Anti-gay bullying refers to being picked on, or physically or verbally harassed, because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a form of homophobia and can affect people who are actually GLBT as well as those who are perceived to be.
Normally, we assume that bullies are other kids. But in some cases, the bullies can actually be the teachers.
Want an example? At one school, there were many. Imagine a teacher writing the letter "S" on your hand to indicate that being gay made you a "sinner?" That is just one of the horrifying things that students at a California high school reported having to endure in what many are claiming is a pervasive environment of hostility by teachers towards GLBT students.
But instead of just assuming that there was nothing they could do, students in this school found supportive teachers and together they brought the incidents to the attention of the school board and the ACLU. As a result, district officials say they are addressing the complaints. Though it is too early in this situation to know if real changes will occur, the official response is a positive sign.
So why would a teacher bully a student? According to a report called Teachers Who Bully:
"Teachers who bully feel their abusive conduct is justified and will claim provocation by their targets. They often will disguise their behavior as “motivation” or as an appropriate part of the instruction. They also disguise abuse as an appropriate disciplinary response to unacceptable behavior by the target. The target, however, is subjected to deliberate humiliation that can never serve a legitimate educational purpose."
The study's author also recommends that a schools address the issue of teacher bullying in the following ways.
- Every school should have a clear statement in its policy and its code of professional ethics that specifies bullying behaviors as inappropriate.
- Each school should develop guidelines for the tracking of complaints against teachers who are alleged to bully students.
- Schools should provide opportunities for students whose allegations are substantiated to withdraw from a class without penalty, or to complete the class under the direction of another qualified teacher.
- Orientation of new students and of new teachers should include information about bullying as a violation of policy and hence an “actionable” offense.
Whether or not your school adopts such policies there are still actions you can take. Like the students in California, one of the best things to do is to identify supportive teachers who will back up your complaints, and if other students were the victims, it can also be helpful to make a formal complaint as a group. Here are some additional options:
- Tell your parents what is going on.
- If you feel safe doing so, you can express your feelings to your teacher. He or she might not realize how serious their behavior is. If you do decide to confront your teacher, bring a friend or adult along to back you up and to be a witness.
- Stand up for other people when you see them being bullied. This will help change your school's atmosphere and make teacher bullying seem less acceptable.
- When necessary, you can consider taking legal action.
Teachers can make or break your classroom experience, and no student should live in fear of being bullied by the person who is supposed to be educating him!