This question can appear in many forms. e.g. I covered a swimming lesson last week, but the head of PE who I was assisting told me I couldn’t help the boys change because it wouldn’t be appropriate? Is there a legal position on this?
or I am an out TransWoman teacher. I asked a female pupil to stay behind after lesson and wait in class with me for 10 minutes to catch up on work she hadn’t finish because of her behaviour. My TA who has been at the school for 15 years, and is very outspoken quietly took me aside and said that because I was ‘out’ to the children it wouldn’t be appropriate to supervise alone. She said she was only trying to protect me from allegations. Alternatively the TransWoman can face equal pressure if the gender of the pupil was reversed, as many people still do not recognise a change of gender as valid or simply do not prioritise getting their thinking in line.
or I am a young male teacher in a school with children with complex needs. One of my pupils requires daily personal care. I was told by the assistant head that I was not allowed help him alone when he went to the toilets, and that I would have to send for another member of staff. However I observe female members of staff assisting boys alone for personal care all the time. Is she being sexist or homophobic or is this a common rule in SEN schools?
or my headteacher who knows I’m bisexual told me that I should monitor my personal space more closely around children. I asked her what she meant and she said that she had seen me standing too close behind a male student in the dinner queue at lunch. She said it was her duty to protect her staff from false allegations. Do I have a case for discrimination?
All these questions revolve around an unspoken unfounded and increasingly outdated fear that most gay men/Trans women are still likely to abuse boys if given the opportunity and lesbians are more likely to abuse girls. Whether or not the individual staff members believe this to be true or are trying to minimise the hassle of other staff members complaining and raising the safeguarding alarm is unclear. Most of the time people justify their homophobia/transphobia by saying it is for the good of the oppressed staff member involve .e.g well you wouldn’t want the hassle, or we’re only trying to protect you! (From what?) In each scenario the scaremonger was from a different position in the management structure from TA to head teacher.
In each case the teachers involved were absolutely being discriminated against because of either here sexuality or their gender. There is no law that says men cannot assist a pupil in personal care alone but a woman can. Some schools would insist upon two staff to do personal care at all times and would not accept a single female member of staff to be anymore acceptable than a male.
Telling a gay teacher that he is standing too close behind another male pupils is not only sickeningly offensive it is also illegal.
We do not know why the male colleague of the title requested a change of room? We might assume he was homophobic and in which case, his request should have been denied and he should be up for a warning about his homophobic behaviour. However there might have been another innocent reason for his room change. Sudden medical issue for example. It is difficult not to assume homophobia is the intent when the circumstance seem so suspicious. Try always to ask for reasons for things like this. If at the end of the day, the sense of homophobia still persists and you do go to your union, they will ask you what the official line was. That doesn’t mean they will believe it, but it will form part of the defence.
There are times when teacher should be mindful of where they are alone especially if they are out of sight with another pupil. Teachers need to make judgements about the behaviour and mindset of the pupil and how even how safe they feel alone monitoring volatile violent pupils who clearly are aware they are in trouble. The only valid reason a school should be asking you to have another adult in eye sight is to protect yourself from allegations of assault by pupils who are a) known to make such allegations in the past or b) by pupils who have signalled a clear dislike and grudge against you for some reason. In those situations any teacher needs to think carefully about the position they are putting themselves in. However it should never be signalled by a member of staff that a teacher is more likely to be subjected to an allegation because of their sexual orientation or gender. If schools have worries about a staff member’s potential to assault another pupil then the staff member should not be working at that school.
If you are confronted with any of these situations, ask to see the policy in which it is written. Schools cannot arbitrarily expect conduct from one member of staff if it doesn’t from everybody.
In an SEN school which generally have a high demand for personal care assistance and low numbers of male support, it might be the case that men are only allocated changing boys where possible and not assigned to girls, whereas women will be put where the need is great. This is generally motivated by the desire for boys not to feel uncomfortable with women when changing or being assisted during personal care and that girls do not feel uncomfortable being assisted men. Traditionally it is thought that boys are more comfortable being assisted by woman as they are by their mothers and throughout their nursery, early years. Foundation stage and in the case of SEN schools right up to their teenage years. Girls have less experience in private settings with men, though how much of this unevenly weighted idea is further fuelled by assumptions of what girls should feel and what boys should feel is debatable. In theory any staff member male or female is working in a school because they employers have cleared them though police checks to be safe, reliable trustworthy and respectful to all children who need personal care regardless of gender. A straight male TA is no more likely to assault a girl pupil than a gay male TA is to assault a boy. Yet somehow here there is a hierarchy of oppression. Gay men might perhaps too readily accept they cannot work alone with boys and straight men almost automatically assume that they cannot work with girls.