Miracles happen in schools every day. Minds are expanded. Passions are discovered. Imaginations are ignighted. Children learn and civilization advances. But sometimes what happens at school is not inspirational. Sometimes students are unbelievably cruel to one another. I don't teach at a school, but I hear things from the kids who write to me. The email I want to share today enraged me past my boiling point. I know I'm supposed to manage my distressing emotions with skill and grace. After all, we're role models, right? I'm supposed to take the high road, along with all those re-centering breaths. But as a woman, a mom, and an educator, this email made me feel like strangling someone. Injustice will do that to me every time.
Have a read:
I just started freshman year and I have to take swim class. I have large breats and the girls in the class make fun of me in the shower and in the pool. Today, while we were swimming, one girl went into my locker and stole my bra. I had to get dressed for my next class without a bra!! Do you have any idea how I felt walking around like that? Guys were staring at me and a few guys tried to touch my breasts! That's what I had to go through for two whol periods until my mom came and brought me a bra. High school just started and I'm a joke already. All my friends are at another school so I've got now one who has my back. – Lost
WOAH!!! What happened to you today is beyond awful. It is also totally unacceptable. For starters, shaming you about your body, having people stare at your breasts and try to touch you… all of this is sexual harassment. Aside from being wrong and disrespectful, it’s against the law.
I understand how awful you feel. I get that you might not want to talk about this, but please talk to your swim teacher ASAP! Hopefully it’s a she, but either way, your teacher needs to know what happened today. No one should get away with going into your locker and stealing anything! But a girl stealing another girl’s bra… that’s unbelievably cruel. I am actually seeing red I'm so angry. And those boys who tried to touch you... they should not get away that behavior.
You wrote to me for advice, so here it is: Get off the computer right now and talk to your mom. You think that “no one has your back.” Not true! Your mom has your back. She proved that today. She can help you. She wants to.
If you were my daughter I would tell you this, “I am so sorry this happened to you. My heart is breaking to hear about it. I know how humiliating this must have been. We need to work together, you and I, to make things better at your school. Better for you with the girls in your gym class and better for you with those boys who bothered you and made you feel even more uncomfortable. You need to let the school know what happened so that the people in charge can make the necessary changes. All students will benefit from those changes because then, everyone will feel safer knowing they will always be treated with respect. There needs to be a meeting with you and the PE teacher, the school counselor and the principal. If you feel you can call for this meeting on your own, then go for it. But if you need my support, then I am here for you 1000%.”
Talk to your mom right now, sweetie. Tomorrow things are going to start to change for the better.
If your child or a student of yours has experienced sexual harassment or “body shaming” at school, I'd like to hear how it was handled with all the inviduals involved. We're all in this together.