The harassment of teachers in schools does very well exist, but the subject remains taboo, according to clinical psychologist Johanne Landrin
Every time Joachim has to enter a classroom, her steps are heavy. The teacher wonders if the day will be different or if she will still have to endure the derogatory comments of her students who sexually harass her.
It all started in October 2021. On a Tuesday afternoon, during her 11th grade Creole class, Joachim was writing on the blackboard when a student voiced aloudthe sexual positions inspired by the curves of her body.
Shocked, Joachim froze at the blackboard for about twenty seconds, pretending she hadn’t heard anything. But she recognized the student’s voice very well. He and several others had been behaving inappropriately toward her throughout the year.
According to clinical psychologist Johanne Landrin, the harassment of teachers in schools does exist, but the subject remains taboo. This is one of the reasons why victims are reluctant to talk about it.
For this article, HB News contacted at least five women whose relatives confirmed that they are victims of harassment by their students. Only two agreed to testify but on condition of anonymity.
Landrin explains this behavior by the fact that victims of harassment are afraid of being singled out and especially of being harassed even more if this becomes known. “By revealing their name or any other detail of their life, says the psychologist, they expose themselves. And given our culture, it may make their situation worse.”
For a teacher who is a victim of harassment, it is his or her image of authority that is called into question. It is therefore not uncommon for the victim to take responsibility for the situation.
That’s what happened to M.D. on the very first day of her career as a teacher, she heard comments that she will never forget. “I had barely entered the room when they made comments about the shape of my vagina looking huge under my skirt,” the 30-year-old reports.
Rather stout, M. D. never wore a skirt to work again, convinced that it was her fault.
Likewise, Joachim stubbornly blames her looks for what is happening to her at school. With a face that looks younger than her 25 years of age and barely 5 ft. 2 (1m60). Joachim thinks she’s not imposing enough. “The majority of my students are between seventeen and twenty, she informs. However, they look older than me. That’s why they tend to think of me as one of them.”
To avoid giving them that impression, Joachim opts for indifference. “I never answer their questions about my personal life, and I don’t engage them in conversations other than those related to the course.” That doesn’t always work.
More persistent than others, some of them try by all means to make physical contact with the teacher. “I often dodge their wandering hands, says Joachim. They pretend to want to wipe the back of my jeans. But I know that it is one of their tactics to touch my ass.”
Men are also victims of harassment from their students. Abed Melec Jean, a French and writing methodology teacher in several schools in Port-au-Prince, confides that he was regularly confronted with this. A twelfth grade student told him that she wanted to be his lover, while two other girls in eleventh grade promised to get their hands on him. Another teacher, Dimitri Julien, admits to having been harassed for an entire year by a student.
None of these teachers, female, or male, notified their superiors about the inappropriate behavior of the students.
But in Grand Boucan, a communal district of the Centre department, Cassandra Despinasse Fleuromy remembers having to deal with the same situation in 2012.
She was the director of the National School of Plotier. A teacher came to file a complaint against a student who persisted in making advances at her. “The boy was in the fifth grade, says Fleuromy. He was 11 years old, but he looked older than his age.”
To resolve the conflict, the head of the school summoned the child’s parents. Without success at first attempt. “Instead, the father revealed that he also had attractions for his female teachers when he was younger.” Eventually, the student had to apologize, and everything was back to normal.
Even more than women, men are reluctant to talk to their supervisors. Johanne Landrin believes that this is because the way of dealing with harassment is gender specific. Even if he is in a weak position, the man is the symbol of virility. He is placed in a position of strength, while the woman is seen as vulnerable. Therefore, there is a risk that he will not be taken seriously when he complains about advances from the opposite sex.
However, regardless of the teacher’s gender, silence is never the best solution. The psychologist recommends talking about it and avoiding taking refuge in indifference.
Johanne Landrin recommends sanctioning the offender as soon as possible to assert authority. On this, former teacher Sonie Bahana Alze, who is passionate about cultural patrimony, believes that the rigor of the school’s disciplinary system is also important. In some schools, students are afraid to be sent to the principal’s office.