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Sexual Harassment and Healthy Relationships

Source: A. Te. (2009). Earl Grey Sr. Public School, TDSB. Adapted from Education & Action Kit: Middle Version White Ribbon Campaign, 2nd Edition, 2005.

Part 1: Same Sex Groupings and Sexual Harassment Workshop

Time: 70 minutes

Part 1 of this two part workshop will begin with same sex groupings. This will provide opportunities for both girls and boys to speak more candidly about very sensitive issues of sexual harassment and behaviour amongst their own gender peers.

• to familiarize students with the notion of sexual, homophobic and other forms of harassment
• to discover that harassment often depends on the context
• to discover that uneven power is often the key to harassment
• to begin identifying healthy ways that males and females should be treated


This hour has 3 parts to it:

• Sexual harassment survey
• Scenario discussion
• Identifying points of learning to share with mixed gender groupings

Please feel free to modify and adapt the activities to suit your group. You know your group best and issues may come up so adjust if needed.

Teaching/ Learning Strategies
1. Ground rules (10 minutes)
Explain to students that with such sensitive issues, it’s important to set ground rules for the discussion in order to enable everyone to speak as individuals, honestly, respectfully and equally. Brainstorm rules for the discussion and record them on chart paper or board for all to see.
• Raise your hand
• Listen attentively
• Use respectful language
• Things shared in this room stays in this room (confidentiality issue)

2. Think, pair, share: sexual harassment survey (20 minutes)
Tell participants that this exercise is about sexual harassment. Give out the ‘What is Sexual Harassment’ worksheet (Appendix 1) to each student. Explain to students that this sheet will be examined in 3 ways: individually, in pairs, then as a class discussion.

Have students individually, go through all the points, and check off as best they can, whatever he/she feels is the appropriate answer—whether something is always, sometimes or never harassment. Insist that each student interpret the statements on their own first. At this point, avoid too many explanations. Give them 3 minutes.

In pairs, have them share their responses and discuss where they agree and disagree with their partners. Give them 5 minutes for the paired exercise. While this is happening, record the chart on the board or a flip chart for class discussion.

As a class, go down the list. One by one, ask if something is always, sometimes or never harassment. Discuss briefly as you go. Write down key words and phrases participants are using on the chart paper in order to address later. Questions or comments such as ‘It depends, who says it, tone of voice, where it happens, who is in power, Is a threat implied? Is it a welcome comment? etc. All these points determine whether if a behaviour or comment is sexual harassment.

** What you should find is that most examples are in the ‘sometimes’ category. Validate that we may have differences of opinion—for example, someone may think a joke with sexual content is always harassing, while another will say it depends on the specific content and who you are saying it to. The point is that there are not always hard and fast lines. Something is sexual harassment if one of the following identifiers is present in the situation:
1. The behaviour/comment is unwanted or unwelcome
2. There is a power imbalance
3. There is a threat implied

Two points to stress:
• If it is unwanted comments or behaviour, then it is sexual harassment. What may be acceptable among friends outside of a school setting may be unacceptable behaviour in a school setting (e.g., physical touching, playful putdown using problematic terms).
• If one person has power over another (teacher to student), then comments and behaviours that might be acceptable among peers, may be identified as sexual harassment because of power imbalance.

3. Group Discussion (30 minutes)
Divide the class into groups of 4 and give each group one of the scenarios (Appendix 2) provided. You might have groups examining the same scenarios. Have each group designate a spokesperson, recorder and timekeeper. Groups have 10 minutes to complete their task.
Each group is to:
1. Read the scenario
2. Discuss whether the scene involves harassment or not and discuss why
3. Identify proactive ways to address the situation

Have the class come together and ask each group to read the scene out loud and present their analysis to the class.

** Make sure that the issue of unequal power comes out clearly. If questions arise about girls harassing boys, say that is wrong too and is included in the definition of sexual harassment. But remember what a boy perceives as a compliment (or just a silly statement) might be experienced by a girl as a threat. Explain that in our society, men tend to hold more power than women and this plays itself out in our dynamics with each other.

4. Preparing to Report Back to Mixed Groups (10 minutes)
Have students identify a spokesperson for each homeroom that is present in the room. Provide a chart paper and choose a recorder for each homeroom. As a class, identify 3 learnings from this morning’s sessions that they can report back to their mixed groups. These learnings might be messages they want to give their peers in advisory. Statements that begin with the following might be helpful:
We learned that….
Sexual harassment looks like….
Sexual harassment can really hurt girls and boys because…
We want the boys/girls in the school to know….

Part 2: Mixed Groupings and Sexual Harassment Workshop

Time: 70 minutes

Part 2 of this workshop will be in mixed groupings. There will be opportunity to share and reflect among their peers.

• to review with students with the notion of sexual, homophobic and other forms of harassment
• to begin identifying healthy ways that males and females should be treated
• to reflect upon one’s own feelings, experiences and ideas about issues of harassment

This hour has 3 parts to it:
1. Reporting Back
2. Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships
3. Ticket Out (Reflection Sheet)

Please feel free to modify and adapt the activities to suit your group. You know your students best and issues may come up so adjust if needed.

Teaching/ Learning Strategies
Ground Rules (5 minutes)
Briefly revisit the same ground rules that were set in the same sex groupings and emphasize that they apply here as well.

1. Reporting Back (5 minutes)
Have the boys and girls report back from what was discussed and shared in the same sex groupings. Address any questions that might arise from these sharings. Review the definition of ‘sexual harassment’ that has been recorded in the room from the earlier discussions.

2. Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships (20 minutes)
Briefly review how we have good communication—active listening, expressing honest ideas in respectful manners, etc. Explain that these are all keys to a good relationship.

Have students sit in triads or groups of four. Try as much as possible to have students grouped in mixed sex groups. Hand out the worksheets “Qualities of Unhealthy and Healthy Relationships” (Appendix 3), a pair of scissors and glue stick to each group of students. Explain to students that part of good communication is to learn how to deal productively and respectfully with conflict that might arise in any relationship. Stress here that all relationships require similar expectations, not just romantic ones.

Then, hand out a ‘Situations’ sheet (Appendix 4) to each group. Ask each group to cut, sort and paste the situations under the either ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy.’ Give them a limited time of no more than 10 minutes.

As a class, ask students if there were any situations that were difficult to decide whether they were healthy or unhealthy situations. On the board, generate a list of factors that make Healthy relationships, and Unhealthy relationships (e.g., Healthy-honest, listen to each other, share responsibilities, trust, etc. Unhealthy-does not listen, untrusting and jealous, puts pressure, etc.)

3. Ticket Out (10 minutes)
Ask students to reflect on their learnings from the morning. Distribute a “My Ticket Out the Door…” sheet (Appendix 5). In the remaining time, have them fill out the questions. Remind them that they are to be honest and use respectful language. This will be collected.

What is Sexual Harassment? Appendix 1


  Always Sometimes Never Factors Which Can Make It Harrassing

1.Saying something about someone’s body, dress or appearance.


2. Physical contact (such as hugging, patting on the butt).


3. Jokes about dating, boys/girls or sex.




4. Whistling at someone.




5. Invitations for dates.




6. Prank phone calls or emails.




7. Calling someone a bitch, hoe, slut.




8. Calling someone a sissy, fag, gay, lesbian.




9. Graffiti about women or men.





Scenario One: Jason and Maria                                                           Appendix 2

Group Names: _______________________________________________
Spokesperson: _____________________
Recorder: _____________________
Timekeeper: _____________________

You have 10 minutes to complete this worksheet.

Maria is a grade 9 student. She recently started a part-time job at a neighbourhood grocery store. Her supervisor, Jason is about 10 years older than her and seems to be very supportive while Maria is learning her responsibilities. He takes every opportunity to teach her the tasks in the store, introduces her to other staff and generally makes her feel comfortable.

On several afternoons, within the first 2 weeks, Jason asked Maria for some extra help after her shift. She was eager to help out and agreed to stay. At first everything went well. Maria learned a lot and they got through a pile of work. Jason told Maria how much he appreciated her hard work. Maria was pleased with the bigger responsibilities.

One day, Jason started telling Maria how nice looking she was, and how everyone at the store liked her. He complained he was not happy with his present girlfriend. Maria told him she felt bad for him and hoped he could sort out his troubles. Jason said he felt really good talking to her and wondered if they could talk more over coffee after work. She thought this was too personal and she felt uncomfortable. Jason then came over, put an arm around Maria and said he looked forward to talking later.

1. How would you describe what Jason did to Maria?


2. What do you think most women would want to do or say in this situation? What might make it hard for them to do or say this?


3. What do you think Maria will do? What are her options?


4. If Jason continues to pursue her and let’s say tries to kiss her, how would you describe this behaviour? Would this be sexual harassment? Sexual assault?

Scenario Two: Mandy and the Guys in the Hall                                   Appendix 2

Group Names: _______________________________________________
Spokesperson: _____________________
Recorder: _____________________
Timekeeper: _____________________

Mandy is in Grade 8. Whenever she and her girl friends go to English class, they have to take a hallway that goes by the gym doors. Sometimes, there’s a group of guys hanging there. As Mandy and her friends walk by them, she and her friends can here the comments they make. None of the boys talk to them directly, but they say things like, “Nice butt, she’s a seven, that one’s a four, check out those boobs.”

Mandy talks to her friends. Some of them think they should say something to the boys and make fun back at them. Some say they should tell them how it makes them feel. Some say they should report the boys to a teacher or the office. Some of her friends have started taking a different hallway to English class. Mandy think it’s just as much her hallway as theirs.

1. How do you think Mandy and her friends feel when the boys make these comments?


2. Why do the boys think they can talk this way?


3. Are they trying to bother or impress the girls?

4. Do you think this is sexual harassment? Explain?


5. What do you think Mandy and her friends should do?


6. If you are a boy and found yourself with this group of guys, what would you do? What should you do?

Scenario Three: Pedro and Carla                                                         Appendix 2

Group Names: _______________________________________________
Spokesperson: _____________________
Recorder: _____________________
Timekeeper: _____________________

Pedro and Carla are in grade 8. For the entire third term, Pedro has been bugging Carla to go on a date with him. Carla isn’t interested in going out with Pedro and she has been laughing off his attempts. For a while she thought he was doing it as an ongoing joke. The end of the school year is almost here and Carla is just about fed up. She has no interest in Pedro whatsoever and has no intention of dating him. She’s given him every excuse in the book and has directly said ‘No.’ He still hasn’t got the point. Pedro acts as though Carla’s saying no means he should ‘try harder.’

Today was the last straw. Carla was walking to her locker after class when Pedro pushed her up against the wall, pressed his body up against her and said, “What’s your problem, ho? Are you stuck up or something? Do you think you’re too good for me?” Some of Carla’s friends were in the hall at the time and she felt really embarrassed.

1. How do you think Carla felt being pestered to go out with Pedro?


2. Is this sexual harassment? Explain.


3. What can Carla do?


4. Why do you think Pedro said what he did?


5. Question for young women: What could you do if you were Carla’s friends?


Question for young men: What could you say to Pedro if he were your friend? What could you say to Carla?

Scenario Four: Ray, Jim and Mitch                                                        Appendix 2

Group Names: _______________________________________________
Spokesperson: _____________________
Recorder: _____________________
Timekeeper: _____________________

Ray is a grade eight student at a middle school. For as long as everyone can remember, most of Ray’s best friends were girls. This has never been a problem for Ray nor for the girls he hangs out with. Lately, Jim and Mitch, other boys in the class have started to say quietly (and while pretending to cough), the words, ‘fairy, fag, gay or queer’ each time Ray speaks in class or when he passes by their desk. Some of the girls have heard these comments and have told Ray that they think those boys are creeps. The teacher hasn’t yet noticed the comments so he hasn’t done anything to help Ray. Ray pretends not to hear them and ignores Jim and Mitch’s behaviour.

1. Is this sexual harassment? Explain.


2. Why do you think Jim and Mitch behave the way they do?


3. What should Ray do? Who could he talk to?


4. What could Ray’s friends do to support Ray?


5. Only Jim and Mitch are making these comments to Ray. Do you think all the other boys in the class think the same way? If the other boys are silent, what message does that send to Jim and Mitch?


Scenario Five: Health Class                                                                   Appendix 2

Group Names: _______________________________________________
Spokesperson: _____________________
Recorder: _____________________
Timekeeper: _____________________

The Gr. 8 students in Ms. Lee’s health class are in the middle of a unit on sexuality and healthy relationships. There has been much discussion in the class about different types of relationships. Yesterday, during a group activity, Bronte, Deana and Ama, a group of girls working at the back of the room, began sharing very crude jokes. They started laughing really loud and making obscene gestures with their hands. Ms. Lee noticed their behaviour and asked them to stop, but they continued on. A group of girls and boys beside them were distracted by the jokes they were making. One of these students named Janette, said to them, “Would you stop it? Your jokes are gross and obscene.” Deana turns to her and says, “We’re not talking to you? Why should you care?”

1. Do you think this is sexual harassment? Explain.


2. What do you think of these students’ behaviour? Would you have participated in such conversations in a classroom?


3. How do you think Janette was feeling when she overheard their conversation?


4. What could Janette and the other students do?


5. Would it have been different if a group of boys were making jokes about sex?




Qualities of Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships                                Appendix 3

Unhealthy Relationships Healthy Relationships





















Situations – Healthy or Unhealthy?                                                       Appendix 4


When they go out together, he’s always looking at other girls’ bodies.  Sometimes he comments on how ‘hot’ they are. He calls her stupid during an argument. She tells him that he could use a bit of help with picking out his clothes.  She also tells him that he could kiss better.                          You’ve made plans with your boyfriend/girlfriend and s/he cancels the plans at the last minute because s/he doesn’t think what you’ve planned would be much fun.          
He grabs her arm during an argument.

When they fight, she stops talking or answering his calls for days.

They tell each other when they’re going through a difficult time at home or school. He feels that he always has to be strong in her presence.
She doesn’t want him to go out with his friends.  She says she can’t trust him farther than she can throw him You both share the cost of the dinner and movie. You take turns picking the television show to watch. Your boyfriend/girlfriend says that they don’t like your friends.

They go on a hike.  Before they go, they make a list of what they need to do and bring and they prepare together.

He tells his friends that he got really far with her last night when all they did was talk. He calls her the next day after an important date to say what a great time he had and hopes she had a good time as well. He is pressuring you to go further.
When one of you has some good news, you celebrate together.  You even get him/her a present. You get angry at something but always talk it out together, listening to each other’s point of view.

When they are together, they get along really well and have fun.  When they are in front of her friends, she ignores him completely.

They encourage each other to do well in school and understand when the other person has school or family commitments.

My Ticket Out the Door…                                                                        Appendix 5

Name: Homeroom:


What did you learn today?


Will your learning change or at least make you think about the way you see or do things in your life? If so, how? If not, why not?


What additional questions or concerns do you have?

Do you think sexual/homophobic harassment is an issue at our school? Please explain your answer.

Do you want to learn more about this topic? If so, what do you want to learn about? Are there other topics that have to do with relationships you’d like to talk about?

Do you have any additional thoughts or feelings to share?




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