Behaviour: sexually inappropriate

10th December 2010 at 00:00
What is the correct response?

The problem

We have a Year 8 boy who demonstrates some odd behaviour. He exposes himself, masturbates and talks in a sexual manner in front of pupils and teachers alike. What should we do?

What you said

"It would probably be worth mentioning to the person responsible for child protection and see if they can follow it up."


"I had a similar problem with a Year 8 boy who started rubbing himself against my leg and touching himself when I sat next to him to help him. I told a learning mentor who passed it on to the school's child protection officer."


"This does not sound like something you should be dealing with solely in school. This child needs expert help."



Well done for seeking help with this. This is a situation where it is always best to share your concerns with experienced colleagues. It is also one which requires you to consider carefully this pupil's needs alongside those of other children and to be open to the possibility that he is communicating distress (perhaps disclosing abuse) through his behaviour. It will be important for you to ensure that his parents or carers are aware of your concerns.

It is also important that a member of staff who this pupil trusts talks to him about his behaviour so that he has an opportunity to explore why he is behaving in this way and to understand that what he is doing is unacceptable. This will show him that he matters and that people are willing to listen to him.

If his behaviour persists, it will be appropriate to refer him to specialists who can assess his needs and offer therapeutic work as part of a co-ordinated multi-agency child and family response.

While it is natural for children in Year 8 to be curious about their bodies and to talk about sex, it is important to see these behaviours as part of a continuum that takes their age, understanding and developmental competencies into account. Most children are able by Year 8 to recognise social cues and judge when and where they can safely explore their developing sexuality. We should anticipate that some, however, will require additional support to understand boundaries and to learn and apply rules.

Teachers and support staff need to be able to discuss sexual behaviour with pupils with confidence. This is not easy. Practice helps, as does a clear understanding about which sexual behaviours are OK and which are not, and why. A helpful guide, Talking to Young People about Sex and Relationships, is available on the NSPCC's Inform website:

Colin Watt is assistant director for children and family services at children's charity the NSPCC. For more behaviour advice, go to



- Seek help from experienced colleagues and, if necessary, the teacher with responsibility for child protection.

- Talk to the boy about why what he is doing is unacceptable.

- Make his parentscarers aware of your concerns.


- Condemn his behaviour without trying to find out why he is doing this.

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