Behaviour: sexual banter

8th October 2010 at 01:00
The problem: A member of an uncontrollable Year 10 class made a sexual comment about me. I am approaching the point where I feel uncomfortable teaching him. Am I within my rights to refuse to have him in my class?

What you said

"I was subject to a variety of sexual comments as an NQT. I never refused to teach the Year 9 boys but I received written apologies after they were removed from my lessons for two weeks. The main issue is to get your school to support you rather than you coming into conflict with it."


"After a false allegation, I was told by my union rep that in order to refuse to teach the pupil I would need to get a union ballot within the school that was 90 per cent successful. Do not forget you have legal rights and can involve the police in any form of harassment."


"If you feel sexually threatened by this young man, I would certainly say you had grounds to demand the school arrange alternative provision."


The expert view

Challenging and aggressive behaviour can be witnessed in children of all ages. Sexual connotations in threatening behaviour begin to become more common as the pupils achieve sexual maturity. In girls this can begin with apparently harmless flirting, risking compromising the member of staff involved. With boys, the dogged devotion of a crush sits at one end of the spectrum and, as in this case, sexual harassment at the other.

This scenario clearly demonstrates the importance of the two key aspects in any effective behaviour management: prompt action and clear communication. Any form of harassment is as unacceptable in the classroom as in any other workplace. Harassment thrives when it is not responded to.

Your first act when faced with harassment must always be an immediate response to the young person concerned, directly telling them that the comment or act was unacceptable. Rhetorical questions such as: "Why did you say that?" defeat the object as they allow the perpetrator to marshal a defence, however spurious. Keep your language professional and calm, stating that what was said or done is unacceptable.

Next, at the earliest opportunity report the matter to your line manager and write an account of the incident for them, and for your own records.

If handled in this manner, the question of teaching the pupil should cease to be a matter solely for you. Instead it will become an agreed decision between you and your line manager.

l Stephen Calladine-Evans is assistant principal at St Richard's Catholic College, East Sussex. For more advice, see



- Respond immediately and tell the pupil his behaviour was unacceptable.

- Report the issue to your line manager and make a written record of what happened.

- Discuss your response with your line manager and agree a future course of action.


Unilaterally refuse to teach the pupil - it risks focusing on the personal rather than the professional aspect of the incident.

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