Read the following case study, then answer and discuss questions below.
Semi-rural Fairfield High School is fairly small, and Fairfield students are a close-knit group. It is not unusual for freshmen and seniors to “hang out” together. Extra-curricular activities include various sports, drama, band, chorus, cheerleading, dance squad, and numerous clubs. About three-quarters of the students participate in at least one extra-curricular activity. Many participate in several.
Joshua is a junior and an excellent student, regularly achieving at the honor-roll or high-honor-roll level. He participates in drama, chorus, band, and chess club and is a member of the National Honor Society. He is a nice young man who is also quite sensitive. He has never been particularly social. He hasn’t dated and rarely goes out with students from school except in connection with the activities mentioned above.
A rumor that Joshua is gay has been circulating this year. At first he tries to ignore the rumor, thinking that if he does, people will eventually find something or somebody else to gossip about. However, it persists and soon escalates into harassment. He finds nasty notes on and in his locker. When his back is turned, he hears people taunting him with rude comments regarding his supposed sexual orientation. When he makes his curtain call following the fall play, there are boos and jeers from some members of the audience. He begins to feel that most of the school is against him. He KNOWS that the animosity aimed at him is the result of “small minds”, but that doesn’t make his school experience any better.
His family complains to the principal who attempts to intervene on Joshua’s behalf. Several students who have participated in the harassment are punished. Instead of curtailing the harassment, however, this results in further escalation. Joshua’s car tires are slashed. Somebody paints a rainbow on his rear window one night when his car is parked in front of his house. Somebody else paints derogatory names on his car. He begins to receive pornographic literature in the mail. While nobody ever lays a hand on him, Joshua is fearful for his safety, as are his parents, the teachers, and the principal.
Joshua withdraws further and further from his peers. He stops attending school club meetings because he is unsure who his harassers are. He feels as if all eyes are on him at all times. He no longer participates in class discussions. He goes to school, does the minimum, and goes home. His grades decline. He feels powerless and worthless.
- What are the issues in this case?
- Why might a student become a target of harassment by peers?
- What, if anything, could Joshua have done to prevent or stop the harassment?
- What could Joshua’s teachers have done to stop the harassment?
- What should be done at this point? By whom? Why?
- What do you think will happen now? Why?