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Jessie Klein PhD, MSW, M.Ed



The Gender Police (page 4)

My interviews included working-class, wealthy, and middle-class families from rural, inner-city, and suburban communities. Most of the people I interviewed were white, but I also interviewed people with African American, Latino, and other ethnic backgrounds. I conducted slightly more interviews with white middle-class students from suburbs, since most of the school shootings took place within this demographic. I also interviewed more people from the Northeast.

Fewer school shootings took place in this region, yet the same bully cultures that led to so many shootings in midwestern and southern states persist there. Students ranged in age from approximately eleven to twenty-six. I also interviewed some teachers and related professionals in their thirties and forties who reflected on the bully cultures in their schools when they had been younger.

They came from places including the inner cities of Manhattan and the Bronx, rural Maine, Connecticut, North Carolina, Texas, and New York State, especially Long Island and Westchester.

I have changed the names of my respondents, and I mention their demographics in general terms to protect their privacy. I refer to my student and parent interviewees by a first name only and my school faculty respondents by only a last name. Actual first and last names are used only for those individuals whose stories have been reported in the media and for individuals who wanted to be named directly.

I have allowed people to speak for themselves, both in public testimonies and in interviews I conducted myself. Sometimes people used less respectful language in their anecdotes; but I am hopeful that both young people and their elders will speak more civilly when the concerns of so many students, school faculty, and parents are more effectively addressed.

As you will see, the stories and concerns shared here illuminate three key traits of everyday school culture discussed in The Bully Society.

The first is gender policing, or pressure to conform to gender expectations. Students (and adults) engage in constant surveillance of themselves and others to enforce boy and girl codes. Most people in a given school community tend to become members of the “gender police,” correcting their own and one another’s behaviors, attitudes, and dress according to their perceived expectations for proper gender performance.