JOURNAL ARTICLE

Is it bullying or sexual harassment? Knowledge, attitudes, and professional development experiences of middle school staff

Linda Charmaraman, Ashleigh E Jones, Nan Stein, Dorothy L Espelage
Journal of School Health 2013, 83 (6): 438-44
23586889

BACKGROUND: This study fills a gap in the literature by examining how school staff members view bullying and sexual harassment and their role in preventing both. Given recent legislation, increasingly more attention is paid to bully prevention; however, student-on-student sexual harassment is less addressed.

METHODS: Four focus groups were conducted with 32 staff members from 4 midwestern public middle schools. Questions assessed professional development opportunities on bullying and sexual harassment prevention/intervention, personal definitions of these behaviors, and their perceptions of school norms regarding such behavior.

RESULTS: Staff members recalled receiving more professional development on bullying than sexual harassment. They tended to define sexual harassment as something that occurs between adults and/or adults and students and did perceive their role in enforcing a "sexual harassment-free" peer-to-peer school zone.

CONCLUSION: When school administrators fail to provide professional development on both bullying and sexual harassment, staff members do not understand that sexual harassment occurs between students. Thus, they are unaware of policies to protect students from harmful experiences in educational settings and are not likely to understand their own role in preventing them.

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