Doctor of Philosophy
Drawing on qualitative interview data, this dissertation critically examines the issue of gender and sexuality-based bullying (GSB) in the context of Ontario schools. GSB is explained through a theoretical perspective that situates bullying as a mechanism employed by students as they navigate gendered and heteronormative school status structures. Because the status-based structures are so entrenched in educational contexts, a resilience perspective is also adopted to determine best next-steps for mitigating the negative effects of GSB. Further, resilience in this case is viewed through a critical sociological lens that requires the consideration of broader social forces, rather than reducing resilience to an individual-level construct.
The key goals of this project are to determine how academically resilient students, or those who are currently enrolled in post-secondary contexts have experienced GSB. In addition, this research seeks to understand how they managed their experiences and what they think schools could do to better help students develop resilience in the face of this type of behavior.
As a secondary component of this project, student interview data is supplemented with qualitative interviews with educators from the middle-school context to determine what their experiences with GSB involve, how they deal with the issue, and what they think of the students suggestions given the need to evaluate these ideas in the context of everyday school environments and the practical realities of classrooms.
This analysis suggests that GSB is experienced in a variety of ways, and educators and schools are seen as key players in efforts to address GSB, and in helping students to develop resilience and positive self-identities. Educators were also found to be receptive to student suggestions and efforts to prevent and target any forms of bullying that occur. What was particularly noteworthy were the educator perceptions that middle schools would not be contexts that would likely see much GSB, despite the gendered and heteronormative messaging that students reported experiencing even during those years. Key theoretical and policy implications are also presented to highlight the central need to address and challenge the gendered and heteronormative status evaluations that appear to be facilitated in school contexts.
Summary for Lay Audience
Bullying is seen as an increasingly important social issue that needs to be addressed. What is suggested here is that academics and educators should also try to focus on addressing particular types of bullying, such as bullying that is targeted against those who identify or are perceived to be non-heterosexual, or do not fit with dominant gender expectations and stereotypes. This study summarizes the results of interviews conducted with those students who have experienced this particular form of bullying and is an attempt to understand what can be done by schools to help other students deal with similar experiences, so they are not as impacted by the negative effects of this form of bullying.
In addition to the student experiences, educators employed in middle school contexts were also interviewed to see what they understand about this sub-form of bullying, how they deal with it, and what they think about the student suggestions for school-based prevention and intervention initiatives. This second step of the research process was an attempt to try to understand the student suggestions in light of what educators need to deal with in an everyday school context, and the other factors that educators may need to balance when looking to enhance intervention and diversity initiatives in schools.
What this study found was that schools and educators are key in attempts to address this form of bullying, and that this is an issue that should not just be understood from an individual level. There are broader forces at play that influence student engagement with this type of behaviour, and how willing and able educators are to intervene to the fullest extent to address this issue. Alongside the findings of this study, implications for researchers and educators are presented to make suggestions for the best next steps in understanding and dealing with this form of bullying.
Torrens, Elizabeth, "Gender and Sexuality-Based Bullying: Student Experiences and Educator Responses" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 6948.
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