An Action Research Study: Using Classroom Guidance Lessons .

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Georgia School Counserlors Association Journal, Volume 13, 2006An Action Research Study:Using Classroom Guidance Lessons toTeach Middle School Students aboutSexual HarassmentRebecca C. Batesdealing with it. In spite of these measures, students continued to engage insexually harassing behaviors. Because ofthe high number of referrals for sexualharassment at this school, this actionresearch (AR) project was undertaken.One seventh-grade team had a very highnumber of referrals for sexualharassment. Prior to the classroomguidance series intervention adopted forthis AR, two of this team’s referralsresulted in out-of-school suspensions,and one in a tribunal hearing that placedthe student in an alternative school.According to school disciplinerecords, the average number of referralsfor sexual harassment per team isapproximately 4 to 5 a month, withdiffering levels of severity. Wheninterviewed about the proposed project,the principal and assistant principalsagreed that some form of action neededto be taken regarding sexual harassment. One seventh-grade team had anaverage of 8 referrals per month – withan unusually high percentage of referralsconsidered to be more severe offensesaccording to the school disciplinerecords. The teachers on the seventh-ABSTRACTThis article describes a three-partclassroom guidance lesson that teachesmiddle school students the definition ofsexual harassment, the differencebetween flirting and sexual harassment,and the harmful effects of sexualharassment. An action research studyevaluated the effectiveness of thelessons in decreasing referrals for sexualharassment in the grade level studied.Suggestions for further research areprovided.AN ACTION RESEARCH STUDY:USING CLASSROOM GUIDANCELESSONS TO TEACH MIDDLESCHOOL STUDENTS ABOUTSEXUAL HARASSMENTSexual harassment is not a new problemin our society. In accordance with ethicaland legal norms, the middle schooldescribed in this study adopted a zerotolerance stance on sexual harassmentand implemented a school policy forRebecca C. Bates is a Professional School Counselor at Indian Creek Middle School inCovington. [email protected]

Georgia School Counserlors Association Journal, Volume 13, 2006insomnia and other psychologicalproblems have been diagnosed. Further,harassment can adversely affect aperson’s future – possibly leading tochronic health problems or affectingcareer outcomes (Grube & Lens).Noting such adverse effects ofsexual harassment, the question arises“what can be done to prevent it?”Common themes throughout theliterature regarding the prevention ofsexual harassment in the schoolsincluded these suggestions foreducators: have open communication,explain reporting procedures, protectstudents who come forward to report,and ensure that each school or systemhas a sexual harassment policy in writingand make it easily accessible (AAUW,2002; Stone, 2000; Wasserman, 2003).AAUW’s guidelines for preventing sexualharassment in schools recommendedthat principals get everyone “on board”including other administrators, teachers,parents, counselors and students inorder to put an end to the problem. It isalso recommended that anyone whowitnessed or was told about sexualharassment should be required to reportit. Further suggestions included:educating parents and enlisting theirsupport; making it clear that harassmentor retaliation against those who report itwill not be tolerated; creating andteaching a sexual harassmentcurriculum; encouraging students to formleadership groups to educate othersabout prevention of sexual harassment;putting sexual harassment on the agendafor PTO meetings; encouraging studentsto speak up for themselves; educatingstudents about how to reportharassment; teaching students tointerrupt any harassment they observe;and reminding victims of sexualgrade team realized the problem andvoluntarily decided to have their classesparticipate in the classroom guidanceactivities for the pilot study.Literature Review of SexualHarassment in Public SchoolsThe literature regarding sexualharassment in public schoolsdemonstrates that sexual harassment isa pervasive problem with far-reachingconsequences. The AmericanAssociation of University Women(AAUW) Educational Foundation’s 2002survey on sexual harassment in grades 8- 11 reported that students were afraid inschool, and the self-confidence ofharassed students was adverselyaffected. Further, only 7% of thoseharassed reported the incident(s), 59%of students admitted to being offenders,most harassment occurred out in theopen, and 85% of students surveyed hadbeen sexually harassed. Wasserman(2003) reported that sexual harassmentcan seriously affect children’s selfconcept. Additionally, many students whohave been harassed reported notwanting to attend school, having troubleconcentrating in class, and having aharder time studying or earning lowergrades. According to Stone (2000)numerous areas of students’ lives areaffected by sexual harassment, includingself-concept, growth, development,identity confusion and popularity. Stonealso reports that embarrassment, selfconsciousness, self-blame, helplessness,and self-doubt may be by-products ofsexual harassment. Harm caused bysexual harassment has been welldocumented (Grube & Lens, 2003).Sexual harassment has been noted tointerfere with a student’s ability to learnand harmful effects such as depression,8

Georgia School Counserlors Association Journal, Volume 13, 2006harassment that it’s not theirfault (AAUW).Wasserman (2003) stressed theimportance of helping studentsdistinguish between wanted versusunwanted behaviors, as well asunderstanding that sexual harassment isillegal and should be reported. Otherstudies emphasized the importance ofcreating a school policy on sexualharassment that outlines specificbehaviors that will not be tolerated,including sexual harassment of teacherstoward students, and stressing toeveryone in the school that the policywill be enforced (“Stress schoolpolicy”, 2004).Multicultural issues were alsoaddressed in the sexual harassmentliterature. Harassment adversely affectslearning opportunities across ethnicgroups, and noted that 39% of AfricanAmericans, 33% of European Americans,and 29% of Hispanic Americans reportednot wanting to go to school due to sexualharassment. Further, 42% of AfricanAmericans, 30% of European Americans,and 35% of Hispanics reported notwanting to participate in class after theharassing incident occurred (Stone,2000). These statistics highlight thenegative impact of sexual harassment onlearning. Stone recommends anadvocacy role for school counselors tohelp alleviate sexual harassment. Furthersuggestions for counselors include: 1)staying current on laws, ethical standardsand district policies, 2) acquiring professional development about sexualmisconduct issues, 3) placing sexualharassment on the agenda of localschool board meetings to raiseawareness, 4) implementing a policy toprotect gay, lesbian and bi-sexualstudents from harassment or othermisconduct, 5) forming a committee toaddress harassment issues, 6)publicizing that the counseling office is asafe place to disclose incidents of sexualharassment, 7) encouraging parentinvolvement, 8) providing sexualharassment workshops for staff, 9)conducting a survey for staff andstudents, and 10) promoting the inclusionof sexual harassment issues in theschool’s curriculum (Stone, 2000).Raising awareness of sexualharassment by 1) reviewing policies,procedures, and behavior expectationswith faculty, staff and the student body, 2)reinforcing the message againstharassment in handbooks, 3) administering a survey on the prevalence ofharassment, 4) instructing students andstaff on how to report sexual harassmentand to whom, and 5) communicatingpolicies and procedures to parents areprevention strategies suggested by Flynn(1997). Grube and Lens (2003)suggested infusing a no tolerancemessage throughout the informalenvironment of the school. Such a policywould ensure that students know theprocedures for reporting sexualharassment and are comfortable in doingso. Developing a workable definition ofsexual harassment, consistentlyvocalizing support for victims andpublicizing knowledge of interest ineliminating sexual harassment areadditional strategies for prevention.Keeping parents informed and involved,as well as supporting students whoreport instances of harassment whileensuring fair treatment of them andprotecting them from any backlash areother prevention strategies. Educatingpersonnel and students about sexualharassment and what it looks like is alsoimportant. Yaffee (1995) recommends9

Georgia School Counserlors Association Journal, Volume 13, 2006EvaluationThe method of evaluation for this projectwas the comparison of the number ofdiscipline referrals for the selected teambefore, during, and after the classroomguidance series where each studentreceived all three lessons. The counselorobtained information about referrals forsexual harassment from the assistantprincipal (AP).teaching students to confront theharassment instantly and to immediatelyreport it. Yaffee points out that whenstudents report incidents of sexualharassment or misconduct, they oftenare met with disbelief or are blamed forthe harassment; therefore, staff must betaught to support and protect students.Equally important, as Yaffee suggests, isthat the staff be familiar with laws andschool policies regarding harassment ifstudents are being taught to report it.This study attempted to implement someof the strategies suggested by variousauthors and to document their impact onsexual harassment referrals.ProcedureResources used for this guidanceseries included the book Group Activitiesfor Counselors (Elliot, 1994) and theSunburst video, Sexual Harassment: It’sHurting People (National Middle SchoolAssociation & Quality WorkEnvironments, 1994). The resources andmaterials used for each lesson are listedin the Appendix. A series of threeguidance lessons was taught over aperiod of 4 weeks, with each lessontaught to four classes. In the first lesson,students participated in defining sexualharassment, were taught how todistinguish between sexual harassmentand sexual discrimination, and sharedand discussed examples of sexualharassment. Students were asked to givetheir definition of sexual harassment, andthe counselor wrote student’ssuggestions and ideas on the board. TheUnited States Equal EmploymentOpportunity Commission’s (EEOC) (n.d.)official definition of sexual harassmentwas then posted on the board.Discussion about what constitutes“unwelcome behaviors”, “sexualadvances”, and “sexual favors” was held.Examples of sexual harassment weregiven. Next, an explanation of thedifference between sexual harassmentand sexual discrimination was provided.Finally, short vignettes were read aloudMETHODBecause of the pervasiveness of theproblem of sexual harassment, a planwas developed to present a classroomguidance series on this topic. Byinforming students of the definition ofsexual harassment and teaching them torespond appropriately to incidences ofharassment, it was hoped that incidencesof sexual harassment in one seventhgrade team would be reduced.ParticipantsStudents served by this classroomguidance series were in the seventhgrade at a suburban middle school in theAtlanta area. All participants weremembers of one team. A total of 97students received the classroomguidance series. Approximately 68% ofthe students served were Caucasian,30% were African American, and 2%were Hispanic. Ages of the studentsranged from 12 to 14 years, with a meanage of 13 years.10

Georgia School Counserlors Association Journal, Volume 13, 2006from the “What If ?” lesson, andstudents participated in determining if thestory was an example of sexualharassment, discrimination, or “other”.In the second lesson, studentslearned to distinguish between sexualharassment and flirting. They alsodiscussed the feelings each produces,and the importance of intention andinterpretation in determining thedifference between harassment andflirting. First, the counselor reviewed thedefinition of sexual harassment fromlesson one, then students were askedabout flirting and what that looks like.Students were then broken up into fourgroups and each group was given anassignment. Group 1 listed examples ofsexual harassment, group 2 listedexamples of flirting, group 3 listedfeelings produced by sexual harassment,and group 4 listed feelings produced byflirting. Groups 3 and 4 were givenfeeling words sheets to help facilitate thelist of feeling. (Note: The first of the fourtimes Lesson 2 was conducted, thestudents were broken up into two groups– with group 1 listing both examples ofand feelings produced by sexualharassment, and group 2 listing bothexamples of and feelings produced byflirting. It was decided that the groupswere too large for participation by allstudents; thereafter, four groups wereused.) Once the lists were produced,they were posted at the front of theclassroom and compared, with emphasisplaced on the meaning of intentions andinterpretations. In closing, discussionquestions were asked to review thedifference between harassment andflirting.In the third lesson, students wereshown visual examples of sexualharassment on video, were reminded ofhow to report harassment and to whom itshould be reported. The lesson beganwith a review of the previous two lessons.Next, the class viewed the video showingstudent actors and actresses portrayingexamples of sexual harassment thatoccurs in schools. Discussion followedabout the realistic nature of the vignettes,as well as of the importance of reportingsexual harassment. The fact that sexualharassment is illegal was stressed, theschool policy on sexual harassment wasreviewed, and a review of how to reportsexual harassment was conducted.Students also listed the people to whomthey could report harassment, and thecounselor listed the suggestions on theboard. In closing, the counselor asked forany other questions that the studentsmight have regarding sexual harassment.RESULTSBefore the classroom guidance serieswas implemented, the team had anaverage of 8 referrals for sexualharassment per month from Augustthrough October, with 9 referrals inAugust, 8 in September and 8 in October.The classroom guidance series began inlate October and ended in midNovember. During this period, a total of 5referrals for sexual harassment weremade for the team– a reduction of 3referrals from the previous average. Only3 sexual harassment referrals were madefor this team from the time the guidanceseries ended until the start of winterbreak (approximately 3 weeks).11

Georgia School Counserlors Association Journal, Volume 13, 2006DISCUSSIONearlier in the semester or school year. Thiswould allow for more time to gather data atthe conclusion of the lessons, as well asprovide more time to observe the effectsof the guidance series. Including a briefstaff or team teacher training programabout sexual harassment would also beappropriate. This could be done during aplanning period, and include a review ofthe school’s policy on sexual harassment,a brief review of examples of sexualharassment, and procedures for reportingincidences of harassment. This wouldbenefit both the team teachers and thestudents by having the teachers “all on thesame page”. Finally, conducting a pre/posttest regarding knowledge about sexualharassment, as well as a confidentialsurvey on sexual harassment behaviorswould be helpful. The test would helpmeasure the amount of studentknowledge gained from the guidanceseries, and the survey would shed light onhow prevalent sexual harassment actuallyis on the team.According to the reduction innumber of discipline referrals for this teamfrom November to December it appearsthat the classroom guidance series onsexual harassment may have a positiveimpact in reducing the number of incidentsof sexual harassment. This reduction couldbe the result of fewer incidences ofharassment because students know whatit is and that is it illegal. Reducedincidences of referrals could also be theresult of students being more assertiveabout stating that harassing actions wereinappropriate. However, it would not besurprising if the number of referrals wereto increase temporarily due to the newlyacquired knowledge about sexualharassment, resulting in a higher rate ofreporting, which in turn would result inmore referrals. It is too soon to make anyconclusive statements of findings.LimitationsThere are several limitations to this actionresearch. No comparison or control groupwas used. It would have been helpful tocompare sexual harassment referrals toanother seventh grade team or to anothergrade level. Although the lessons seemedto be effective with seventh grade, it is notknown if they would have been effectivewith other grade levels. Referrals weretracked for only a few weeks after theintervention; a longer tracking time wouldhave been informative.CONCLUSIONWith the increased emphasis onacademic achievement and testingprograms, it can be difficult for teachers tofind time for classroom guidance,especially if the guidance lessons do notdirectly pertain to academic achievement.However, this guidance series consists ofonly three lessons and has the potential todecrease incidences of sexualharassment, leading to fewer disciplinereferrals and a school environment moreconducive to learning. More data needsto be gathered over a longer period oftime to determine if three lessonson sexual harassment are enoughto decrease sexual harassment in amiddle school setting.RecommendationsMost of the activities carried out during theclassroom guidance series went well, andthe guidance lessons are worth repeating.However, there are some revisions thatmight make the series more effective. Itwould be beneficial to conduct the series12

Georgia School Counserlors Association Journal, Volume 13, 2006REFERENCESStone, C. B. (2000). Advocacy for sexualharassment victims: Legal supportand ethical aspects. ProfessionalSchool Counseling, 4, 23-30.Stress school policy on sexualmisconduct to prevent it. (2004).Education Digest, 70(2), 44-46. U.S. Equal Employment OpportunityCommission. (n.d.). Sexualharassment. Retrieved from harassment.htmlWasserman, B. (2003, April).Harassment in the halls.Scholastic Choices, 18(7), 10-13.U. S. Equal EmploymentOpportunity Commission. (n.d.).Sexual harassment. Retrievedfrom harassment.htmlYaffee, E. (1995). Expensive, illegal, andwrong: Sexual harassment in ourschools. Phi Delta Kappan, 77(3),K1-8.American Association of UniversityWomen (2002). Resource forpreventing sexual harassment inschools. Washington, DC: Author.Elliot, S. (1994). Group activities forcounselors. Torrance: CA.Innerchoice.Flynn, Andrea F. (1997). Sexualharassment in schools. EducationDigest, 62(8), 34-35.Grube, B., & Lens, V. (2003). Student tostudent harassment: The impact ofDavis v. Monroe. Children &Schools, 25, 173-185.Harris/Scholastic Research. (1993).Hostile Hallways: The AAUWSurvey on Sexual Harassmentin America’s Schools. Washington,DC: AAUW EducationalFoundation.National Middle School Association &Quality Work Environments(Producers). (1994). Sexualharassment: It’s hurting people[video]. United States: SunburstVisual Media.APPENDIXResources Needed for Sexual Harassment Guidance LessonsLesson Number Resources Needed for Each Lesson1Chalkboard and chalkGuidance lessons from Elliot’s book Defining Sexual HarassmentWhat If ?2Chart paper and markersHandout with feeling wordsGuidance lesson from Elliot’s book - Flirting and Harassment:What’s the Difference?3Chalkboard and chalkTV and VCRSunburst video – Sexual Harassment: It’s Hurting People13

flirting. Groups 3 and 4 were given feeling words sheets to help facilitate the list of feeling. (Note:The first of the four times Lesson 2 was conducted, the students were broken up into two groups – with group 1 listing both examples of and feelings produced by sexual harassment, and grou