Disrespect and Degradation in Public Schools

“Don’t touch me!” I shriek.

But the words can’t get past my tightly pursed lips. They stay inside my head, reverberating round and round, making me wish I had the courage to speak up and voice how I really feel. Blatant disrespect of teenage girls has reached the point of harassment in many public school systems today. I believe this cultural norm of looking down on women needs to change. Recently, one of my teachers asked me to hand out graded papers to the class while she took attendance. I readily agreed; it was a simple task and I enjoy helping my teachers out.

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But as I walked down the lengthy rows of desks handing back the papers, the dateable, popular guys kept pestering me. “Hey baby,” they’d murmur as I passed them back a test. “Thanks girl,” one would proclaim loudly with a wink and a grin, while reaching out and placing a large meaty hand on my thigh. “Don’t touch me!” I shriek, but the words cannot seem to leave my mouth. My lips are a barrier that remind me to keep quiet, don’t let them get to you; it’ll all be okay in a moment.

So I plead silently for them to leave me alone. I feel violated and hurt, and I have the urge to curl up in a ball on the cold, unforgiving floor and cry. When I continue to ignore the guys’ catcalling, they start to take it personally. I hear them mutter “What’s her problem?” amongst themselves, as if what they’re doing is my fault. I’m sure most of them are wondering why I’m not throwing myself at them with open arms. Some call it arrogance; I call it standards.

The worst part of this entire ordeal is that my teacher (a female!) has turned a blind eye to what’s happening. Why is it that teachers ignoring harassment has become commonplace in high schools? How is it that disrespect and degradation of girls is practically normal behavior? I wish I could say I know the answer, but I don’t. I do however believe that faculty and staff have become far too accepting of degradation. In addition, girls are often too afraid to speak up for themselves, and this needs to change. The very root of the problem though is of course, the boys.

They don’t seem to understand (or care) about how humiliating their actions can be for girls. With an increased awareness on their part, this longstanding issue can begin to be resolved.