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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!)
Americans are slowly evolving when it comes to acceptance of cultural differences and knowledge. If the rumors continue to spread and Ade and Elsa have emotional distress at any level this can be considered bullying. There is a no bullying law, and when broken by a student, incarceration can occur. I would start by talking with my administration and counselor to develop a plan of action to stop the rumors, and educate cultural differences between Americans and Indonesians. I would either speak to the girls or have the counselor speak to the girls about following more of an American social ques so as to prevent the rumors and possible teasing. I would explain to the girls that in America when two people of the same sex hold hands it typically symbolizes they are in an intimate dating relationship. I would also explain that when we travel to other countries such as Iraq, Iran et cetera women must cover their heads because this is a common cultural practice there. It is important that not only do Ade and Elsa know and respect cultural practices, but our very own American students need to also know and respect other cultural practices.
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 your post is right on point. While we as Americans do need to respect their views, beliefs, etc. they in turn should understand why they are being bullied and teased and come up with a solution that would not cause the situation to get worse. I also think it's a great idea to involve the school counselor and to educate the rest of the class on cultural differences.
Rated On: May 23, 2014 2:46 am
Rated By: Haley Moore