• IDRA Newsletter • March 1999

[Editor’s note: The following is a reprint from “Action for Better Schools,” the newsletter of the National Coalition of Education Activists.]

To assess how much progress your school is making in eliminating gender bias, see how many of the following questions you are able to answer with a “yes.” To get accurate answers, talk with other parents, students and school staff, and observe classes and extracurricular activities.

  1. Do teachers call equally on boys and girls in the classroom? Do they give them equal attention and feedback to enhance learning? An example of what you do not want to see is teachers telling boys they can solve difficult problems themselves, while telling girls how to solve them.
  2. Do school staff have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and gender-based teasing? Do they actively work to prevent it and always confront it when it arises? (A great resource is Flirting or Hurting by N. Stein and L. Sjostrom, Center for Research on Women, 106 Central Street, Wellsley, Mass. 02181; $19.95.)
  3. Are activities co-ed unless there is a valid reason for separating boys and girls? Examples of valid exceptions may include bathrooms and contact sports.
  4. Do materials – such as posters, books and films – in all subject areas and extracurricular activities represent women and men equally?
  5. Do materials represent men and women as equally strong and weak, dependent and independent, powerful and subordinate, etc.? Distinctions can be subtle but devastating. Watch for materials that show girls as consistently younger, smaller, weaker, more prone to injury or illness, more likely to be victims, and so on.
  6. Are women and girls represented in all projections of the future, as well as all historical or past events? (Useful materials are available from the National Women’s History Project, 7738 Bell Road, Windsor, California 95492-8518; 707-838-6000.)
  7. Do girls and boys have access to the same quality and quantity of playground space and equipment, including athletic gear?
  8. Are boys and girls disciplined equally? Some parents report that girls are “let off” in exchange for flirting or acting demure. Others say school rules are sometimes circumvented to keep male students on athletic teams. Both are inappropriate.
  9. Are boys and girls treated as equally strong and competent?
  10. Are staff members sensitive to the destructive nature of commenting disproportionately on girls’ looks and clothing?
  11. Do boys and girls share equally in all resources available, for example, federal and state subsidies or funds supplied by parents’ and boosters’ clubs? (A useful publication is How Schools Can Stop Shortchanging Girls (and Boys): Gender-Equity Strategies by K. Wheeler, Center for Research on Women, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, Mass. 02181; $9.)
  12. Are school staff at all levels of authority proportionally male and female, so they serve as role models?
  13. Have all school staff received training in how to handle and correct sexual discrimination and harassment they see or receive reports of? Have students and parents been offered similar workshops?
  14. Does the school have, distribute and follow a policy defining sexual harassment and specifying consequences and remedies for staff and students? Ideally, this policy should be given to parents, students and staff at the beginning of each school year and again if they report any incidents.
  15. Is there an active effort to inform the community and media about sex equity in the schools?

Reprinted from “Action for Better Schools” (Winter 1995-96; pp. 3, 7) with permission from National Coalition of Education Activists.

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©1999, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 1999 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]