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  Case: Donít Hold Hands
Ade and Elsa are two 7th grade girls from Indonesia who joined our school couple months ago. I teach them Physical Science. They have well-developed English skills. Although they have an accent, they can communicate with teachers and fellow students. I am very sensitive to the needs of newly-arrived immigrant students, so I paid close attention when I heard rumors from other students about them. Students started spreading that Ade and Elsa were in a lesbian relationship. Apparently Ade and Elsa heard about the rumors; they came to me in tears. I asked them to tell me what was going on. What I found out was very interesting. Ade and Elsa have known each other since they were small children and they have always been best friends. Their families decided to move to the US together. Their fathers applied for jobs in the same company. They both received offers and moved together. Ade and Elsa were excited about going to the same school in US and continuing their friendship. In Indonesia, same-gender friends holding hands is very common and indicates friendship. When children at our school saw Ade and Elsa holding hands they thought that Ade and Elsa were in a lesbian relationship. I have to do something about this. I see two options before me: I will explain to the children in my classes that friends holding hands in some cultures is completely normal, or I will tell Ade and Elsa to not hold hands to avoid these rumors. The second option seems culturally insensitive, but if Ade and Elsa continue holding hands, rumors will continue even if I explain to my students the cultural side of their friendship. What should I do? If you have an original solution to this issue, please advice.
Solution: (Rates are posted for this solution!)
I feel that both of your options are acceptable. I believe I would first pull the two girls into my classroom and discuss what was said and first worry about their feelings. I would discuss that different cultures show feelings of friendship differently around the world and that in the United States it is not as common to hold hands. I would make sure the girls know that they are not doing anything wrong. After my discussion with Ade and Else, I will give a lesson on friendship and how people around the world demonstrate being friends differently. I would then have an open classroom discussion with my students on how they usually demonstrate being friends and things friends do together. I will then divide my kids up into small groups to further research friendships around the world and how different cultures represent being friends. Students will make posters to hang around the school and this will help reach out to other students whom I may not teach.
The suggested solution is respectful of the individual (student) Yes
The suggested solution is relevant to the case Yes
The suggested solution is reasonable (easy) for the teacher to implement Yes
The suggested solution is likely to solve the problem/issue Yes
The suggested solution is original Yes
Comments: I think this solution is exactly how I would respond to the situation. Being in a time where lesbian relationships are openly common at the seventh grade level is the perfect time to introduce a lesson in culture. I wouldn't single out the two young girls but create a presentation of cultures that may be seen in your location. I would evolve it into a dialogue of every identifiable culture within the school. Many times rumors get started out of ignorance, a little diversity 101 would actually be good for the entire staff as well as the student body.

Rated On: May 21, 2014 4:40 pm
Rated By: Krissy Chance-Bailey