Out of Bounds: What to Avoid Tolerance of Name-Calling, Bullying or Taunting When teachers ignore disrespectful talk in classes or engage in disrespectful talk themselves, students assume that name-calling, taunting and bullying are an acceptable part of physical education. This creates a climate of disrespect and lays the foundation for bullying to occur. Physical education should promote participation of all students in a positive climate. Free-for-All Dodgeball Games or Other Activities in which Aggressive Play Toward Others is Allowed Physical education classes should include games and activities that are inclusive and physically and emotionally safe for everyone. Free-for-all dodgeball or any game or activity in which the strongest, biggest and most aggressive students dominate at the expense of the participation of other students is not an acceptable instructional activity.
Recess games such as “Smear the Queer,” in which students chase and attempt to tackle one student with the ball (the queer) before they can pass the ball off to another student, are also a problem because of the message the name of the game conveys to students: That the “queer” is targeted by other students and that “smearing the queer” is acceptable.
Overemphasis on Competitive Activities and Winning Competitive activities have an important place in physical education classes, but they should not dominate class activities. When competitive activities are part of the curriculum, winning should be kept in perspective and students should be taught how to be good sports, win or lose. The primary purpose of physical education classes should be skills instruction, with the goal of active participation for all students. When competition and winning become the focus in physical education, some students will quickly find ways to avoid or limit their class participation as protection from embarrassment by, or ridicule from, peers. Some students who do not feel safe skip school entirely on days they are scheduled for physical education class to avoid the locker room and class activities. GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey shows that LGBT students, compared to the general population of secondary school students, were more than 3 times more likely to have missed classes (29.1 percent vs. 8.0 percent) and more than 4 times more likely to have missed at least one day of school (30.0 percent vs. 6.7 percent) in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Picking Teams Publicly Though picking teams has been a long-time practice among children on the playground, this often results in the public humiliation of children who are chosen last. As educators, physical education teachers need to set higher, more educationally sound standards for dividing students for game play or instruction in their classes. The goals of instruction in physical education include: • Teaching all students sports and fitness skills • Helping all students learn to enjoy physical activity • Creating an instructional climate in which all students experience success and positive feelings about participation in physical activities Picking teams publicly does not meet any of these goals.