"Schools Are Key": A Young Person's Call for Preventative Action in Schools
A phrase I often like to use is that schools are breeding grounds for the likes of bullying, but this also rings true for gender-based violence.
While schools and many of their teachers attempt to learn, understand and teach the importance of prevention of gender-based violence, it is simply not enough if each institution has educators who sit on the side-lines when it comes to this specific topic.
Having passed through school encountering a male class teacher almost encouraging sexist and very backwards views of women, I feel confident in saying that this kind of behaviour can be found in other schools across the country.
On the other end of the scale, I’ve had guidance teachers and ex-guidance teachers that would work alongside me when it came to campaigning, presenting and even studying gender-based violence. In the middle were staff that would maybe call out a sexist comment or something that would insinuate gender-violence. There’s too much of a scale when really, when it comes down to it, all educators of every subject and department should be on the same page with equal involvement when it comes to gender-based violence.
The responsibility should not lie only with guidance teachers or PSE/Sex Ed classes. These classes happen once a week for 6 years. It becomes monotonous and the approach is always the same, it’s never something people want to talk about because it's considered “depressing”. There are no handouts, there’s not enough interaction or discussion within the class itself to actually engage students and have them talking about it openly.
We aren’t really told how prevention works, what prevention is and what it means and how we as individuals can contribute it, not only in our mini societies in school but in wider society. Schools are key in generational changes. Prevention and education of gender-based violence are key in helping everyone feel more safe and not part of a group who is more at risk of abuse or things like street harassment.
There are several right ways to go about this, several ways to improve classes, to start a discussion, to get everyone involved.
It could even start with the simplest of things, for example staff getting together and brainstorming better protective policies surrounding this subject and cracking down on it, with every teacher and member of staff actually adhering to them. Call out your students when they make unfunny “dark humour” jokes about violence against women, equally call them out for making jokes about male survivors of abuse or any other survivor. Everyone, even the pupils, have the ability to call somebody out on their words, actions and behaviour, and schools have the ability to take an allegation of this kind of behaviour seriously.
If you have policies, commit to them. Don’t keep the little-to-no discussions about this in class where it’s addressed once a year: Create better justice for those who fall victims to that kind of behaviour. Even mentioning and raising awareness of it at a younger age (e.g. primary school lessons, ensuring age appropriateness) could make the difference, so that one day it is not considered taboo to discuss such a serious issue, and that one day, this issue will not be on such a large scale.
Talk about it, educate yourself and everyone around you all year round, discuss, engage and most importantly, find a way to incorporate it into everyday lessons across the board in an effective manner.
Megan, age 19, Highlands
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