The "Piñata" Problem
“Ms. C, did you tell a student that your butt was a piñata?” The assistant principal asked me once we were seated and alone in my classroom.
“I did say that, assistant principal. But only after the student commented to the lunchroom that I had a big ass,” I said, baffled by why I was having a private meeting regarding lunchroom banter.
“That’s sexual harassment, Ms. C. I understand the student made inappropriate comments towards you, but you should have addressed the comment only by asking the student not to talk to a teacher that way,” said the AP, presumably as she watched my eyebrows crawl up onto my forehead. Would it help if I said that I was using a metaphor?
“It was a playful remark, AP, I didn’t think it was overtly sexual. I felt I could either give a flat ‘don’t do that’ response, or I could let the student know his comment didn’t ruffle my feathers. I honestly didn’t see the harm.” I said, trying to remain calm and not shout about the absurdity.
“If the comment was reported you wouldn’t be allowed to teach until the case was heard out. You might have thought nothing of the comment, Ms. C, but these kids are lunatics, and you’re a pretty girl; they could get the wrong idea.” Pretty girl? Did the assistant principal actually think I was flirting with students?
I salvaged the situation as best as I could, swearing up and down that I would never say anything untoward to students again, but inside I was seething. How could something so benign turn into a big ugly mess? And this happens in a school where a student can curse me out in front of the same AP, and nothing would happen. It’s over now, and maybe it was an inappropriate comment, but it makes me very uncomfortable about teaching. I’ll be watching my words like verbal eggshells.
It seems as though teachers are between a rock and hard place when handling administration and savvy students.