– GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released From Teasing to Torment: A Profile of School Climate in Georgia, a report that provides a rare look into student experiences with bullying and harassment in Georgia schools. The results are based on students in Georgia who were surveyed as part of a national study of secondary school students and teachers conducted by Harris Interactive® and GLSEN’s research department.
“This report highlights that there is a lot of work to be done in Georgia to ensure safe schools for all students,” said Kevin Jennings, Founder and Executive Director of GLSEN, and author of the recently released memoir Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son. “With harassment and assault reported to be higher in schools without comprehensive anti-harassment policies, the question is why don’t more Georgia schools have such policies, and why doesn’t the state implement comprehensive legislation that protects all of its students?”
Key findings from the report include:
Biased language was frequently heard in Georgia schools
A majority of Georgia students reported hearing homophobic remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” (75%), or the expressions “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” (82%) from other students in school. A majority (80%) also reported hearing sexist remarks in their school.
Negative remarks about someone’s gender expression (e.g., saying a male student acts “too feminine”) were heard frequently—two-thirds (66%) of respondents heard negative comments about gender expression from their peers.
Many teachers and other school staff did not consistently intervene when hearing students use biased language. Less than a third of Georgia students reported that teachers or other school staff frequently intervened when homophobic, racist, or sexist remarks were made in their presence (23%, 26%, and 30%, respectively).
Students heard teachers and other school staff use biased language as well—almost aquarter (22%) reported hearing faculty and other school staff make sexist remarks, and nearly a fifth heard homophobic (18%) or racist (18%) remarks from school staff.
Bullying, name-calling, and harassment are serious problems in Georgia schools
Nearly half (49%) of Georgia students reported bullying, name calling, and harassment to be serious problems in their school, which was higher than for students nationally (36%). Only a third (34%) reported feeling very safe in school.
Almost half (46%) of the students reported feeling at risk at school because of at least one physical characteristic, such as their physical appearance or sexual orientation.
Students reported that physical appearance and sexual orientation were the most common reasons students were harassed in school. About half reported that students were frequently victimized based on their physical appearance (52%) and 48% said that students were frequently bullied or harassed based on their sexual orientation.
Georgia students were more likely to report that their peers were bullied, called names or harassed based on sexual orientation, physical appearance, academic ability and family income than students nationally.
Five out of ten (50%) youth had been verbally harassed in the past year because of their physical appearance, and a quarter (24%) had been physically harassed or assaulted based on this characteristic.
Comprehensive policies and resources in Georgia schools are lacking
Only 9% of Georgia students reported that their school had a GSA or other type of club addressing LGBT student issues, which is far lower than the national percentage (22%).
Students at schools with a supportive student club were much less likely to say that bullying and harassment were serious problems in their school (17% vs. 52%) and were less likely to report that they felt unsafe in their schools (3% vs. 7%).
Only half (51%) of Georgia students reported that they were protected by a comprehensive school anti-harassment or safe schools policy that explicitly mentioned sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. More than a quarter (29%) was unsure whether their school had a protective policy of any kind.
Students at schools without comprehensive safe schools policies were more likely to have been harassed than those at schools with these types of policies. For example, youth at schools without a comprehensive policy were six times as likely to have been verbally harassed based on their sexual orientation (55% vs. 9%).
Student interviews were conducted online by a nationally representative sample of 3,450 public and private/parochial students ages 13 to 18. Within this sample, an oversample of students was drawn from Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. Interviews averaged 15 minutes and were conducted between January 13 and January 31, 2005. Sample was drawn from the Harris Poll Online (HPOL) multimillion member online panel of cooperative respondents from over one hundred countries. Invitations for this study were emailed to a selected sample of the database identified as residing in the United States and being a student between the ages of 13 and 18.
Data for the national survey were weighted to reflect the national population of children ages 13 to 18 for key demographic variables (gender, age, race and ethnicity, size of place, region, and parent’s education). Demographic weights were based on U.S. Census data obtained via the March 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS). For the national survey, a post weight was applied to the student data to adjust for the twelve state oversampling so that the regional distribution reflects the nation as a whole. State-specific data, including that which is presented in this report, does not reflect this postweight.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.