This kind of case points out that harassment because of perceived differences begins at
an early age. An American Association of University Women (1993) survey of students in
grades 8-11 confirmed that of the fourteen types of harassment described to them, none
provoked as strong a reaction among the boys as being called gay. Eighty-five percent
of the boys in this study claimed that they would be very upset by such harassment. It
seems that reaction to homosexuals as a hated and feared out-group begins early in peer
socialization.
Response: Sexual Harassment Challenges Educators to Change Beliefs/Values.
Four administrators believed that one possible response for administrators to peer
sexual harassment is to find ways to prevent it by intervening to educate. These
administrators emphasized the belief that they should be proactive in creating a climate
at school that deters peer sexual harassment. Michele (Valley View) had several
strategies that she felt create a school climate where peer sexual harassment does not
occur. She believes that part of creating this climate is a school where students have
the opportunity to talk about the way theyre treated. Sheryl (Riverton) described her
"education conference" as a strategy to assist the children in understanding and having
empathy for others:
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We go through the incident. We use the words that could be identified as
sexual harassment. [Then we describe] why that makes people
uncomfortable and 1 allow kids to ask questions, any questions, so that i
know they understand why [what they've done or said] could [make
another student] uncomfortable. (Sheryl)
Stephen (Riverton) also used conferences with students to heighten their awareness by
"...naming it and redirecting behavior usually changes [the pattern or harassing]
behavior.
Differences bv Gender. A difference in administrator responses by gender
appeared in their descriptions of why sexual harassment is a problem in schools. While
all administrators agreed that it is a problem, one woman (of twelve), Debbie from Valley
View and three men (Greg, Paul, and Zack) were unable or unwilling to articulate a cause
of the problem.
Also, more women than men administrators described the problem of peer sexual
harassment from a student-centered perspective (4 women to one man). Just one male
administrator from Riverton (Stephen) noted that sexual harassment is a problem in
schools because it obstructs learning and causes problems for students. Perhaps women
are more sensitive to the problem sexual harassment causes for students in their
schools. In her study of state and district administrators and their implementation of
various equity mandates, Adkison (1982) found that the women in her study were more
active in their implementation of equity initiatives than the men. She claimed that
persons with personal experience with institutional discrimination tend to be more
attuned to bias and thus are apt to be stronger advocates for change.
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Differences bv District. One third of the administrators from Riverton School
District pointed out problems of discrimination because of sexual orientation. None of
the administrators from Valley View School District noted this as a problem. District
differences at the policy level, at the content level for training and legal briefings, and at
the awareness level in the perception of the administrators may account for this
difference in administrators views.
Rivertons policy explicitly names sexual orientation as a problem. A compelling
letter from a gay student to his former high school principal outlining the extent and harm
done to him by harassment during his school career served to motivate discussions of
this problem in the community, at Board of education meetings, and among
administrative staff in Riverton. These discussions led the Board of Education to include
sexual orientation as a protected class in their non-discrimination policy in 1996. Valley
View School District has not explicitly included this class in their non-discrimination
policy. If complaints from students have surfaced regarding the treatment of gay/lesbian
students in particular, they have not reached the Board, community, and administrator
level for debate and discussion.
Summary of Question 3: Case Descriptions
All twenty-four administrators were able to describe at least one case of peer
sexual harassment they had dealt with at their school or at the district level. Several
described more than one case (some in response to other interview questions or after
the tape was turned off and the official interview had ended). The cases the principals
described covered students from every grade level in the elementary school continuum
75


from kindergarten to sixth grade. Boys most often were the harassers (23 cases
compared to 4 cases involving girls as harassers). Examples included boys initiating
touching, making derogatory remarks about gender, name calling (including homophobic
comments), graffiti, and exposing themselves or paying others to do so. Cases varied
from a single incident to repeated patterns of behavior. Table 4.3 provides a summary of
the cases divided by district, gender of the administrator, and categories of physical and
verbal (sexist or suggestive remarks) type incidents.
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Table 4.3 Cases by Gender, District, and Gender of Students
Type of Incident Gender of Administrator Harasser(s) Victim (s) Complaint
Riverton Physical Advances (11 cases) Males l61 grade boy 1st grade boy 2nd grade girl 5th grade boy 5th grade boy 1st grade boy 1st boys/girls boys & girls 6th grade girl 5lh grade girl Repeatedly grabbing of private parts Drops pants & masturbates In class Punching private parts under clothes Sexual touching during dancing Put his hand under her shirt
Females 1st grade boy 3rd grade boys 3rd grade boy 4th grade girl 3rd grade boy 3rd grade boys 1st boys & girls 3rd grade girl 3rd grade girl 4th grade boys 3,d grade girl 3rd grade girl Grabs crotches, makes sexual comments and draws skeletons with penlses Continued touching of legs and breast Repeat reached Inside clothes to touch Putting hands on crotch and pulling at pants as well as seductive comments Grabbing hips and buttocks during play Gang kicking and taunting her about gender
Sexist or Suggestive Remarks (7 cases) Males 5,h grade boys 5,fl grade boy 5th grade boys 5th grade boys 5th grade boys 5th grade girls Calling boys queer or homosexual Calling boys gay because they like girls Putdowns In PE related to gender
Females Boy Boys & girls 6th grade boys 4th grade boys Girl Boys 6th grade boy 4lh grade boy Negative comment about gender Putdowns using gay and lesbian Spreading sexual rumors and Implying he was having sex with another boy Called him a fag" and laughed at him
Valley View Physical Advances (8 cases) Males K boy 1st grade girl 4'h grade boys 5th grade boy 5lh grade boy K boys/girls 1st grade boys 4th grade girls 5,h grade girl 5lh grade girl Repeated dropping pants on playground Continued kissing of boys Touching and making sexual comments Purposely grabbing breasts during game Poking and sexual teasing
Females 1st grade boy 4lh grade boy 4th grade boy 5,h grade boy 1st grade girls 4th grade boys & girls 4th grade girls 5th grade girl Touching girls in a sexual way Physical touching and sexual comments Sexual touching on playground Sexual touching and comments
Sexist or Suggestive remarks (5 cases) Males 6th grade boys 6th grade girl Calling her a bitch and telling her they were going to have sex with her
Females 4,h grade boy Girls 5th grade boy 5th grade girl, boy, and parents 4th grade girl 5th grade girl 5th grade girl 5th grade girl, boy and parents Youve got a nice butt." Girl was in tears. Graffiti of a sexual nature about a girl Racial and sexual comments like, "It looks like you stuff socks In your bra." Students and parents spreading rumors about sexual activity at a party on the weekend


Commonalities. There were two general types of cases described by
administratorsphysical and verbal. The majority of cases (19) involved physical
advances like kissing, touching, exposure, and assault. The second most frequent type of
case (12) was verbal sexist or suggestive remarks. Six cases involved girls as harassers.
Girls were victims of peer sexual harassment in twenty-four of the thirty-one cases; boys
were the victims in twelve cases.
The grade level of students involved in these cases spanned kindergarten to
grade six. All of the cases involving verbal harassment without associated physical
incidents involved children in grade 4 through 6. Half of these language-related incidents
(6 out of 12) happened in fifth grade. Only two of the twenty-three schools in the study
include 6th grade students. Cases of physical advances were reported just as frequently
for grades K, 1, and 2 (ten cases) as for grades 3,4,5, and 6 (nine cases).
There were six cases of physical advances in which children in
kindergarten and first grade were the harassers. One female principal from
Riverton (Janet) pointed out just how young sexual harassment begins in a way
that also illustrates the theme of gender boundary enforcement:
Little girls won't wear dresses to school because they don't want boys to
look up their skirts or if they wear dresses they always wear bike shorts
because they feel like boys might reach up under their skirts. The issue of
sexual orientation and commentsdegrading comments about
someones sexual orientation start really, really, young. (Janet)
The aggressiveness of young children in harassing others has been documented
in studies tracking incidents of peer harassment by following cohorts of youngsters
through the elementary grades (Boivin, Hymel, & Hodges, 2001). These longitudinal
studies determined that aggression becomes progressively less related to peer
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harassment with age. Children who were aggressive in the early grades were also more
likely to continue to be harassed by their peers even when their aggression lessened over
time. This research also documented that the vicious cycle of harassment is fed by the
family-relational victim schema where these children give signals that are likely to yield to
others attempts to have control or power over them. These researchers also suggest that
children who possess these schemas are most likely to take advantage of children who
emit victim-like signals.
The young ages at which harassment begins has led the administrators in this
study to the received wisdom that one underlying cause of peer sexual harassment in
younger children may be a response to his or her own abuse at the hands of adults or
older children. Physical advances as well of some verbal harassment by primary-aged
children often led administrators to suspect that the perpetrator was also the victim of
abuse by an adult or older child. Since the majority of the sexual harassers are boys,
perhaps these boys are acting out the need for power and dominance over someone less
powerful as a result of their own abuse or harassment at the hands of someone more
powerful. For some boys and men aggression is one of the major strategies for proving
their masculinity, especially among boys and men who may feel powerless in their lives
(Doyle & Paludi, 1994). Certainly, repeated abuse and harassment could create a feeling
of powerlessness and a need to dominate others in retaliation. However, boys are not
always the harassers as this next case illustrates.
Young girls at times act out against others as a way to attract the attention of
adults. A Riverton male administrator (Kelly) described an incident that occurred in an
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after school program. A second-grade girl punched the genital areas of other children.
Kelly declared:
We turned it in to social services and got the police involved. I think one
of the mistakes [administrators make] is not seeing this kind of behavior
as serious because of the innocence of elementary children. When social
services people get involved, they can do an investigation and answer
questions like: Where does this behavior come from? Is there something
happening to the student at home that would cause him or her to act out
in this way? (Kelly)
Another male administrator from Riverton (Chuck) described the case of a first grade boy
repeatedly grabbing the crotch of another boy. In this case he also reported the case to
social services for further investigation and shortly after the harasser was withdrawn
from the school. Typically the child could enroll in another school with no record of his
past behavior following to the next school. A parent may also withdraw a child and elect
to home school him.
A female administrator from Riverton (Becky) told of a first grade boy who
continually made sexual comments, drew skeletons with a penis hanging down, talked
"potty talk, and sometimes grabbed the crotch of other students. This boy was staffed
into special education for behaviors related to manic depression and some psychotic
tendencies. He required close monitoring, supervision, and therapeutic intervention. The
principal suspected some abuse at home or in his day care situation, and felt the school
staff were just on the verge of really understanding the causes of his behavior.
Gender Policing and Harassment Related to Sexual Orientation. Cases
sometimes involved put-downs related to gender (three cases) or sexual orientation (five
cases). These cases occurred most often in grades three, four, five, and six. In third
grade, a boy taunted a girl that girls were not as good as boys. A fifth-grade boy was
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accused of name-calling and offensive comments, including saying that girls can't do
things as well as boys. In sixth-grade, a couple boys called a girl a "bitch repeatedly and
claimed they were waiting to have sex with her. After a sixth-grade girl and fifth-grade boy
were accused of "dirty dancing at a school-sponsored dance, boys were sexually
harassing other boys. Some boys were calling other boys "queer and homosexual
because they didnt think it was appropriate to "dirty dance (dancing close, rubbing
bodies, and putting hands on the girls body) and a fist fight ensued. The principal from
Riverton (Matt) described this as" boys telling other boys that what they were doing was
not okay... boys telling back that this is what boys do when they get to this age. This is
what sex is all about. Another set of incidents in fifth-grade resulted in put-downs by a
boy against other boys saying they were gay because they held hands with girls.
These types of cases may illustrate the concept that Thorne (1993) identifies as
gender boundary policing by children aimed at establishing a common understanding
and alignment with proper forms of masculine and feminine behavior. Students often
enforce these boundaries in ways that show little flexibility and tolerance especially at
the ages when the boundaries are being established. Connell (1996) notes that some of
these masculinizing effects are intended by the school as an institution, some
unintended, and some unwanted but still take place. Certainly, peer sexual harassment
is one such unintended and unwanted consequence. Shakeshaft et al. (1995) reported
that harassment of boys often takes the form of homophobic insults or references to
females such as fag, queer, pussy, old lady, girl, or sissy. She concluded that boys work
hard not to be labeled homosexual and to make their behaviors fit the common pattern
for stereotypical masculine behaviors.
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Differences bv Gender. Women were much more likely to volunteer more
than one case than the men. One female administrator described four cases
while another three described two cases. Just one male administrator described
two cases, and none described more than two. Women in this study had more to
say in response to interview questions than the men (nearly double the
transcribed pages). This may indicate a desire to discuss these issues and to
share successes along with frustrations with someone else on the part of these
women administrators. Mishler (1986) observed that when research participants
find a topic interesting they will discuss the topic at length, but cautions that one
should not assume that this means they also find the topic important.
Differences bv District. Administrators from Riverton described more
cases (18 compared to 13). Riverton administrators also had longer responses to
all questions compared to Valley Views administrators using number of
transcribed pages as the measure.
Of the eighteen cases administrators described, seven involved verbal
remarks. Five of the seven verbal cases involved harassment related to sexual
orientation. None of the cases described by administrators from Valley View
involved sexual orientation. Perhaps this difference was influenced by the explicit
policy that Riverton adopted (see Appendix B) stating this type of harassment is
prohibited. The content of the policy and legal updates in Riverton also may have
emphasized this area as a concern for educators.
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Summary of Question 4: Handling of Cases
Commonalities. Administrators took three courses of action in response to peer
sexual harassment incidents: (a) investigate and implement consequences, (b) refer to
social services or local law enforcement, and (c) suspend from school. In all thirty-one
cases they reported that they investigated, they held conferences with students,
informed parents, and arranged for a plan including consequences to follow. Sometimes
this plan involved closer supervision by the adults at school, as well as changing
classrooms or restriction from areas of the playground.
Investigate and Implement Consequences. All principals reported that they took
complaints seriously and understood their role is to investigate, inform parents, counsel
students and their parents, and impose consequences that are not only punitive but
educational as well. Comments that showed their commitment to taking the problem
seriously included:
I dont sweep it under the rugI address it directly. Schools should be
safe places. Word is outthats not acceptable behavior. (Zack)
I deal with it exclusively and strongly, not viciously but with strength. 1
think all parties are helped. They will not leave our elementary schools
not having a clear idea of what crossing the line into sexual harassment
means. (Kristi)
They reported spending many hours conducting investigations, notifying
parents, conferencing, and working out plans to eliminate negative behaviors
that cause students not to feel safe or fully participate in learning opportunities.
Safety was a primary concern of elementary principals as described by Greg from
Riverton:
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I guess I dont get too concerned about how we label it...as much as what
do we need to do to correct whatever is going on. [I need to] maintain for
the people involved, particularly the victims, their dignity, and their right
to come to school every day to a safe place where they really want to be.
Investigating and implementing plans and consequences focused on teaching
children lessons on how to get along as well as providing clear information about
expectations and consequences is a response that administrators make to ensure a safe
learning environment for their students. They also reported using other strategies for
addressing underlying causes of sexual harassment through counseling the children. It
also meant increasing the awareness of staff about the need to step up effort in the
supervision of the harasser. Mary shared a story that illustrates the great lengths to
which school staff will go to protect children. Her school has center programs for children
with significant emotional problems who are included in general education classrooms.
In this case, a fourth-grade boy with a disability was placed outside his home because of
a history of being sexually abused. Many children reported physical and verbal
harassment by him, including humping boys legs, touching and honking girls breasts,
and forcing unwanted kisses and hugs." The school team developed a strict behavior
plan specifying that no physical contact could occur between him and other students.
Stepped up supervision included having adults escort him between the classroom and
other parts of the building and limiting unstructured time for him during which he had
difficulty controlling his impulses.
This plan required a great deal of time and communication to implement and
monitor. In order to keep parents and victims informed and alert to the problem and the
plan, meetings were held with all the parents of students who were involved. Monthly
meetings were held with the victimized girls individually and in a group, and a boys
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support group meeting was held until this student harasser left school to attend another
school.
Creating a safe place for children to learn often involved teaching them how to
solve conflicts in positive ways. Kristi described how they set up safety zones"peace
places- in their school to provide a forum for students to address problems with each
other. She believed this helped empower girls to share their feelings and to use a step-
by-step problem solving process. Peers were also available on the playground to assist
with solving problems there as well. Student council members rode the buses and took
student concerns to the principal when a fellow student felt threatened or harassed.
Involving the children in problem solving and coming up with plans helped empower the
students with ways of preventing or dealing with peer sexual harassment.
Teaching children lessons about how to get along also involved using district
policy as a tool. Janet told about a fourth-grade boy who was being called a "fag. It was
especially painful for him at the time because he didn't have any friends among the boys.
She asked him to fill out a discrimination form that is part of the districts non-
discrimination policy. It is a form on which a victim can report inappropriate comments in
reference to their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion. After Janet
determined that the offending boys knew what the term fag" meant, she confronted
them with the official complaint form, and they were quite taken aback. She then asked
the boys to call their parents and to tell them what they had said. They received discipline
forms with consequences, including an assignment to do research on questions about
harassment and discrimination that were designed to make them begin to think about
how it feels to be harassed for being different. Janet felt that this approach was
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important so that the students would learn that adults take this kind of name calling
quite seriously.
Refer to Social Services or Local Law Enforcement. The second course of action
administrators took was enlisting the involvement of social services and/or the police in
the investigation. In six instances principals referred cases to social services and/or the
police for investigation. Investigations were not only of the primary incident, but included
looking into possible causes of the behavior such as abuse of the child doing the
harassing. A Riverton administrator often referred cases to social services despite parent
objections:
I would recommend that people err on the side of caution and involve
social services. Let them do the investigation. I know there is a lot of
concern in the parent community about social services having so much
control and authority in this world, but its there because we need to
protect the kids. (Kelly)
Community or administrative referrals to law enforcement and social services for
investigation of suspected abuse can be complicated and spill over into the school and
create a hostile environment. One example was charges of third party sexual abuse after
a sexual incident in a home resulted in a police investigation. Common practice requires
that any time a student alleges that someone other than the family has hurt or harassed
them administrators must investigate from a district policy and discipline perspective.
They must also make a referral to the police in cases of suspected abuse by a third party
(instances involving the family are referred to social services and may result in criminal
charges as well).
The aftermath of this investigation was that students were repeating rumors at
school about sexual misconduct. These rumors created an environment at school that
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