Friday, March 30, 2012

“Understanding and Addressing Bullying” Course Offers Valuable Education

Our guest blogger today is Dr. Karyl Ketchum, an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies at California State Fullerton. After experiencing how anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination affected her daughter’s high school she decided to take a stand; through her efforts and those of her University peers, Dr. Ketchum has developed an online course which seeks to educate teachers, staff, students, and the entire community about school bullying. Here is her story:
On January 23, 2009, three senior male athletes at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach California posted a video on the public Facebook “wall” of a fourth senior male athlete.  In this video they laughingly and graphically discussed shooting my daughter in the head and raping her in the back of a truck.  They also used homophobic language throughout the recording—“outing” a student they presumed to be gay, and directing homophobic slurs toward other students.  Shortly thereafter, the school’s principal cancelled the up-coming school production of the musical “RENT!” because, as retold by the theatre teacher, “she did not want homosexuals portrayed on the school campus.”  My daughter was also one of the cast members in this production.   These events—and the stories we subsequently heard from LGBTQ students about the years of torment they had endured at Corona del Mar High School—launched our family into an emotional odyssey that culminated in an ACLU lawsuit instated on behalf of our daughter, the female students at the school, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students who attended Corona del Mar High.  The lawsuit was settled out of court and all our requests were met. The district agreed to implement anti-bias training for teachers, staff and students. 
There were at least two things I took away from this experience.  One: While there are excellent laws here in California that very clearly require schools to protect students from such forms of harassment, these laws do not include penalties or incentives.  This means that when schools violate these laws, a student’s only recourse is to file a lawsuit.  And, two: Teachers and school officials are at a sincere loss when it comes to addressing bullying.  This is particularly true when the harassment includes a focus on gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and/or perceived sexual orientation.  As a professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Cal State Fullerton, I began to talk with colleagues about how we might address this lack of information. The answer came in the form of a new and exciting first-of-its-kind online course. 
Through the help and support of many people across the Cal State Fullerton campus—including the invaluable assistance of PFLAG South Orange County's Vice President, Michelle Rouse, who is also a student here at CSUF—"Understanding and Addressing Bullying” will be offered online beginning July 14, 2012 through the CSUF College of Extended Education. This course has been designed specifically to give teachers, administrators, staff and school board members the ability to recognize and to effectively address the dynamics of student bullying with a focus on bullying as it relates to gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and/or perceived sexual orientation.  The course provides information about the unique circumstances of LGBTQ students; the relationship between homophobia and misogyny; the reach and effects of cyber bullying; and the importance of understanding schools as social systems, among other themes. It also offers information on state and federal anti-bullying laws, precedent-setting legal decisions, and success stories of schools that have re-set their campus cultures by addressing the underlying dynamics of school bullying.  Importantly, the course includes a final unit entitled “What To Do When Things Go Wrong: Responding to Students and Campuses in Crisis.” The five-week course is organized through a series of multi-media learning modules developed and team-taught by experts in the fields of Education, Psychology, Health, Public Policy, Gender Studies and the Law.  It also includes recorded interviews with students who have experienced bullying, former bullies, teachers, parents and school administrators—several of whom are also PFLAG members. You can learn more about the course and register for it on the Cal State Fullerton College of Extended Education’s website here: 
As PFLAG members are well aware, when we have young people dying from suicide who have disturbing incidences of anti-LGBTQ bullying in their pasts, , something has gone terribly wrong.  It is our hope that this course will give educators the tools they need to transform their campuses, moving well beyond “tolerance,” to creating school cultures that celebrate all forms of difference among students. We hope you will help us get the word out about this important course. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if I might answer any questions or offer an additional information on the program. 
Thanks for all you do through PFLAG. 
Karyl E. Ketchum, Ph.D.
Asst. Professor, Women & Gender Studies
California State University, Fullerton
Office: Humanities 212D
Phone: (657) 278-2480


Anonymous said...

Forget tougher punishments and hiring more police for schools. The solution to crime and violence is in your lunchroom. and

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Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and adore learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is extremely helpful for me.

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