Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in American's Public Schools
Who did it?
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is a national organization that promotes education and equity for all women and girls. The AAUW Educational Foundation, funds pioneering research on girls and education, community action projects, and fellowships and grants for outstanding women around the globe. In 1993, they commissioned the first nationally representative survey on sexual harassment in public school. In 2001, AAUW continues the exploration of this crucial issue by conducted an update of this study.
Who’s in it?
In 1993, a total of 1,632 students in grades 8 through 12 were surveyed from 79 schools across the continental United States. In 2001, a total of 2,064 public school students in grades 8 through 12 were surveyed from a national sample of public school students and via the internet.
What did they say?
In the original and the 2001 Hostile Hallways surveys, a large majority of students had experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. However, students in 2001 were more likely to report that their schools have a policy or distribute literature on sexual harassment.
As one dimension of sexual harassment, students were asked to what degree they would be upset if they were called gay or lesbian. The majority of students in both surveys reported that they would be “very upset” if someone said they were gay or lesbian. However, there was a significant decrease in the percentage over the eight years. In 1993, 86% of students surveyed said they would be "very upset” compared to 73% of students in 2001. Among boys in both 1993 and 2001, no other type of sexual harassment, including actual physical abuse, provoked as strong a reaction.
With regard to actual experience, there was a marked increase in the percentage of students being called gay or lesbian: 17% of all students in 1993 reported that they have been called gay or lesbian compared to 36% of all students in 2001. Boys today were more than two times likelier to say that they have been called gay or lesbian often or occasionally (9% in 1993 vs. 19% in 2001) and girls today were nearly three times likelier to have been called gay or lesbian (5% in 1993 vs. 13% in 2001). In both years, more boys reported having been called gay or lesbian than did girls: in 1993, 23% of boys vs. 10% of girls and in 2001, 19% of boys vs. 13% of girls.
Students Having Been Called "Gay" or "Lesbian" Either Often or Occasionally
It is important to understand the context of the survey question about being called gay or lesbian. It is not bad for any student (or anyone at all) to be gay or lesbian. However, some middle school and high school students may feel bad if people think that they are gay or lesbian because of intolerant attitudes toward lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Also, it is important to note that there may be many gay, lesbian or bisexual students who are open about their sexuality in school who would not be upset if someone were to say they are gay or lesbian (because they are!), but they may be upset if they are called derogatory names such as “fag” or “dyke.” Because the AAUW studies did not ask about sexual orientation, we cannot separate out those students who are upset because a fellow student thinks that they are gay or lesbian from those students who are gay or lesbian and who are upset because of homophobic remarks.
As with any national poll, there is always a small margin of error. In 1993, for example, the margin of error for the entire sample was +5%. Thus, the percentage of students in 1993 who would have been “very upset” had they been called gay or lesbian could actually range from 81% to 91% (86% + 5%).
Where can I find out more?
For more information about Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America's Schools, send an e-mail to email@example.com, call the Foundation INFOLINE at 202/728-7602 weekdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), or write to:
AAUW Educational Foundation Research
1111 Sixteenth St., NW
Washington, DC 20036
For more information about AAUW -- their work and their research -- go to their website: www.aauw.org.