An unwanted behaviour including nonverbal, verbal, written, graphic, sexual, or physical nature that is directed at an individual or group by race, sex, or national origin is termed harassment. But harassment is not about all about gender, race, color, or ethnicity but it is about bullying, misuse of power, and other activities geared towards depriving the victim equality. In a single incident, it can be blatant or subtle. It can happen between students, adults, or even between an adult and a student and it can happen at any age.
The students harassing teachers is a complex and multi-faceted problem that has been in existence for decades. It was first examined by one of the Finland researchers (Kivivouri, 1996) and researchers from United Kingdom (Pervin and Turner, 1998). They suggested that there are some patterns and characteristics of student behaviour towards their teacher which may be identified as harassment which is quite different from the general disruptive behavior or violence. The students harassing teachers is now emerging as a global issue.
As stated by Olweus (1993), harassment relationship involves an “asymmetric power imbalance.” However, Smith and Thompson (1991) extend their definition and acknowledge that the students’ harassment may be stronger, or seen to be stronger than the teacher.
Normally, it would be difficult to claim that a teacher, who has the maturity, size, financial independence and power conferred by the state in their favor, could be in a weaker position of power than a student. With such a position, teacher’s power is conceivable if the entire class is involved in the harassment. In this scenario, the power imbalance is evident, due to the total number of students forming a “pack” against the teacher (Chan, 2009).
The students harassing teachers has been shown to involve a multitude of direct or indirect behaviors (Aluede, 2006; Marini, 2006). However, many research literature agreed that harassment might be committed to both explicitly and covertly in relational, technological, physical or verbal forms. The direct form of students harassing teachers may include hitting, spitting, shoving, hair pulling, inappropriate touching, and abusive telephone calls. The indirect form of harassment may be verbal (the use of sexually inappropriate or abusive language, racist remarks, cruel and hurtful comments about teachers’ personal appearance or character or intimidation and threats of violence or non-verbal (making offensive gestures and noises, staring, giggling or mocking the teacher, use of intimidating and threatening facial expressions, eye contact and body language, slamming or throwing objects or damage to or theft of teachers’ property) (Aluede, 2006).
Smith and Shu, 2000 has shown that while most harassment between pupils appears to take place in the schoolyard and to a lesser extent in classrooms and corridors, harassment can, in fact, occur in any location. It has also been indicated by Pervin and Turner’s (1998) in U.K. that incidents of harassment had taken place during regular lessons in the classroom while 32% of teachers stated that it occurred in the school corridor.
In a bid to stop students from harassing teachers, teachers are required to undertake their duties, regardless of their status professionally, and they must comply with all reasonable instructions. Teachers must be aware of what constitutes fair and acceptable behavior all because they have a very active role to play in the advancement of cordial working relationships. Also, harassment may add a threat to the teacher’s health, safety and wellbeing. In case of any form of harassment, the affected teacher has the right to complain under the school’s Code of Practice and Procedure. The Code and Procedures are designed to be transparent and accessible. No teacher should be made to feel guilty or embarrassed in exercising their rights under the Code.
Kivivuori, J. (1997). Harassment and Violence towards Teachers. Helsinki: National Research Institute of Legal Policy
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at School. Oxford: Blackwell
Pervin, K. & Turner, A. (1998). A Study of Bullying of Teachers by Pupils in an Inner London School. Journal of Pastoral Care. Vol. 16 (4), pp.4-10
Smith, P.K. & Thompson, D. (1991). Practical Approaches to Bullying. London: David Fulton Publishers Ltd
Chan, M. E. (2009). “Why Did You Hurt Me?” Victim’s Interpersonal Betrayal Attribution and Trust Implications. Review of General Psychology. Vol. 13(3), pp.262–274
Aluede, O. (2006). Bullying in Schools: A Form of Child Abuse in Schools. Educational Research Quarterly. Vol. 30(l), pp.31-39
Martin, M. (2006). School Matters: the Report of the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools. Department of Education and Science. Dublin: Stationery Office