43.2 Unwelcome, unwanted, and persistent: Institutional responses to bullying and gendered violence in Ontario schools

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 9:20 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Alison FISHER , Education, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
On October 15, 2011, Jamie Hubley, an openly gay high school student from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, took his own life after years of being verbally insulted in school by fellow students.  In response, the premier of Ontario introduced new anti-bullying legislation in December 2011 known as the “Accepting Schools Act.” The Act allows for the expulsion of students who have bullied others in schools. In this paper, I use institutional ethnography (Smith, 1987) to examine the textual discourses embedded within this new legislative document. The paper reviews the critical “bullying” literature as well as common policy responses to bullying in North American schools. I argue that the Premier’s approach to gendered violence and homophobia is depoliticizing and potentially destructive for students and staff in schools.  By coaching school violence through generalized discourses of “bullying,” student experiences of homophobia, heterosexism, and gendered violence are hidden and the social relations of school violence remain unaddressed. Moreover, using expulsion as the official response to school violence is a method of deterrence through exclusion. As a process, school expulsion has been criticized for further isolating students, and criminalizing the behavior of male students of colour and special education students in particular. When fellow students label another student a “fag,” the school response transforms his embodied experience of gendered violence through particular organizational processes and routines, which teachers, school staff and school administrators must follow (Smith and Smith, 1998). These processes and routines are the ruling relations, which are textually mediated and “connect us across space and time and organize our everyday lives” (Smith, 2005, p.10). In this paper, I map the textually mediated processes and routines that shape, and obscure, a student and staff person’s experience of gendered violence in schools.