HOMOPHOBIC BULLYING IN SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT: EXPERIENCES OF VICTIMS AND WITNESSES BELONGING TO SECONDARY SCHOOLS STAFFS
University of Mons (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Homophobic bullying is a repeated behavior which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically, and is aimed at certain people because of their sexual orientation. Bullying can take many forms such as teasing, name calling, cyber bullying, physical assault… Most homophobic bullying takes place in student groups against teenagers who are unsure about their own developing identity. Even members of the school staff are sometimes victims of these homophobic comportments and that can severely affect their self-esteem and their work potential. These staff members are thus particularly worried about the possible consequences of the disclosure of their homosexuality on their professional reputation. They fear that this could affect their professional credibility and that they could not be able to manage the impact of this information in the institution.
This paper aims at better understanding homophobia in school environment by analyzing experiences of victims and witnesses belonging to secondary schools staff. Do they frequently face homophobic acts from their students or their colleagues? What are the personal and professional consequences of homophobic bullying for these victims? What are the reactions of the witnesses when they have to deal with some form of verbal or physical homophobic bullying? Are there positive measures taken into schools in order to fight homophobic attitudes? We decided to conduct an exploratory research because surveys about homophobic acts towards secondary schools staff are not frequent in the scientific literature. In order to collect our data, we sent a questionnaire to 170 members of secondary school staffs characterized by a large diversity (sex, age, status, teaching discipline for the teachers, sexual orientation...). Our questionnaire uses various items extracted from different existing tools (Beyond the Box, 2014; Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, 2007; Ministère de la santé et des sports, 2008) but we adapted the questions to our population and to the context of our research. The results show that more than half of our subjects have experienced homophobic bullying, as victim or as witness. These acts are often oriented towards the students but 25% of the victims are staff members. The perpetrators are frequently the students themselves but it happens that adults also exhibit this kind of behaviors. The main homophobic acts against the staff members are teasing and name-calling. None of them experienced physical violence. All of them have been concerned about losing their professional reputation. They also strongly felt that their identity was reduced to their homosexuality. In such a context, risk of revealing one's homosexuality is not an easy decision. Social isolation is also often expressed by the victims. The witnesses show various reactions according to their sexual orientation. Heterosexuals are more inclined to face the perpetrators while homosexuals firstly support the victims. Finally, our results show that schools have no formal procedures to deal with bullying and particularly with homophobic bullying. It is therefore urgent to educate the students on anti-discriminatory behaviors and to teach them how to confront homophobic behavior whenever it appears. Schools should deal with homophobic bullying by including it in their educational policies.
Keywords: Education, school staffs, homophobia, homophobic bullying.